It may be the end of summer, but mangoes are still in season all over the world. This fruit is actually a drupe – indicating a large seed in the middle, like stone fruits and olives.
Some cultures are strongly associated with mangoes. This national fruit of Myanmar, India and the Philippines has several hundred cultivars offering subtle differences in taste and texture. The Latin name, mangifera indica, tells us about its origins and the land that glorifies this fruit. In India, mangoes are eaten raw, cooked, ripe, pulped and slurped – they are added to sour buttermilk to become a mango lassi. They are often eaten with yoghurt or milk because in ayurveda, an ancient alternative medical sytem that originated on the subcontinent, mangoes are considered as ‘heating’ to the body. Indian ancients balanced the heating energy of the fruit with cooling, unctuous milk or yogurt.
Today, chefs all over the world do the same, using the acidity of raw mango, or the sweetness of ripe mango, to balance unique and unusual flavours. Here are some of the ways they do it.
Chef/co-owner of three-Michelin-starred restaurant ‘Odette’, Singapore’s leading French fine dining restaurant at no.36 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list 2022, and sister restaurant, ‘Claudine’, as well as one-Michelin-starred ‘Louise’, a French bistronomy-style restaurant in Hong Kong.
Three Michelin stars. Originally from Cantal, France. Chef Patron of Claudine and founder of Louise, a one-Michelin starred restaurant in Hong Kong. Mentor and judge of the San Pellegrino Young Chef Competition. One of twelve global culinary superstars featured at Hangar-7’s illustrious Michelin-starred guest chef concept Restaurant Ikarus, Austria.
“Growing up in France, mango was not a fruit I knew. It was exotic, served only during Christmas. I discovered it first when I was working in the Caribbean, and then in Bora Bora. Of course, here in Singapore, mangoes feature in many traditional dishes. We get mangoes from India, Thailand, Australia and Japan – the very fancy, amazing but expensive, Miyazaki mangoes. They have high sweetness, are extremely juicy and the Japanese put a net underneath so that the mango falls off when it is perfectly ripe but is caught in the net.
“We do a twist on the famous French dessert – crêpes suzette. Just-peeled mangoes, cut in big pieces. Roast the mango gently in carmelised butter and sugar. Then flambé the mango with Grand Marnier at the table. Garnish with kefir lime zest, fresh lemon juice and lime juice. Serve with a cup of coconut ice cream to get the chaud-froid (hot-cold) effect.
“We also caramelise mango with honey and serve with foie gras. We season it with hot Java long pepper that has a fruity, citrusy note.”
Innovator of the Cal-Indian culinary genre, highly decorated Chef Sri has helmed the kitchen at Taj Campton Place in San Francisco since 2008 where he has continually earned two Michelin stars and 3.5 stars from the San Francisco Chronicle. A native of Kerala, India, his balances East and West in his cuisine in a way that is both unique and faithful to his Indian roots.
“To me, growing up in Kerala, mangoes mean childhood. Right now, I am using mangoes in multiple ways. The trickiest part is to get the mango that is exactly ripe for your needs – whether it is sour or sweet. At Ettan, we make a mango chutney with curry leaves, ginger and fresh grated coconut. We also do an Indian version of a semifredo with mangoes and saffron, like a kulfi. We do a seafood and mango curry.
“Mangoes are such a fibrous and versatile ingredient. You can make anything. You can use it to give texture. Making a tuile or pudding, custard or coulis. You can add it to seafood. Make numerous drinks – cocktails and mocktails. We do a mocktail with green mangoes, basil seed, ginger and green chilies. I also make a salad with sugar snap peas, butter, green peas and green mangoes.
“At Taj Campton Place, I used to glaze several birds: duck, grouse, quail – anything that has a gamey flavour and fatty texture – with sour mangoes. Duck and orange is a classic French combination and I wanted an Indian-ish version of that.
“Where I come from, a seafood mango curry is a classic combination that never gets old.”
A pentalingual native of Venezuela, Chef Ricardo Chaneton grew up amongst a mixture of European and South American cooking. After stints at Mirazure (3 Michelin stars) and Petrus (1 Michelin star) at Island Shangri-La Hong Kong, where he was executive chef at just 28, Chaneton opened MONO Hong Kong to rave reviews.
“Mango is one of my top three fruits in the world. Although it is not native to Latin America, we have a huge variety of mangoes in our country.
“My memories of mangoes go back to my childhood. Almost every house has a mango tree. As a young boy, I used to climb these trees with my friends and pluck off the raw mangoes to eat with some adobo seasoning, which is essentially a mixture of salt, pepper and cumin.
“One of our signature dishes at MONO is a blood sausage crème brûlée, green mango and Venezuelan adobo. Basically, we make a mousse of Argentine blood sausage. We lighten it with some cream and chicken stock, pour it out on a thin plate. When it is cold, we sprinkle some sugar on it and burn it with a torch until it caramelises. Then we sprinkle some raw mango powder on top, which is very sour and acidic. It balances the fat of the crème brûlée quite beautifully. We also sprinkle our homemade adobo powder as well. To help the crispiness, we add some poppy seeds, tarragon powder and fresh tarragon herbs. We started by serving this as an amuse-bouche but it became so popular that it is now one of our signature dishes.
“I use mangoes a lot in our cuisine, not always in desserts. I like a touch of controversy, to create flavours that are improbable. For example, one recipe that I am mulling is grilled mango with mole sauce. We need a perfectly ripe mango, not overripe. Our house-made mole sauce has 21 ingredients. We have spices, vegetables, chocolate, pepper and so on. To serve mango with mole would be cool.”
After over 30 years of experience worldwide – in Africa, Asia, Europe and America – and 14 years as Chef of Sofitel Metropole Hanoi, Didier Corlou now runs two restaurants in Vietnam, serving exotic-themed or European, traditional or contemporary dishes.
“I often use yellow and green mangoes in my cuisine from the Mekong Delta, depending on the season. One of my signature dishes is a foie gras mango roll with herbs, and prawn mango rolls. I also like to use green mangoes on salad. It is made more crunchy with peanuts, fresh herbs and fish sauce. We have great mangoes from the Mekong Delta.
“Mangoes go well with seafood like prawns or salmon. Mangoes can be a great ingredient, not only for dessert. I also have one of my signature dessert dishes, the floating island with mango coulis.
“Mango pairs very well with other ingredients. It can be sour, bitter, sweet, or spicy depending on which type of mangoes: fresh, yellow or green. It can be served cold or hot. For example, with my duck dishes, I caramelise the mango with honey and juice from the duck.
“Mango foie gras in ravioli can be a nice surprise, as a warm dish, with a green tea sauce.”
Shoba Narayan is an author, journalist and columnist. Besides writing, she is interested in nature, wine, gadgets and Sanskrit. Her lifelong mission is to get fit without exercising and lose weight without dieting.