Summer is rounding the corner and what better way to dive into the sunny season with the luscious mango? A food that won’t hinder your efforts for a new bathing-suit-flattering body, the golden-fleshed fruit is now available at its peak quality. If you won’t be soaking in this summer’s rays on a far away beach, splurge on some ripe mangoes. Their very essence can take you to sweet bliss for much cheaper than a plane ticket. And if they don’t provide you any comfort, at least you’ll be getting your dose of fiber, Vitamin A and other nutrients without a fuss.
If you’re already familiar with this month’s food focus – ”the mango – ”please skip down to an easy recipe for Mango-Limettes. If you haven’t been acquainted with the fruit’s profile, we welcome you to get to know one of our favorite summer companions.
The flavor of the mango is described as a cross between a peach, pineapple and apricot. Its flesh can be fibrous near the large, flat seed but meaty and sometimes explosive with sweet-sour juice.
A member of the family that includes poison ivy, cashews and pistachios, mangoes have skin colors with beautiful blends – ”hints of green, yellow, orange, purple and red are very common. But color is not always an indicator of ripeness since some varieties retain some green coloring even when mature. They also come in oblong shapes – ”some more round, others more elongated or with curves.
Though Mexico is the largest mango exporter, the juicy fruit is said to be native to southern Asia, particularly eastern India and Burma, which extended early on to Malaysia, eastern Asia and eastern Africa. Some also argue that the mango originates from Malaysia, but the exact location is hard to pinpoint since the regions are rather close in proximity. The fruit was introduced to Santa Barbara, California in 1880.
The mango has been cultivated for over 4,000 years. There are now over 1,000 varieties world-wide; in India alone, there are approximately 500 mango species and in Malaysia, about 20 types.
Ways to Mango
Contrary to its common connection with the word “exotic’, the mango has been said to be the most widely consumed fresh fruit in the world, with global production exceeding 17 million metric tons a year.
Most consumed fresh fruit in the world? That came as a surprise to us since mangoes don’t seem to be as prevalent in markets as compared to the aisles of apples and oranges in the U.S. But in other countries where mangoes are abundant, fresh ones are sliced open and enjoyed almost year-round where the climate is favorable for the fruit. If not eaten in chunks or slices, it’s enjoyed in sorbet, with condensed milk, coconut milk, salt, blended into a drink, tossed into main courses… we can go on and on.
Around the world there is a multitude of ways to savor the sweet flesh of a ripe mango or a tart, green one too. Keep in mind that many preparations overlap in various countries as mango is eaten in whatever way it tastes delicious. Ever had any of them? If not, it’s a must-experience flavor adventure.
Chutney, while in many Americanized Indian restaurants is often very sweet, in India, is stewed mangoes prepared with hot chilis and lime to give the fruit a savory, tart punch. It is served as a condiment.
Amavat or halva is a dried, chewy fruit bar, where the mango is cut into thin layers, dried, folded and cut again. These are similar to fruit belts or strips.
Amchur or amchoor is an Indian spice powder made from pulverizing dried, unripe mangoes. “Am” is a Hindi word for Mango and “choor” translates to powder or extract. Amchoor makes an excellent meat seasoning. Green (unripe) mangoes are extremely sour and popular in many dishes from India, Thailand, and Malaysia. When the tart flesh is cooked, its enzymes break down tough connective tissues, tenderizing meats while adding sour mango flavor.
Mango lassi is a traditional Indian beverage with a yogurt and milk base that’s flavored with mango. Other traditional lassi flavors include salt and cardamom. The “Mango Shake” is similar to the lassi. It’s a refreshing Punjabi (Indian/Pakistani) summer drink customarily made from mango pulp, whole milk, sugar and ice cubes, much like an American smoothie or milkshake.
In the Philippines, unripe mango is eaten with bagoong – ”fermented, salted bonnet mouth fish.
Dried strips of sweet, ripe mangoes are extremely popular inside and outside of the country. Nowadays you not only can find dried mango exported from the Philippines, but you can find bags of the dried fruit in American markets or specialty food stores.
Mango is, without a doubt, made into juice or nectar, both in ripe and unripe form. The juice is also extracted and used to make ice cream and ice fruit bars.
There are now over 1,000 varieties world-wide; in India alone, there are approximately 500 mango species and in Malaysia, about 20 types.
A sweet glutinous rice dessert is flavored with coconut milk and then served with slices of mango on top.
Mangoes are also pickled with fish sauce and rice vinegar.
Street vendors sometimes sell whole mangoes on a stick, dipped in a chili-salt mixture.
Green mango is sold by street vendors with sugar and salt and/or chili. Green mango may be used in a sour fruit and vegetable salad called rujak in Indonesia, and know as rojak in Malaysia and Singapore.
