Tropical fruits have the allure of the exotic, but savvy chefs know when it comes to mangos, this bright fruit offers an easy way to add a fresh, flavorful and healthful ingredient to most any cuisine and daypart.
Seasonality is key
Mangos are grown at different hot spots around the globe, providing a year-round supply to chefs. Although close to 70% of the of the total mango volume is sent to the United States in the spring and summer, there is a distinct peak in both seasons—with the second peak November through January. From Peru to Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Guatemala and Haiti, mangos’ diverse growing regions mean at least one mango type is always at the “mature green” stage, ready to harvest and finish ripening off the tree. With skin colors that vary according to variety, experts recommend judging ripeness by giving the fruit a gentle squeeze. When ready to eat, it should just yield to the touch.
There are six major varieties of mangos available to U.S. markets: Ataulfo, Francis, Haden, Keitt, Kent and Tommy Atkins. Each has a unique flavor and texture, ranging from sweet and creamy to spicy and firm, and all have a center seed. Cutting mangos takes a little practice, and there’s more than one way to prep the fruit to maximize every inch of delicious flesh into slices, cubes and wedges.
Menuing mangos all day
Mangos often star in smoothies, chutneys and tropical drinks, like the Spice-and-Ice Daiquiri spiked with a ginger-habanero syrup that mixologist Adam Seger created for Tanzy Restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz. But as more chefs experiment with mangos and discover how the sweet acidity can balance flavors and textures, the fruit is showing up in appetizers, condiments, main courses, dessert and beyond.
Mangos are a great way to start the day, especially when prepared by Chef Michael Moorman, of Chicago’s m.henry restaurant. His Mango Bliss Cakes layer pancakes with vanilla mascarpone cream and warm mango-lemon syrup. The stack is topped with crunchy honey granola, powdered sugar and fresh mango slices.
This tropical stone fruit is a natural for salads, where it pairs especially well with earthy beets. Teaming beets with mangos maximizes the perceived healthfulness of a dish. At Parkside restaurant in Austin, Texas, roasted, pickled and pureed beets are paired with vibrant fennel-mango slaw and a salty hit of diced ricotta salata cheese. Sweet and salty also play off each other in a dish from Rio Mar restaurant in New Orleans. Chef Adolfo Garcia accentuates the mango’s sweetness by caramelizing the flesh and pairing it with salty serrano ham and jumbo shrimp for a fresh, flavorful entree.
Fresh, juicy mangos also help cut the richness of fried foods. This balance is at play in the panko-breaded oysters served by Chef Kevin Gin at Bridges Restaurant & Bar in Danville, Calif. The fried morsels are paired with sliced mangos, avocado chunks and bold kimchee dressing. Likewise, the sweetness of a charred mango-tomato dip pairs nicely with rich lobster-and-cheese-filled arancini in a small plate created by Denver-based chef and culinary research and development expert Dave Woolley. At Red Star Craft House in Exton, Pa., Chef Carmen Chappelle and Chef Nicholas Crater place Chinese pan-fried pork dumplings on a bed of colorful mango slaw with red and green bell peppers, red onion, poblanos, and jalapenos dressed with warm cider vinegar, honey and pineapple juice. The result is a sweet-spicy, umami-packed first course.
Able to go from sweet to spicy to savory while complementing almost every dish, mangos are the new go-to fruit for turning familiar favorites into something slighty exotic and totally delicious.
This post is sponsored by National Mango Board