Mango obsession: How to eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert

Fresh mangoes deserve more respect for their versatility in cooking.

Although he has been in Philadelphia for decades, Rakesh Ramola treasures a few vivid memories from his childhood in Mumbai. One in particular involves the pilfering of ripe mangoes.

Ramola, chef/owner of Indeblue restaurants in Collingswood and on 13th Street in Philadelphia,  recalls playing cricket as a boy and running to retrieve an errant ball from a neighbor’s rooftop.  The roof was shaded by a large mango tree and littered with ripe, fragrant fruit.  “I grabbed as many as I could, and they fell and made a loud noise. The family came out, and I was caught.  But we couldn’t resist mangoes when they were ripe — too delicious.”

Truly, can there possibly be a fruit more luscious than a mango?

Ramola, who lives with his wife, Heather, and their three daughters in their new home in Marlton, remembers mangoes’ being sacred in India, where the thin-skinned yellow fruit was first grown about 5,000 years ago.  Keeping company with silk and spices, mango seeds traveled with migrants from Asia to the Middle East, East Africa, and South America beginning around A.D. 300 or 400.

Although hundreds of varieties are sold globally year-round — more than 400 in India alone — the sweetest mangoes are in Philadelphia grocery stores from early summer through October.  Harvested primarily from Mexico, Peru, and the Caribbean, the most common kinds sport preppy-sounding names like Tommy Atkins, Haden, Kent, Keitt, Honey, and Alphonso, all varieties prized for their sweet flesh and dearth of sinewy fibers. At his modern Indian restaurants, Ramola uses mango in chutney paired with spicy curry, in the yogurt-based mango lasi drink, and in a dense mango kheer, a cardamom-flavored rice pudding layered with mango, dried fruits, and nuts. “It’s a fruit,” he said, “that is at home at every course.”

Naturally sweet, low in calories, and high in vitamin C and antioxidants, mangoes are a staple of the Cuban food that Guillermo Pernot creates for menus at Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, Washington, and Orlando.  “I buy them by the flat, and my daughter just starts eating them one by one until they’re gone,” said the Wynnewood resident, who travels frequently to Cuba for culinary research.

Florida red snapper, with mango salsa at Cuba Libre. From Cuba Libre

Pernot uses mangoes in all kinds of ways at Cuba Libre, pairing their sweet tang with the heat of chile peppers in salsa, whirring them into tropical smoothies, and harnessing their rootsy, unripe goodness in salads and soups. Then there’s the signature mango butter, served alongside pressed Cuban bread at the start of every Cuba Libre meal. One of the most popular items on the new dinner menu is pargo à la plancha: olive-oil-griddled Florida red snapper topped with a mango salsa, served with coconut basmati rice and candied cashews on the side.

Mangoes deserve more respect in the kitchen, according to  Food Network regular Seamus Mullen, chef/owner of the Spanish restaurants Tertulia and El Colmado in Manhattan.  “People think of eating mango as a fruit, but not necessarily cooking with it. There are many varieties, and they’re all very different.” Green mango is firm enough to stand up to being shredded on a mandolin or grated like jicama or green papaya, said Mullen.  “Then you can stir-fry it, make a salad, or blend it with cucumber for gazpacho. It’s a very versatile fruit.”

Mullen is so passionate about this aromatic fruit’s adaptability that he joined U.K. Iron Chef Judy Joo to lead the fourth annual Mango & Food Festival this month on the island of Nevis.  Hands-on-cooking classes, mango-inspired feasts, chef smackdowns, and an open-air tasting featuring celebrity and local chefs on Oualie Beach drew enthusiastic crowds.

Nevis — a tiny, 36-square-mile volcanic island in the Eastern Caribbean known as the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton — is home to 12,000 people and about 44 varieties of mango. The locals and tourists who flock to the island’s white-sand beaches and sugar-mill boutique hotels are not the only fans of the ripe mangoes that perfume the marketplace through the fall. Mango season drives the monkeys plum crazy. Colonies of green vervet monkeys roam the former sugar-producing archipelago, gorging themselves on the silky fruit until they literally fall out of the trees.

