A Mango by Any Other Name

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It all started with frozen yogurt.

On warm summer evenings my parents would gather everyone together and treat us to an after-dinner frozen yogurt at a little place down the street. Back in those days the big chains hadn’t moved in – we didn’t have a TCBY, we just had Yumi-Gurt, a tiny shop which was run by a friendly young couple who offered an impressive selection of unusual flavors. I was a picky eater and a typical child in that I turned my nose up at anything remotely healthy. As far as I can recall that frozen yogurt was the only vaguely natural thing my parents could coax into me, and even that was usually full of chocolate. Even fruit didn’t excite me, or so I thought. I probably would have gone on believing I didn’t like healthy things indefinitely, if one evening a chance experiment with a new flavor of frozen yogurt hadn’t shaken me out of my complacency. The new flavor was mango, and that day we fell hopelessly in love.

After tasting it in frozen yogurt for the first time, my love affair with mango developed slowly, even modestly. We flirted in bottled fruity drinks, and we exchanged fleeting kisses in occasional tropical desserts. It was a flavor I soon grew to prefer over most others, but for a long time it remained just an abstraction for me, a flavor and a color that could show up in many guises but had no physical referent in the fruit world. I didn’t even know what it really looked like until the day I found one at the market, brought it home and hesitantly cut apart its soft flesh, a much more complicated procedure than any other fruit I had come across. Yet upon tasting it unadulterated for the first time I realized how deep my passion for this fruit ran. Much more intense and luscious than any abstraction of its character, mango in its natural state was simply the most perfect thing I had ever put into my mouth.

The problem, as I soon discovered, was that many of the mangoes I found in the supermarket were hard, stringy and astringent, and it became an expensive and frustrating gamble to buy and buy and buy in the hopes that occasionally I’d get lucky. I learned that big supermarket mangoes usually come from large-scale suppliers, who buy certain varieties that have been bred to be hardy in large under-ripe quantities because they must remain shelf-stable until they reach the farthest corners of the supply chain. I was almost at the point of giving up on mangoes completely, having been disappointed one too many times with the dry, bitter specimens I was able to find on the exotic fruit shelves.

Then one day, while shopping for spices, I hit upon the solution to my mango conundrum. Small suppliers buy just the quantities they will be able to sell, and consequently they can buy varieties of produce that are grown for flavor, not for durability. Combine this with the expertise of a produce seller who has grown up in an area that grows the produce in question, and therefore has local connections and knows exactly what type to buy, and you’ve probably struck gold. It was mango gold, in my case, as I realized the perfect places to buy them were not supermarkets, but the ubiquitous Indian and Pakistani markets in the UK, which apart from bags of spices and ginger and chilies, sell ridiculously cheap, ripe and absolutely delicious mangoes.

For example, last week Edinburgh turned uncharacteristically hot, and with this unseasonable weather for me came an insatiable craving for mangoes. I passed by my usual Pakistani grocery on my way home, and to my delight I saw a large stack of boxes that contained my absolutely favorite variety of mangoes, a long, slender, honey-yellow variety called Sindhri. I love these because they are as tender as custard on the inside with absolutely no fibers, which means you can eat the flesh from each half with a spoon (as they do in India, apparently). They normally start showing up in late May and early June, so seeing them now I just assumed the season had begun a little early this year.

I greedily snatched a box and carried it over to the counter. The proprietor, a grumpy middle-aged Pakistani, looked up from his newspaper, eyed my box of mangoes, but then shook his head and waved me back in the direction of the mangoes: ‘get a different box’. ‘Okay,’ I said, hesitantly returning my box for another of the same variety from lower in the stack. ‘No, no, no’, he said as if he were speaking to a stupid child, ‘look at this.’ He came over and yanked the top off the box to reveal six slightly shriveled brown-flecked Sindhri mangoes. ‘Not good, not good, you buy these,’ and removed a box from behind them, across which was written ‘Highest Quality Alphonso Mangoes from Pakistan’. He removed the top from this box to let me fully appreciate the difference: the Alphonsos were smooth, tinged with pink and green, and felt soft and slightly fuzzy, like the top of a baby’s head. ‘You want Sindhri, you come back in two weeks; you want good mangoes buy these now’. I didn’t need to be told twice – the man knows his mangoes.

And how delicious they were – Alphonso or Sindhri, the difference is academic, because really what matters is the perfect stage of ripeness. The flesh was a glistening carrot-orange, the texture was like butter, and the flavor tasted like a cross between honey, peaches and freshly-cut flowers. Standing over the sink, mango juice dripping from my fingers and chin, I ate half of the box that evening in a kind of trance, aware of nothing but the intensity of the taste and perfume I encountered in each single fruit I devoured. At that moment there seemed no better metaphor for the fundamental exuberance and abundance of the oncoming summer than those perfect mangoes.

