Mango Saffron Rice is a simple yet decadent dish. In Maharashtra, we call this dish Amba Kesari Bhath because of its lovely saffron color and characteristic aromatic/floral taste of saffron combined with the delicate sweetness of mangoes. My grandmother always made this dish on special holidays and celebrations. It was always such a treat to eat and a family favorite.
The mango is indigenous to India and is considered to be India’s national fruit. Although there are many different varieties of mangoes, the most heavenly tasting mango of them all is the Alphonso (also known as Ratnagiri or Hapuus variety). The Alphonso mango is undoubtedly the “King of Mangoes” and grows along India’s western coast. In Marathi, the word for mango is "amba". the word for saffron is "kesar" and the word for rice is "bhath".
MANGO SAFFRON RICE (Kesari Bhath)
2 cups of Basmati rice, washed and drained well
1¼ cup sugar
2-3 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
½ cup toasted unsalted cashew pieces (or toasted almond or pistachio pieces)
1-2 tbsp golden raisins (soaked in a little warm water)
juice of ½ lemon, optional
pinch of salt
good pinch of high quality saffron
2 ripe mangoes, peeled and chopped
Cook the Basmati rice (either on the stove top or using a pressure cooker) until it is just barely done. Do not overcook the rice. I recommend using a 1:2 ratio of rice to cups of water. Let the rice cool by spreading it out on a large baking tray or pan. Make sure the rice grains are separate and not clumped together. Set aside until needed. Drain the golden raisins and set aside until needed.
Heat a saucepan to medium high heat, add 1 cup of water along with the sugar. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Let simmer on low heat for about 3-5 minutes or until a thick sugar syrup consistency has been achieved (similar to pancake syrup). Next, add the cloves, cardamom pods and saffron. Stir well to combine and add the rice. Mix gently and add the golden raisins, toasted nuts, salt and lemon juice. Carefully fold to combine all the ingredients and coat them in the sugar syrup.Cover and let cook for 3-4 minutes. Garnish with freshly chopped pieces of mango and serve.
You can make this dish using fresh pineapple or mandarin oranges. You can also add a pinch of ground cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg and a little orange zest for a different flavor. Try adding some freshly grated coconut or even toasted coconut to the dish.