Mangoes with a difference
Try the king of fruit in a salad and you’ll be amazed at the flavour and texture.
Photo: Vashundhara Chauhan
Perfect foil: It works wonderfully in salads.
A discussion about mangoes can degenerate quite easily into an argument, especially when the participants are from different parts of the country, but even when they’re not. My parents and brother and I belong, I think, to exactly the same plac
e, but whether the langda is superior to the chaunsa and whether the dussehri is even worth eating are issues that we’ve decided cannot be resolved. One thing we do agree on, like good north Indian chauvinists, is that the Alfonso is overrated; its only worthwhile quality being that it comes earlier than the rest.
Mangoes seem to excite the kind of emotions that I imagine wine must to the French and others who are traditional oenophiles, and I feel utterly unqualified to discourse on them. Enough has been said, researched and written. More than enough wit about the bathroom fruit and nationalistic pride: India is, after all, where Mangifera indica originated. The essential thing is that most people above a certain age love them. Children — mine, at any rate — ask what’s the big deal, and suffer them if they’re cubed and served with a fork. I know they’re a bit difficult to eat because you can’t just pick up one and bite into it like an apple or a peach, but now that I’ve reached the Mango Maniac age, I resent their distaste.
But I find that if mangoes are served in something as an add-on, where they’re not the only ingredient, then they work, even with non-mango maniacs. It’s like any other fruit when it’s not the pick of the season: under-ripe peaches, gooseberries, pears, apples, guavas. Add them to a dessert or salad and suddenly the tartness is forgotten and only the flavour and texture are noticed. The slightest sweetness stands out amid a mixture of blander tastes. Except that mangoes are difficult to eat under-ripe, so perfectly ripe ones are best for salads. Perhaps because we’re not really salad eaters, there aren’t too many instances of mangoes in salads, although we use them in so many other things: pickles, chutneys, aam papad, amrakhand, aamras, even curry. The colour and texture of firm, just-ripe mangoes is the perfect foil for crisp greens. And their sweet and sour taste sets off both a strong, salty cheese and a milder roast or grilled meat.
Vasundhara Chauhan is based in Delhi and works with Pratham’s ASER (Annual Status of Education Report).
Mango and Grilled Chicken Salad
1 small head of lettuce
3-4 cooked chicken breasts*, boned
1 small onion, sliced fine
2 tsp vinaigrette**
1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
Wash lettuce leaves thoroughly. Remove unsightly edges by hand (do not use a knife), tear into bite-sized bits and immerse in iced water. Cut chicken and mangos into similar shapes – thick juliennes or cubes – and refrigerate. Dry lettuce leaves and, in a medium sized salad bowl, mix with chicken pieces and onions. Pour vinaigrette and toss to combine well. Add mango pieces and mix gently. Sprinkle with red chilli flakes.
* Wash and wipe chicken breasts. Pierce with a fork and marinate with 1/2 cup hung yoghurt and 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce. After 30-60 minutes, grill or roast in a lightly oiled grill or non-stick pan. Cook on high heat until golden, turning once after 5 minutes. Then cover and cook till tender. Cool and remove bones.
**Vinaigrette can be made ahead and stored in a jar with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator. The proportions may vary, but are approximately 2 volumes of (extra virgin) olive oil to one volume of vinegar or lemon juice. Add seasoning and herbs cat the time of using, and can include citrus peel, garlic, fresh or dried herbs.
Mango and Roast
Bell Pepper Salsa
2 large red bell peppers
2 large mangos
2-4 green chillies
2 spring onions, with greens
½ cup fresh coriander leaves and stems, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp malt vinegar
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Roast or grill the red peppers: place over high flame and char, turning to cook evenly. Once done, place in a tightly sealed container or a food grade plastic bag for a few minutes. When the steam has loosened the skins, take them out and let them cool enough to be handled. The blackened skin can be taken off easily by hand; stubborn shreds can be rubbed off with kitchen towel paper. Do not wash; you’ll lose flavour. Scrape the seeds from the inside and chop peppers roughly.
Slice the mangos, removing the stones and dicing the flesh. Chop the spring onions and coriander.
Combine vinegar, cumin, and olive oil in a separate bowl and keep aside. Put peppers, spring onions and coriander into a food processor and pulse a few times, until chunky but not smooth. Now add liquid ingredients and pulse again. Taste and add salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
This mango salsa is excellent with fried or grilled fish for dinner; but as a dip with corn tortilla chips, it’s a refreshing change from the usual tomato salsa. Red bell peppers add an intense colour, and both the red and the yellow should remain distinct, so it’s better — and quicker — to process till the mixture is chunky. Bell peppers are pretty but, to my mind, their flavour is grassy at best. Roasting them adds a new dimension.
Send this article to Friends by