But I also did something else with those mangoes the next day, when the summery sun had gone and the rain had returned. It was something that took me straight back to those warm summer evenings of my childhood and that wonderful day at Yumi-Gurt when mango and I met for the first time.

I made frozen yogurt, and when I ate it, even the bleary drizzle outside my window seemed to lessen ever so slightly.

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Mango Frozen Yogurt

This recipe is simplicity itself, and really only should be made when you have perfectly ripe, gloriously tasty fruit. The recipe is simple, but you need a food processor, and you should be prepared to eat the results as soon as they are made. This same technique works with other fruit as well, particularly with stone fruits like peaches, nectarines, apricots and cherries. You can vary the dairy ingredient to whatever strikes your fancy: nonfat yogurt works, as does rich and creamy Greek yogurt; you can even create something more akin to gelato by using creme fraiche.

If you’ve never cut apart mangoes, here’s the best way to do it: slice off the halves parallel and as close as you can get to the pit, which runs lengthwise down the center of the mango. To get the flesh from each half, score the flesh in a crosshatch or diamond pattern, cutting all the way down to the peel but not cutting through it. Turn the mango half inside-out, and cut off all the protruding cubes. There will also still be some flesh attached to the pit; cut off the thin ring of peel and cut off as much flesh as you can, avoiding any parts that seem overly stringy. Finally, squeeze the pit between your fingers to get the last bit of mango juice from the fibers, and toss this with the cubes.

The quantities of mango you will want to freeze are completely up to you, though I like to do quite a few at a time so I have several days of frozen yogurt to l
ook forward to. Just peel however many mangoes you have, cut them into approximately 1/2 inch (1 cm) cubes (make sure to squeeze in any last juice from the pit), and spread the cubes out on a waxed-paper lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid, at which point you can transfer to a freezer-safe container if you’re not ready to use them. When you are ready, multiply the following proportions for the number of people you’re planning to feed.

Per Person:
1 cup diced frozen mango (from about 1 large mango)
1/3 cup yogurt
1 or 2 tablespoons superfine sugar, or to taste
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice (optional)

Stir together the sugar and yogurt until the sugar has mostly dissolved. Process the yogurt and the mango together in a food processor, scraping down the sides once or twice, until everything is smooth and has the texture of soft ice cream. Taste it and add the lemon juice if you want it a bit more sour, and a little more sugar if it’s not sweet enough. Give it a final whirr and quickly scrape it into a bowl and eat.

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29 thoughts on “A Mango by Any Other Name

  1. Oh my! Mangoes are a personal passion – I’d been waiting for a truly tasty specimen for an upcoming post! So nice to see such a simple, quick verision of frozen yogurt, and one that doesn’t even require an ice-cream maker. I think lime juice in the mix and lime sugar would make a lovely sprinkling on top, but that’s just because I love lime and fruit.

  2. It seems as if everyone’s craving mangoes. Our local Farmer’s Market was loaded with really nice mangoes these last two weeks. There were even different varieties from which to choose. Great exotic taste – I’ve been making mango fruit garmishes and mango salsa. Now I’ll try your mango frozen yogurt. Yum!

  3. Hi Again,FYI I’m sending this post to my mother-in-law who grew up in Trinidad with mangos growing in her backyard. She LOVES mangos – perhaps even more than I do. Thumbs up for your “find” at your local market.Heather

  4. Hi Tara – I agree, lime juice would be perfect. Sometimes I like to eat raw pieces of mango sprinkled with just a little lime juice – it seems to intensify the flavor, if that’s possible!Hi Tanvi – It’s a great technique, isn’t it? I ran across it years ago as an easy way to make fruit ice cream, but I found that I liked yogurt better than the heavy cream that the original recipe called for. Berries are great, too, absolutely!Hi Flaurella – I envy you for living in a place where mangoes actually grow! I love your recipes for mango salsa – that’s another of my favorite ways to use it too.Hi Heather – Lucky her – mangoes in the backyard! I can only imagine… Maybe after reading about our shared love of mangoes, she’ll be willing to share that recipe for goat curry with me ;)

  5. i thoroughly enjoyed reading this post.. after reading 2 bloggers (the other being chubbyhubby) wax lyrical about procuring mangoes from small suppliers alphonso, i really oughta get down to trying some of this good stuff.

