I love slightly sour or sharp flavours in food. They can always lift food and add an extra dimension and flavour, be it a squeeze or lemon or lime, a splash of vinegar or a more exotic ingredient like yuzu, barberries or pomegranate molasses. The newest addition to my arsenal is an Indian spice called amchoor (sometimes also spelled slightly differently). It is a rather unassuming pale powder, slightly yellow-green in colour but packs in plenty of flavour!
Amchoor is made from unripe or green mangoes, which have dried and reduced to a fine powder. It is most typical in North Indian dishes, according to Rick Stein, whereas fresh lime and tamarind are more associated with the South and West of the subcontinent. Unlike the sweet and slightly herbal flavour of a fresh mango, dried green mango is tart and slightly resinous in flavour. It’s the herbal, woodier qualities of amchoor that distinguish it best from tamarind that is more fruity.
Traditionally, amchoor is a key ingredient of chat masala, a spice blend often sprinkled of many Indian street foods where it is partnered with the sulphurous black salt, kala namak. Pat Chapman’s Indian Restaurant Cookbook from 1984 uses it in his tikka marinade while other Indian cooks simply sprinkle it over vegetable curries and dhals for a sour finish. Unlike other souring agents used in Indian cooking, such as lime juice, tamarind and vinegar, amchoor has the advantage that it doesn’t add any liquid to a dish either so is ideal for dry curries or could be incorporated into a spice rub for meats and fish. Like most ingredients used for added a touch of sharpness to dishes however, it should almost always be added at the end of cooking to preserve that flavour.
I’ve dipped into my pack a few times now (you’ll find it in most Indian grocers and spice shops), just to turn a plain vegetable curry into something a bit more different. Still thinking about how best it might go in a dessert though!
Try it in the marinade for my paneer tikka skewers!