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Beyond Curry: Indian Mango Cooler (Panha)

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[Photograph: Prasanna Sankhe]

There's nothing quite like a glass of chilled Panha to lift your spirits on a hot, muggy day. Sweet, sour, and instantly refreshing, it's a delicious use for mangoes before they fully ripen. Across India, the concentrate is stored in glass containers and kept in the refrigerator. When guests pop up unexpectedly, voilà! Pretty glasses with the most beautiful golden hue emerge in a jiffy.

In the western part of Maharashtra, India, which is home to some of the finest mangoes, this drink is made at the start of summer, early in the growing season. To select mangoes for Panha, go for the ones that are more green than yellow—they should be just entering their ripening phase and not yet totally soft to the touch.

Panha is great for countering dehydration, and the concentrate stores well for up to a month. All you have to do is add two tablespoons to a glass and fill it up with water. Feel free to add flavor garnishes of your choice, like rock salt, mint, or toasted and powdered cumin. If you like the earthy taste of jiggery, you can use half a cup of it in place of the sugar.

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Indian Mango Cooler (Panha) »

About the author: Denise Dsilva Sankhe is a writer and creative director by profession. But that's only when she isn't eating her way across India. She recreates this delicious cuisine in her Mumbai home, which she shares with her husband, who has long since given up his determination to have salads for dinner.

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