  6. Hi Gaia – Thank you so much! This blog has been a great learning experience for me, and it makes me so happy to be able to share some of this culinary passion with others. By the way, that’s one adorable puppy you have!Hi Gwenda – You’d think it must be mango season or something, wouldn’t you! I did read Chubby Hubby’s post as well as one by Michele over at Oswego Tea – it’s amazing how mangoes inspire such passion in people. I strongly recommend seeking out some of these ‘lesser-known’ varieties of mango – you must be able to track down some great tropical fruit in Sydney!

  7. Hi Melissa, the frozen yogurt looks absolutely delicious! I have been completely hooked lately on the alphonso mangoes, –smoothies all the time! I just discovered a new mango today at my farmers market, apparently its from Kenya called a Jakal. It looks very much like an alphonso but has a pinkish tinge coming through on the skin. Have you ever heard of that kind? I think it will be ready for indulging in tomorrow.. Im very excited about it!

  8. I too, love mangoes — and they were not a food I grew up on, since my dad got sick of them when he was posted in the Pacific during WWII and they were the only fresh food the soldiers had. I’m going to look for alphonsos here…goodness knows I should be able to find them in Spanish Harlem. Everyone in this ‘hood eats and loves mangoes. I will most definitely try this frozen yogurt. It looks absolutely sumptuous, and I would go for the lime variation as well, since the combo recalls my favorite summer blender drink: fresh mango daicquiri, with plenty of lime. By the way, I’ve blogrolled you…

  9. Hi Michele – I’ve never heard of that kind of mango, but there’s a lot about mangoes I unfortunately don’t know… Let me know how it compares to an Alphonso!Hi Julie – I personally can’t imagine getting sick of mangoes, but then again I did get sick of ice cream the one summer in high school I worked in an ice cream parlour (it only took me two weeks to recover, however!). I hope you like the frozen yogurt – I love finding recipes that are so easy, yet so good. And I must say, we must be on the same wavelength, since I just bought another box of mangoes, limes and rum yesterday to make daquiris for the visiting parents-in-law!!

  10. I loved this column!see, if I were a fruit, I’d be a mango. No doubt about it – the color, taste, aroma, texture… it’s a fruit with real personality. No wonder many hindis consider it sacred.If there was such a market offering such a huge variety of mangos over here, I’d make my best efforts to make a weekly trip… even if it was in another city (me being in Jerusalem).Mango season should be starting soon here in Israel, and I can’t wait to get the first taste of Maya mango this season. When Maya will appear, I’ll try this recipe. Sounds great!

  11. Hi Malka – Thanks for stopping by! I agree, mangoes have so much personality, and every variety has its own particular taste. I’ve never heard of Maya mangoes, but the name is lovely – are they grown locally in Israel? I do hope you enjoy the frozen yogurt – it should be perfect for those hot Israeli summer days!

  12. Hi Melissa,The Jakal mango turned out to be quite nice! It was very much like the Alphonso but seemed to have a very limey tang to it. Bordering on sour but in a good way. I actually said “oh!” when I took the first bite. I rather liked it!

  13. Remember those Mango Lassis we had in New Orleans? Have you figured out how to make anything like them? I’ll be ready for them as you as you come home this summer.

  14. Hello mother dear, you better believe I can make mango lassis! Have I never made them for you? I’ll have to rectify that soon!

  15. Hi melissa, a little late, but I just got to your reply….I visit this site regularly though, and I’m intrigued to see what’s new every week.Yes, Maya is one of several strains grown locally. Maya is the most popular one here. it’s very fragrant, ranging from red to orange on the outside (and bold orange within), sweet, and less fibery compared with other strains. From what I’ve heard, a quantity of Israeli mangos are also exported to Europe and the States, so maybe you’ll be able to track down and sample Maya… Anyway, I hope you will. this strain is excellent, but I just have a feeling that it would pale in comparison with those amazing fruit you described in this column.

  16. Hi Malka – Thanks for the info – I’ll definitely keep my eye out for them, sometimes the supermarket surprises me!

  17. Inspired by your recipe, I tried a version of this with coconut the other night — I can definitely recommend it! My parents and aunt and uncle are staying at the moment, and my mum picked up some mangos at our local greengrocer (she *loves* mangos). I chopped them up and froze them and then whizzed them in the blender with a tub of “Rachel’s” organic coconut yogurt, and about a third of a tub of “Rachel’s” plain Greek yogurt. No sugar needed — very, very yummy.

  18. Hi Cassie – Cool, so glad you liked it! I’ve never seen Rachel’s coconut yogurt, but it sounds delicious. I’ll definitely keep my eye out for it!

