Thursday, June 19, 2008

Much Ado About Mangoes

Box of mangoes
Mango frenzy has started here with great exuberance. Much to our delight, grocery stores and markets are now brimming with the heady, intoxicating and sinfully sweet fruits. They are, justifiably so, considered the king of fruit and are a class of their own. Some may tell you their flavor and texture resembles a ripe peach or a papaya; don’t believe them.

Though many countries are now mango (maanjo in Arabic) producers and exporters, the best varieties come from the Indian subcontinent, namely from India and Pakistan. The skins are thin and their flesh smooth and fibreless. Once you taste them, I assure you, you will not go back.

Until last year the Central American varieties were the only ones available in the United States. Since beggars can’t be choosers, we had also once gleefully purchased and consumed them without much complaint.

Now however, the US has begun to import mangoes from India as well. Apparently our current (and thankfully soon to be former) President enjoyed them immensely on his 2006 trip to India, and thus recommended their import. They don’t come cheap however, $30-$40 for a 3 kilo or about 7 pound box.

Here in Qatar we are spoiled. We can buy mangoes from all over the world year round - Indonesia, Sudan and Australia come to mind. But we usually wait for the summer to purchase the varieties from India and Pakistan. We start to see them arrive in May, and they continue to linger until August. The peak season is in July, when the quality is best, along with abundant varieties and the lowest prices.

My favorite mango is from Pakistan called the Sindhri. Its origin is from the Sindh province in the southern part of the country. They are a large variety, about 1 pound apiece. When fully ripe their skin turns a brilliant cadmium yellow. They are extremely aromatic and fragrant with a thin translucent skin and a firm, smooth, fibreless flesh. Just 1 can easily suffice as lunch.

Thought these sweet-smelling fruits are now available in copious supply in every grocery, market and corner store, I have my own source from where I purchase them.

I have a tailor (another perk to living in Doha) to whom I occasionally frequent, who is from Pakistan. A few weeks ago I spotted a few empty mango boxes in the corner of his store. It’s my side business he told me, I will be receiving a new shipment any day now. So a few days later K (who usually detests trips to the tailors) and I went to get a box.

cut mangoes
They were fresh picked, straight from the orchards in Pakistan. A 10 kilo/22 pound box cost 65 riyals. Elsewhere Sindhri's are selling for 10 riyals a kilo. But we were not there for the price; the quality is far superior from the store bought ones.

There are many recipes for mango-based foods and drinks. Mango ice cream, fresh juice and shakes are very popular here, along with the yogurt based drink called mango lassi. I personally prefer to eat then just as they are.

The best way to eat them is to first roll up your sleeves, or better yet put on an apron, and hold the peeled fruit in your hands. Stand in front of the kitchen sink and proceed to devour the fruit down to the pit, allowing the luscious ambrosial juices to dribble down your chin, hands, wrists and even elbows. Licking is optional, but highly recommended.

We will miss the peak season due to our trip back home, but for now I am content that my kitchen is filled with their sweet and captivating perfume.

Mango Lassi

Recipe courtesy of the Food Network

9 fluid ounces (255 milliliters) plain yogurt
4 1/2 fluid ounces (130 milliliters) milk
4 1/2 fluid ounces (130 milliliters) canned mango pulp or 7 ounces (200 grams) from 3 fresh mangoes, stoned and sliced
4 teaspoons sugar, or to taste

Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend for 2 minutes, then pour into individual glasses, and serve. The lassi can be kept refrigerated for up to 24 hours.


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Ali A. Bashiti said...

oh man those mangoes look gooooooood... *drools

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