The charm of this station has never ceased to exist ever since my first train journey from Guwahati to Kolkata. I have never actually made a halt or stay at Malda, but the excitement of getting a chance to enjoy the Aamsotto kept me on my toe much before reaching this station.
So, what is aamsotto actually? For all my non-Bong friends, aamsotto is something that you mostly already know. It is also known as aam papad or amawat in Hindi and Mamidi Tandra in Telegu. I hope most of you must have got an idea of what I am talking about.
To get the picture clearer, it is a snack made of mango (but obvious, isn’t it), in which the mango pulp mixed with concentrated sugar solution (optional) and a fruit leather is created. The best part about it is that the preparation is such that it can be preserved for a long time. It doesn’t matter whether it is the mango season or not, once you are at the Malda station, you will hear hawkers yelling “Aam shotto, aamer achaar”. Well “aamer achar”, again needless to say, means mango pickle. That being another delicacy, but I would personally suggest the aamsotto as a must try. No offense intended towards the mango pickle.
Malda lies around 350 kms north from the historic city of Kolkata. And as you might have guessed it right already, the king of fruits – mangoes are the most notable cultivation in this district and mango trade is the main economic activity. This is just not the end to the pride that this region takes pertaining to mangoes. Mangoes produced in this region are identified as a specific variety – Malda Mangoes. This variety of mangoes is exported and acclaimed internationally.
Needless to say, the reason why this aamsotto is different from the aam papad’s available in other parts of India is the main ingredient that goes into its preparation. The mango used to prepare this snack is particular to the Malda region. No wonder, the vendors/hawkers take so much of a pride in selling the snacks and preparations from Malda mangoes.
So, how is this snack generally prepared? A very basic high level way of preparation would be mixing the mango pulp with potassium metabisulfite and spreading it on trays and allowing it to dry. Once one layer dries, same process can be repeated with another layer on top of it. This is done to reach the desired thickness. The packaging is generally done in oiled paper.
That is just one product specific to one particular location in West Bengal. There are so many other delicacies that this entire region has to offer which I am sure most of my readers will be aware of more than yours truly. But then of course, if this station is enroute your journey, you know what not to miss, if you did not know already. Also, if you are on a train that crosses Malda early in the morning or during the night hours, you won’t have to ask anyone which station it is once the train stops. You just cannot miss all the hawkers yelling “Maldar aamsotto” and what you need to definitely try.