We're no First-World Country yet, but the Philippines has something that millions crave for around the world: some of the sweetest, most fragrant, most delectable mangoes in existence.
Cynthia Thuma, the American author of the mango-inspired reference Mongo Mango Cookbook, calls Pelaez Street in Cebu the "ground zero of mangodom"—at this spot, skirting the University of San Carlos, you'll find "ramshackle stands groaning with luscious, intoxicatingly aromatic mangoes."
In Singapore, where I lived for a couple of years, mangoes imported from the home country were proudly labeled "Philippines mangoes" on the shelves, and were quickly snapped up as a result.
Philippine mangoes, in short, have a well-deserved international reputation for utter scrumptiousness.
Mangoes in cooking
Cynthia Thuma, for one, is not surprised—"[the mango has] a versatile, exotic taste that holds its own in a variety of recipes," says Cynthia. "They serve as an exotic stand-in for recipes that call for peaches or pineapple, too."
Carol Jane Lakandula concurs. In her experience as a pastry chef, mangoes dominate a particular niche of the culinary world. "For my tastebud instincts, anything that is cream-based goes well with [mangoes], like panna cotta and cakes," explains chef Carol Jane. "[Mangoes also work in] salads, syrup for pancakes. [It’s] also used for dressing in meat and fish."
Mangoes, though, are limited by their delicacy in the kitchen. "It ripens easily and it's not for prolonged usage," chef Carol Jane explains. She points out that sweet mangoes only have a narrow window of usefulness—"when it's still fresh [but] not too ripe," she says.
[Also check out how macaroons and macarons are different from each other.]
Mangoes in cakes and tarts. Mangoes make for particularly good cakes, though ripe mango flesh is too delicate to survive being baked in the oven; instead, mangoes are usually applied in the icing or as the main component of refrigerator cakes, applications where they're kept far away from heat.
Take the mango chantilly cake: the mango is added only after the cake has been baked, usually mixed into the whipped cream that is then sandwiched between the cake layers.
As for tarts, who can turn down a crumbly little cup of crust filled with all sorts of sweet things, especially mango bits?
Sub-zero mango. The sweetness of mango—sometimes too cloying at room temperature and above— seems to settle into tart perfection when served cold. Take the yummy mango shake, or even a mango-sago drink—because it’s drenched in shaved ice, the mango turns into a refreshing treat with the added chewiness of sago balls.
[Also check out our ode to Sago.]
The Indians—themselves citizens of a major mango world power—prefer to drink a mango lassi, blending the fruit with milk, yogurt, and sugar.
Take note that mango can act like a prima ballerina, preferring to be the star of the show: "Anything that matches the sweetness of the mango will kill the distinctive taste of it, like peaches and nuts," says chef Carol Jane.
Unripe mangoes in ensalada. When not fully ripened, mangoes serve as delightfully sour taste treats, either paired with bagoong or with other sour fruits in an ensalada (salad). Pair a mango ensalada with plenty of rice and a bagoong-saturated pork dish like binagoongan, for instance, and you discover the outer limits of the magic that mango can work on your plate.
[Also check out another Pinoy favorite: Puto!]
Dried mango. Our mangoes get the most mileage in its preserved form. Dried mango pieces from Cebu find their way into gourmet stores and supermarkets in Europe and the U.S.A. Chocolate-coated dried mangoes, in particular, are taking the candy world by storm.
Do you have a particular favorite mango dish that we might have left out? Post what we missed in the comments—the mango dish you know might be too good not to share!