Opinion | Rescuing the guava from its common fate
The guava is worthy of praise no matter if its white or pink and raw, curried or in a salad
Given how most produce is available all through the year, it is often difficult to figure what is in season. After some deliberation, I have come up with two markers: abundance and pricing. The fruits and vegetables that are in season are the most visible ones in open markets and on street-side stalls. These are also the ones with the lowest prices because of the bountiful supply.
Driving down Bengaluru’s Old Airport Road last weekend, I spotted half-a-dozen vendors selling pink guavas. As a calling card, the vendors had cut open a few and displayed them on top of the pile. It was clearly a good tactic, as lured by their beauty, I stopped my car to buy a whole dozen.
Both white and red guavas have a similar flavour profile. The red guava has more citrusy notes. The texture of both guavas is similar, turning from stone hard when raw to a creamy consistency when overripe.
There is an interesting hierarchy in the fruit selection in my house with mangoes, apples, strawberries, oranges and grapes firmly entrenched in the first rung. Other fruits like guava, chikoo and sweet lime are clearly second rung, meant to be eaten only if there is nothing available from the first category. This unfair discrimination doesn’t take away from the many wonders of the guava fruit.
Just one guava gives you nearly three times the vitamin C requirement for the day and a hefty 5g of fibre. It’s one of the best low-calorie snacks that you can eat and sprinkled with some salt and chilli powder, makes for a perfect anytime snack.
The natural sweetness of fruit adds a fun element to salads. While fruits like apple or pear easily find acceptance in salads, the only desi fruit that makes it into restaurant-worthy salads is the mango. Tropical fruits have the potential to turn into overripe mush, with a strong aroma that can dominate any dish. And the guava also needs to be used with some care.
The best way to use guava in a salad is to choose a fruit that is ripe, but not overly so. Scoop out the seeds from the cut wedges or cut the guava in curved sections around the seed core. Discarding the seeds makes for a more pleasant dining experience, and is also less troublesome for those with dental problems. I prefer using the red variety in salads where the colour pops out. Pair it with ingredients such as rocket or mustard leaves and dressings featuring kasundi or English mustard, basically stuff that can stand up to its strong flavours. Salted nuts and feta also work well.
I usually reserve the white variety of guavas for chutneys and curries. One of my favourites is a chutney made by grinding together guava wedges (minus seeds), green chillies, ginger, mint leaves, lemon juice and salt—it works really well as a condiment. Another discovery was the guava curry. The first time I ate guava in a curried form was when I tried the piquant peru nu shaak at Swati Snacks, a popular Gujarati restaurant in Mumbai, and I mopped every last bit of it with a methi roti.
Red guava salad
1 large red guava
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1 European cucumber
N cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp ginger juliennes
2 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp lemon juice + pinch of lemon zest
1 red chilli, sliced
1 tsp white sesame seeds
2 tbsp roasted and crushed peanuts
1/2 tsp sesame seeds
Slice the guava avoiding the seed core. Cut each slice into thin strips.
In a small bowl, massage the lemon juice and salt into the onion slices, separating it into thin segments. This takes the bite off the raw onions.
Chop the cucumber into 1-2-inch juliennes.
In a bowl, combine the guava, cucumber, coriander and ginger. Squeeze out onion segments and add to the bowl.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over the salad and toss well.
Remove onto a plate and garnish with crushed peanuts and sesame seeds.
Gujarati peru nu shaak
2 medium-sized guavas
2 green chillies
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
Pinch of asafoetida
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (optional)
1/2 tsp coriander powder
3/4 tsp salt
1-2 tsp powdered jaggery
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
Choose guavas that are ripe but not too soft. Cut into cubes, avoiding the seed core. Roughly chop the seed core and puree with green chillies and ginger.
Heat vegetable oil in a pan. Fry mustard and cumin seeds, until the crackling stops. Stir in the asafoetida, the prepared puree, along with turmeric, red chilli, coriander powder and salt.
Fry this mixture, while stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes.
Add the cubed guavas and stir to combine with the spices for another minute.
Add half cup water, powdered jaggery and bring the curry to a simmer. Cover and cook for 5 minutes until the guava turns a bit soft but not mushy. Add water if needed during the cooking process. The pulp and seeds in the puree will thicken the curry considerably.
Finish with lemon juice and garnish with fresh coriander.
Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient prepared two ways. Nandita Iyer is the author of The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian.
She tweets at @saffrontrail