We are the mango nation. With tales of endless escapades, of climbing mango trees and being chased by irate gardeners. Of sucking on endless number of golden, dripping mangoes and quibbling with siblings over the trophy seed.
Yes, the mango is the tableaux of our childhood and we are the self-professed mango-philes.
As the first of the fragrant Alphonsos roll in with the sweltering summer, the mango men are folding their sleeves to suss them out in the kitchen.
It is a veritable ‘yellow’ feast of sorts that an army of gourmet chefs and mixologists are conjuring up to bring on the drool. Read: Mango and prawn lasagnas, salmons stuffed with mangoes and a dizzying number of mango cocktails.
So have the mango as you will — diced into fashionable low-calorie salads, pureed into chilled soups or cooked as part of enterprising entrées. Still want to carry on with the love affair? Then it’s time you dabbled in some mango cocktails one of these summer nights before you keel over with the heat.
Tart and juicy are the watchwords of à la carte menus at the hottest restaurants in town. Chefs, all and sundry, have decided to go beyond the tried and tested – the age-old ‘aamer tak’ or the Bengali green mango curry, pickled raw mangoes and the occasional mango cheesecake.
“It’s only mango this summer even though the fruit is becoming expensive by the day. But it is a culinary delight. You can do much with it,” says Chef Prasad Paul, executive chef at the five-star deluxe beachfront resort of Cidade de Goa on the quiet Vainguinim beach in Goa.
As if on cue he waxes eloquent on a special mango menu he has for the season. If he offers starters such as crab meat and mango salad, mango soups, prawn and mango chowder, mango and coconut cream soup, he builds up a crescendo with main courses like the pan fried basa fish fillet with mango hollandaise and a grilled chicken with mango and cayenne pepper salsa.
The new foodie concept is to work reverse on the mango.
“To experiment with ripe mangoes for the savouries and main course dishes instead of just using them to make desserts like you were used to so far,” points out Chef Paul Kinny, executive chef at the InterContinental Marine Drive, Mumbai. He likes to pair it with seafood. For added measure, dig into his mango and rice pilaf with mussels, scallops and prawns or the equally tantalizing mango sushi.
The seafood and mango combination is a hit with Chef Pradip Rozario of K.K.’s Fusion in Calcutta who is known for his penchant of marrying different culinary traditions.
He offsets the spicy taste of jumbo prawns in dried red chillies with a mango sauce, serves up with prawn mango momos with mango wasabe and wraps up grilled prawn with raw and ripe mango slices. If you need more to whet the appetite, go for the steamed octopus with mango or the pink salmon stuffed with mango and zucchini.
And to be true to his taste for fusion cooking, Rozario makes you try his mango and prawn kulchas, the mutton seek kebab with mango kulcha and mango salad or tuck into some mango paranthas with vegetables.
If you cannot breathe at the mere thought of such deliciousness at a go, maybe it is time to indulge in a surfeit of it.
Step into the kitchen inside Afraa in SaltLake, Calcutta, where Chef Sumanta Chakrabarty lets the mango reign supreme. He plays it up with oriental ingredients like glass noodles and lemongrass in a Mango and Avocado Carpaccio. In a baked pomfret dish, Chakrabarty lets the juices of diced mangoes meld with the chilly flavour of pink peppercorns. He adds: “It’s almost like what Mexicans do with their food – mix sweet and chilly flavours together.”
Another must-try at Afraa is the imported turkey steak, grilled and served with pumpkin and mango chutney. “To enhance the taste, we recommend rice made with fresh coconut and mangoes,” says Chakrabarty.
Meanwhile at a mango festival in the Spice It restaurant inside Hotel Ibis, Gurgaon, Chef Vijay Anand Bakshi keeps it healthy with pan seared soles cooked with chopped mangoes infused with vodka and sprinkles the dish with figs.
Notes Bakshi: “The entire idea is to use in the kitchen what we get locally. In India we naturally do not get our fill of kiwis and strawberries but we do have the mango thanks to our tropical climes. So why not drive this advantage to the hilt?”
Sticklers for rules
But here are individuals who are connoisseurs of mangoes. It is a matter of ease with which they can distinguish the various tones.
From ripe yellow Alphonsos to golden skinned Langras, crimson Golap Khaash and ochre Himsagars, or green Dussehris to some succulent Chausas and golden-brown Totapuris, the knowhow of the chefs would make you stumble. They further elaborate on the flesh quotient of one or the fibrous quality of another.
“You do not mess with the mango. People will not forgive you if you go wrong with them because they all have their opinions on it,” warns Kinny. He therefore pays attention to the quality, flavour as also the texture and colour of the mango that goes into the dishes on the menu at the InterContinental.
Once, the Ratnagiri Alphonsos start phasing out with the first rains of the season, Kinny is all set to bring on the Dussehris and the Langras.
