Friday, June 05, 2009

The Mango: Moist, Majestic and Morish

Mangoes featured very strongly in the early days of Richard's and my romance, the buds of which were planted in India, from where the fruit originates. Indeed, we all have a soft spot for the fruit and are thrilled that it's back in season again.

When I grew up in my grandmother's home in Malaysia, she had a massive, enormously fertile mango tree right in front of her house. Its branches hung low and gracefully, providing welcome shade and coolness, and inviting my brothers and I to clamber upon them and give them the adoration they deserved. As if we didn't spend enough time there, my grandfather tied a plank swing seat to one of its branches (the kind that would give anyone at Health & Safety a heart attack), and thus were spent the remaining hours of our carefree, childish days.

In the heat of the tropical summer, the tree would be heavily pregnant with fruit, leaving us awash in mangoes for months. My grandmother would give away as many as she could to the delighted neighbours, who were also the recipients of all the other fruit, veg and herbs that grew in Gran's garden - soursop, jackfruit, coconut, plantain, bananas, papayas, Lady's fingers (okra), basil, curry leaves, tomatoes.

While she had dozens of recipes for the bananas, plantain and coconut, the mangoes we ate fresh, and immediately. It didn't make sense to adorn or dilute a fruit so voluptuous, so complete in colour, taste and perfume.

Having said that, my younger son loves homemade mango smoothies or mango lassis nearly as much as he loves the fresh fruit.

My favourite mango is the Alphonso, which is grown mainly in Western India. There's no match for the perfect sweet yet tangy and firm flesh of this cultivar, along with its citrusy mango aroma and intense yellow-orange colour.

As I have yet to find these mangoes in north America, I am eternally grateful to Costco for regularly bringing in Champagne mangoes from Mexico. The taste isn't as explosive, but the colour and texture are there, along with the lack of fibrosity that separates a good mango from its lesser brethren. It might behoove you to know the average Champagne mango packs a modest 80 calories, with lots of Vitamin A, C and folate too!

How to cut the mango? This could require a video (another blog entry, another day). Take the fruit and, keeping in mind it has a large seed in the middle, cut a semi-circle off each side. With your knife, make hatches and cross-hatch them so you have little square or diamond shaped segments of flesh (see photos). Hold each half and invert them by pushing the skin upwards. To eat, use a spoon and scoop the squares off. Or just dive in, face first!

For more mango recipes, click here and here.

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RQ - Blog Master said...

A mango in Japan will set me back by at least US$10.

Diva Indoors said...

Oh no, that's a shame! I've searched high and low for the quality mango which isn't going to require a 2nd mortgage :S Any chance of finding a Costco in Tokyo?!

Anonymous said...

Mangoes don't come "cheap" in Singapore too. I guess it depends on where it's imported from. Usual sighting of them going for S$6. Perhaps it's still cheaper than in NY? Love them for their high vit C contents. Any issues with the "heaty" side of the fruit? ;)


Diva Indoors said...

Wow, is that $6 a box or a mango?! That is steep.. in Toronto I could get a whole box (12) from Chinatown for $10. Such is the case with importing fruit, right? Although Singapore surely should be growing its own. The ones I get here are just under a buck per mango :D

Hmmm, as for 'heatiness' I can't say for sure. To avoid being greedy, I've never had more than a whole mango at a time, and at 80 calories, that didn't appear to shake my yin/yang balance much! You could probably find the Alphonsos in Serangoon Road (you lucky thing)
Happy hunting/eating!

Katie said...

Ah Bernadette, the day before I met you at the Baristanet meeting I read this post and had never been more in the mood for fresh & juicy mango. I have had too many experiences with bad mangos that I no longer eat the fruit as is, but will eat it in any other form (my favorite being mango ice pops from Whole Foods). But really, I could go for a good ripe mango right about now and maybe I'll pick up the fruit at the store this weekend. Any tips on how to tell when a mango is ready for eating? Usually it's either not ripe enough for me or over ripe and stinky!

Diva Indoors said...

Katie, thanks for dropping by! Ripeness depends on the type and colour of mango. Alphonsos, in the yellow family of mangoes, are ripe when they are mostly yellow/orange with just a hint of green. The stem end may emit a lovely fruity scent (like nectarines do) and a ripe fruit will be firm but have some give. I know, talk about a difficult fruit! The red type of mangoes are harder to fathom. I've bought red ones that were firm/gave a little, but still thought 'blah.' Once ripe, the Alphonso types (orange/yellow ones) need to be kept in your fruit drawer of the fridge and eaten within a week. Left outside, they bruise and wilt. Maybe we need to go on a mango hunt together! ;)