  19. Like Melissa, I have a passion for mangoes and I can’t tell you have much money I have spent trying to find good mangoes in the UK. (even bought one from Harrods for £5 and it was horrible)Most of the ones in the supermarkets are either Tommy Atkins, Kent or Keitt. But I personally find the Indian/Pakistani varieties too intense in flavour…If you are looking to try other varieties, I recommend Thai mangoes (don’t know the Thai name) which you can get from London’s Chinatown. Its sweet and has a peanutty flavour – although its difficult to get a perfectly ripe (and therefore amazing) one.My favourite mango that you can buy in the UK is called “Kensington Pride”, from Australia. The season is very very short (December to January) and I’ve only seen them for sale in large Sainsburys and at Waitrose. Its fibreless and sweet without the strong barky/oily smell you get from the Indian/Pakistani varieties.My all time favourite (unfortunately, you cannot get them in the UK) are the Manilla Super Mangoes from the Philippines. You can tell when they are ripe because they turn a rich golden yellow when they are perfectly ripe. I simply cannot express how much I love this variety. Most of them are exported to Hong Kong and Japan and they are amazing fresh, frozen or blended into drinks! I think the reason that they aren’t available in the UK is because they are very fragile and bruise easily, with a very short shelf life – but I crave them so much that I would probably pay up to £5 for one.

  20. Hi Phil – Wow, you know your mangoes! I’ll definitely keep a lookout for the Kensington Pride variety this winter – the name sounds familiar, so I think I have seen them locally. I don’t know of any source for Thai mangoes in Edinburgh, unfortunately – we’re a bit more handicapped when it comes to ethnic markets. And I’ll remember what you said about the Manila Super Mangoes in case I ever stumble across one. If you crave them so much maybe it’s worth befriending a fruit importer? Or you could just befriend a Filipino who makes frequent trips home! :)

  21. Hi Melissa,I’m reading my way through your archives and can only wonder if you’ll ever read my belated responses to your old posts…But I had to voice my love for mangoes, and mention an interesting way to eat them. I was in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for a week one summer, and everyone was eating mango all over the place. They’re those huge bricks of mango that are common to the chain supermarket, only absurdly fresh and ripe — no anchors disguised as a mango here. People would just puncture the skin with their teeth, then peel away the skin while biting off chunks of fruit around the stone. The interesting thing was that everyone ate mango (and other fruit) with pepper — a cayenne-like powder sprinkled on by the fruit vendor when buying your mango-on-a-stick or pulled out of a pocket when demolishing a freshly-bought sack of mangoes.I became so addicted, that I bought an amazing lime-and-chili "topping" that was more granular than powder-y and brought it back with me to California. I would sprinkle it on every soft fruit I ate, including sweet summer plums, nectarines, and other stone fruit. I had to stop, though, because people started giving me weird looks on the BART between San Francisco and UC Berkeley. Ah, but nothing’s better than a bit of lime and chili to go with the sweet complexities of the mango…One thing my mother taught me: if you only have underripe supermarket mangoes to choose from and you HAVE TO HAVE that mango, just throw them in a paper bag with an apple, close it up and leave overnight… and hey presto! ripe mangoes!

  22. Hi Ashley – Not to worry, everything is read around here :) Wonderful story, and since you’re not the first to highly recommend this chili/lime garnish, I’ll definitely have to give it a try this year. Have you ever tried adding salt to the mix as well? I’ve been advised to try both mangoes and pineapple sprinkled with a little salt and hot chile. Luckily the next mango season is not too far off now…

  23. I’ve already broken down and had some of the early mangoes here in China. They look like the Manila mangoes, but have a very mild taste. Still good!And, yes, I think that the chili-lime topping included salt.

  24. Have you tried the mangoes that are available at the Thai and Indian groceries? The texture and flavor are exquisite, they’re far less stringy, and the price can usually beat any of the variety I find in the Western grocery stores.

  25. hi again,Seasons in India can be called according to the produce found during that time and summers in called Mango Season. As many as 20 different varieties of mangoes hit Mumbai during that time and moms and grand moms make all the types of preparations form them like Pickles, Panna (cooling summer drink from Raw mangoes) and most importantly the ever favorite Aam Ras (Literally mango juice actually Mango Pulp). People make them and freeze them in ice trays and take them out to savor long after the mango seasons gone. It is quite simple to makeSeparate the mango pulp from skins and seeds. Make it a smooth thick consistency by adding cow’s milk and sugar. After the sugar has mixed well add cardamom powder as garnish. Cool it and add small pieces of mango while serving, amazing dessert after spicy Indian food.

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