There are rules, unwritten though they might be, about the kind that can go into a particular kind of dish. Paul who gets handpicked local Goan mangoes like Mancurad and Monseratte apart from the must-have for any mango lover, Alphonsos from Mumbai.
He puts them to perfect use in the Indian fare he puts on the menu at Cidade de Goa. “The raw Monseratte acts as a souring agent for dishes like the Aam Churi Dum ki Sabzi and the achari aam gosht,” he says. Meanwhile cubed, ripe Alphonsos go into the Aam Pulao.
To cater to the local Goan taste, he serves up a mean raw mango fish curry and an Uddad-methi, which is raw mango curry tempered with fenugreek seeds, both again using the Monseratte.
Fresh fruits are the new news in the cocktail world.
And it being the season for everybody’s favourite yellow fruit, it is time for some ‘dizzy mangoes’, as the menu reads at Conclave, the nightclub on AJC Bose Road in Calcutta. Its mango specials feature mango-flavoured daiquiris and vodkas.
“The biggest trend is to make sure you are putting a healthy drink on the counter,” points out Martin Strobos, bar operational manager at News Cafe in Delhi. The high street cocktail bar from South Africa is making eddies in guzzler circles with its cocktails such as Gigglejuice and Psycho Jack.
With a low calorie option as the mango therefore, Strobos tosses up another of its fast moving signature drinks at the News Cafe with muddled mangoes. The tall, layered cocktail — known as the Panagalatic Gargle Blaster — almost takes you in a jiffy to a poolside cabana, topped up as it is with crimson cherry liqueur, muddled mango and some blue curaçao.
Meanwhile at Aqua, the watering joint at The Park, Delhi, assistant F&B manager Arindam Basu makes the lightest of mango cocktails. Sip on Zephyr, which is as frivolous as its namesake, the light westerly wind called the Zephyr. What goes into it? “Mango purée teamed with strawberry crush and Bacardi,” adds Basu.
Now if you thought that your mango-spiked drinks could use just any mango, think again. Even bartenders are playing with varieties behind the bar.
At Mumbai’s ultra hip alfresco bar, The Dome which is perched atop the InterContinental Marine Drive, the Alphonso goes into its margaritas, mimosas and martinis. “If it is mango, it has to be the Alphonso. For instance, we make the Mango-mosa, our take on the mimosa, with sparkling wine, mango liqueur and fresh mango,” points out F&B manager Sudesh Shetty.
Then there’s Calcutta-based bar consultant Irfan Ahmed who plays around with Alphonsos, Gulabkhas, Langra and Himsagar. He suggests making a colada with the Alphonso to add to the other ingredients of coconut milk and white rum. “For a margarita, go for the sourness of the Himsagar,” he advises.
According to Ahmed, mango works best when teamed with the basic white spirits of vodka, tequila and white rum. Also, when infused with liqueurs such as Cointreau, Galliano, Malibu and Baileys Irish Cream. “The main idea is not to allow any of the ingredients to mask the fresh, juicy and aromatic taste of the mango,” he adds.
Sounds like a lavish ‘yellow’ feast? Yep, it is. So go ahead and indulge yourself. We’re looking the other way.
Lots of mangoes in the fridge box? Here are some recipes to play with then:
Chef Rozario’s Mango and Prawn Lasagne
Prawns cleaned and chopped 250gm
Olive oil 2 tsp
Rosemary spring leaves chopped 2
Onion finely chopped 1
Tomato chopped 800gm
Garlic cloves 2
Ripe baiganphali mangoes (chopped) 2
Parsley finely chopped handful
Basil leaves handful
Salt & pepper to taste
White wine 175ml
For the sauce:
Grated parmesan cheese 50gm
Wash the raw mango and cut into thin slices like sheet and keep aside.
Heat the olive oil, add garlic onion until softened and golden. Then pour in some wine and let it evaporate. Add tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes.
Now heat butter in a pan. Add prawns and sauté till done. Then put in the chopped mangoes and above-mentioned tomato mixture. Season with parsley, basil and some salt and pepper.
To make the sauce, melt butter in a heavy-bottomed pan, stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add warmed milk little by little to form a thick sauce. Stir over medium heat until thick and smooth. Stir in half the parmesan cheese and season to taste.
Finally, line a lasagna dish with a layer of sauce. Cover it with a layer of raw mango sheet and spoon half the prawn and mango mixture on top. Repeat till the mixture get over. Next layer it with sauce, sprinkle the rest of the cheese and bake until the surface is brown.
Chef Paul Prasad’s Mango and Avocado Cocktail
Serves: 2 portions
Avocado (peeled and cubed) 1
Ripe Mangoes (peeled and cubed) 2
Tomato ketchup 1 tbsp
Juice of half lemon
Tabasco a dash
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a pan, combine mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, lemon juice, salt and tabasco to form a creamy cocktail sauce.
Then arrange the avocado and cut mangoes in a cocktail glass.
Pour the cocktail sauce over the top and chill before serving.