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Amchoor

Amchoor (sometimes spelt amchur) is the unripe fruit of the mango which has been dried and then powdered. The word derives from am the Hindi word for Mango

What is It?

The mango sometimes known as " The King of Fruits" is the national fruit of India. The trees are grown in Central and Northern India and are evergreen tropical trees which can grow up to about 130 feet (40m) high; it belongs to the same family of trees as the pistachio and cashew. They are relatively long lived and have the unusual habit of flowering in late winter. Also the flowers open at night and in the early morning - a strange tree indeed.

The tree is extremely abundant in Northern India and grow in the wild quite successfully. Indeed it is often from wild mango trees that amchoor is produced. The mangoes are picked when they are unripe, they are peeled and cut into strips, and then dried in the sun. These dried strips can then be sold but, more commonly, they are first ground into a powder.

Amchoor is like the northern Indian equivalent of tamarind or lime juice; it is a very fine powder, beige in colour, it has an acidic and slightly sweet flavour with a distinctive sweet and sour smell.

History

The mango tree is native to India and areas farther east into Burma and Malaysia. It is one of the oldest cultivated fruits in the world having been grown in India since at least 2,000 BC. All the uses of the mango, as a fresh fruit, in chutney and pickles, and as amchoor are all probably very ancient. The Portuguese, Dutch and other Europeans brought the fruits back and then planted them wherever they would grow - particularly Africa

Prince Gautama, the Buddha, was once given a mango grove, ensuring the mango a place in Hindu ritual and mythology. The Moghul Emperor Akbar, ensured his supply by planting 100,000 mango trees (probably not personally).

Cooking

The mango, apart from its use as a fresh fruit is most well known as a chutney and pickle ingredient. Its use as amchoor is predominantly an Indian thing and most common in northern India. It is used to give acidity to a dish in the same way that tamarind is used in the south of India. It can be used in curries and soups, but is also used as an ingredient in pickles and chutneys.

It is also used as an ingredient of a marinade; in terms of being a natural tenderizer it is about 3 times more powerful than lime or lemon juice. Chicken and fish are particularly good with amchur but is also works well with other meats.

Nutrition

Mangoes are quite a fibrous fruit packed with vitamins and this mostly translates to amchoor. There are large quantities of vitamin C as well as A, E, K and most of the B vitamins. It has almost no sodium but lots of potassium as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, copper ans selenium.

The mango tree is so old and has been used for so long that many properties are attributed to all parts of it, few of them stand up to much scientific scrutiny. However, being high in vitamin C amchur is an antiscorbutic - it prevents scurvy. Being quite high in iron is good for the anemic and the pregnant, and of course all those vitamins and phenols give it a high antioxidant rating.

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