It is most common to eat ripe mangoes here, but green mango slices are often pickled or eaten with vinegar, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. The fruit is supposedly eaten as an energy-booster.
Hong Kong and Taiwan
There are many shops, and even chain-stores that specialize in mango desserts. The most popular is a dish where the first layer is a scoop of mango sorbet, followed by chunks of fresh mango and held by a base of mango pudding in a pool of condensed milk or shaved ice.
Blended mango drinks paired with either jelly, tapioca pearls, coconut milk or grapefruit pulp are also sought-after beverages.
Cutting & Serving
You can find mango dried, frozen, canned, and in nectar, but nothing beats fresh mango. One of the easiest and most elegant ways to cut mango is to slice off the sides (remember that the seed is long, flat and at the center). Once you have the two sides, take the knife and slice in a criss-cross fashion. Invert the mango so the chunks look like they have just bloomed. Or you can peel the entire mango, slice off the ends and put the ends on sticks for a “mango popsicle.’
Picking & Storage
Mango season typically runs from May through September, but many markets carry mangoes imported from warm climates year-round. Choose mangoes that yield to gentle pressure, and have no dark spots or blemishes. Pick them up and smell them – ”a ripe mango is very fragrant.
Ripe mangoes can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for two to three days. After that, the skin will begin to wrinkle and loose its freshness. If the mangoes are still hard and too green, they will ripen in three to five days at room temperature. To speed the process up, place them in a brown paper bag or seal them up in a bag of rice.
Mangoes that are picked too soon will not ripen properly, even if left to ripen in a bag or with rice. It will lack body, flavor and color no matter how much you try to salvage it.
For dried mangoes, re-hydrate them in warm water for about four hours before using them in a recipe.
When winter comes along you don’t have to be without mangoes. Peel the mangoes, remove the meat, and puree the fruit in a food processor or blender. Pour the blended fruit into ice cube trays and freeze. After they are frozen, pack the cubes into freezer bags. You not only preserve the fresh mango flavor, you’ve made them more convenient to use. If you want to freeze the fruit in slices, seal them well in freezer bags without any additional ingredients.
As always, we like to know how healthy something is before we allow our full-blown obsession with a food to take off.
Mangoes contain more vitamin A than most fruits. With green, unripe mangoes, the amount of vitamin C is higher than a ripe mango, and as it ripens the amount of beta carotene increases (which the body then converts to Vitamin A). Why do we need vitamin A? It helps keep the eyes, skin and mucous membranes moist and healthy.
Mangoes are also high in fiber, but low in calories. An average-sized mango has about 110 calories, 1 gram of fat and very little sodium. The overall vitamin content in mangoes depends upon the variety and maturity of the fruit, but we don’t need to get technical here. Feel free to indulge in this sweet, meaty fruit. However, we’d like to caution that even fruits, like mango, should be eaten in moderation. There is still a high sugar content.
The fruit’s golden-yellow flesh contains about 15% sugar,and up to 1% protein.
Yields about 15 tartlettes
- 2 ripe mangoes
- 2 limes (for juice and zest)
- 1 box of your favorite vanilla pudding
- Pre-made mini tart shells (www.clearbrookfarms.com)
- granulated sugar
- chili powder (optional)
- Everything can be pre-made before actually serving. The tartlettes are extremely quick and easy to assemble – ”this should only be done right before you are ready to give them out.
- Prepare the vanilla pudding per the instructions on the box and chill. Squeeze the lime juice in a small bowl and also refrigerate.
- Peel and slice the mango into tiny cubes and place in a bowl. Prepare the lime zest and set aside (this is preferably done right before serving too).
- When ready to serve, assemble the mini tart shells on a tray and place a thin layer of vanilla pudding at the bottom of the shells. Then, spoon over a few mango pieces. Drizzle some lime juice over the mango to cover all the pieces. Make sure NOT to pour too much… the lime is an accent flavor. There should not be a puddle in each tart.
- Garnish with lime zest and sprinkle with granulated sugar. If you’d like to serve something a little more exciting, take one of the assembled tarts and sprinkle a tiny bit of sea salt and chili powder over it. If you like the taste, finish preparing the rest of the tarts the same way.
Note: The mangoes and lime should be fresh. Frozen or canned will alter the taste very much!
Melody grew up loving to write, especially about food, and went on to receive a B.A. from U.C. Berkeley. Her last position at a food magazine allowed her to live out her then dream job of eating fancy foods everyday and critiquing their flavors and textures for articles. Now, she works for The New York Daily News and invents Asian-fusion recipes for Asiance. You can reach Melody at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her MyAsiance page at my.asiancemagazine.com/mymelody.