when your talking about food in india, you have to start with the mango. the mango is national fruit of india and there are hundreds of varieties available in india. due to some bizarre ban on fruit from india, the united states couldn't import them, so we mostly had the boring ol' standard mango. however, in 2007 the ban was lifted so if you look around you may find a few crazy varieties. expect them to be expensive and not-as-fresh as mangoes grown more locally.
mangoes in india are like apples in the states, only like a hundred-times bigger deal. India is the largest producer of mangoes in the world, by far. but india represents less than one percent of the global trade in mangos since the consume nearly all the mangoes produced. these are serious, mango-eating people.
in the traditional folk medicine of india, Ayurveda, mangoes are used to restore and maintain balance in the body. they are made into chutneys and pickled, but they're also eaten raw with salt or a little chili. much like our friends in mexico, indians are obsessed with matching sweet to spicy. pahna is a cool drink made from mango juice enjoyed in the peak of the hot season, and a mango-yogurt smoothie called lassi is super popular as well. a freshly squeezed mango-juice from a street vendor will run you about 20 rupees (about 43¢). march to may is the best time to get mangoes across the country, since that's when the bulk of the fruit ripens (just prior to the monsoon season). lucky for us, we arrive february 25 and leave may 28 - during a lull in tourism and at the very peak of the mango-buying season meaning prices will be low and the fruit fresh, plump and delicious.
among indians, the consensus is that the alphonso mango (also called Hapoos) is king. named for Afonso de Albuquerque, it's grown mostly in Karnataka and Maharastra. It's apparently amazing on it's own, and makes the best smoothies and candies. it's also really expensive, and can run you about 50 rupees ($1.08). it was described by one reporter as "knockout sweet, sorbet-smooth and very wet." the juicier the better when it comes to mangoes, as lapping up the overspill is de rigueur.