Stephanie Reitano understands how the monkeys feel. “I am a little psycho about mangoes when they come into season,” said the chef/owner of Capogiro Gelato and Capofitto Pizza. “ I’m crazy for them. I only use one kind — Alfonso, from Mexico, a luscious yellow fruit with a teardrop shape, like half of the yin and yang.  The consistency is perfect — as if an avocado and a peach had a baby, with dense, sturdy flesh that is just bursting with flavor.” She makes mango sorbets and sometimes mango yogurt, adding a squeeze of lime and a pinch of cayenne to the mix.

Catching the mango at the ideal ripeness for its destined use is key to getting the most flavor out of the tropical super fruit, said the Argentine-born Pernot.  “You have to smell your fruit,” he said.  “Mangoes should be firm and fragrant.  For a shake or cocktail puree, you use a very ripe mango.  Buy a flat, and use one-third green for salads, one-third just ripe enough for something like a salsa or ceviche, and the last third for blending.”

A mango martini. BETH D’ADDONO

Green mangoes should be kept at room temp until they ripen, Pernot said. Then move them to the fridge to slow down the process. Mangoes freeze well, and Pernot is a fan of using frozen cubed mango he buys at Trader Joe’s for blending in smoothies and purees.  “You can add a little bit of fresh lime juice to add some extra zing,” said the two-time James Beard Award winner. “Ripe mangoes last for about five days in the refrigerator, although of course at my house, they never last that long.”







How to cut a  mango

The only thing tricky about a mango is cutting it, thanks to the long, flat seed in the center of the fruit.

  1. Stand the mango on your cutting board stem end down and hold. Place your knife about ¼-inch from the widest center line and cut down through the mango.
  2. Flip the mango around and repeat this cut on the other side. The resulting ovals of mango flesh are known as the "cheeks." What's left in the middle is mostly the mango seed.
  3. Cut parallel slices into the mango flesh, being careful not to cut through the skin. Turn the mango cheek  ¼ rotation and cut another set of parallel slices to make a checkerboard pattern and deliver the perfect dice.

--From the National Mango Board  

Mango Shrimp Ceviche

Makes 2 servings

Shrimp Ceviche with mangos<br />BETH D&#039;ADDONO


½  pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (16/20 per pound size)
2 tablespoons salt
¾ cup lemon juice (from 4 to 6 lemons)
¼ cup orange juice (from 1 orange)
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Up to 1 teaspoon each: salt and freshly ground pepper
1 ripe mango, cut into ½-inch chunks


1. In a large pot, bring to a boil 4 quarts of water, salted with 2 tablespoons salt. Add the shrimp and cook for 1 minute to 2 minutes max, depending on size of shrimp. (Over-cooking the shrimp will turn it rubbery.)
2. Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon and place into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.
3. Drain the shrimp. Cut each shrimp into bite-sized pieces. Place shrimp in a glass or ceramic bowl. Mix in the lemon and orange juice. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
4. Mix in the chopped red onion and refrigerate for 1-2 more hours.
5. Right before serving, add the cilantro, salt and pepper (to taste) and the mango. Serve on a bed of lettuce.

— From chef Ricky Finch, Golden Rock Resort, Nevis

Per Serving: 283 calories; 29 grams protein; 35 grams carbohydrates; 28 grams sugar; 4 grams fat; 239 milligrams cholesterol; 299 milligrams sodium; 4 grams dietary fiber.

Mango Martini

Makes 2 servings


For the mango puree:
1 fresh ripe mango or 1 cup frozen prepared mango, cubed 
1 teaspoon lime juice 
3 tablespoons water 
1 teaspoons sugar 
For the martinis:
1 ounce dry vermouth 
2 ounces vodka 
2 ounces mango rum
1 cup prepared mango purée 
1 cup crushed ice or a few ice cubes if using a blender


1. To make the mango puree, place mango cubes in a blender or food processor. Add the lime juice, water, and sugar. Blend well. The purée should taste like thick mango juice. If you're using a semi-ripe mango or frozen mango, you may need to add more sugar. If you want your martinis to have a very smooth texture, strain the purée through a sieve.
2. To make the martinis, place vermouth, vodka, rum, 4 ounces mango purée and ice into a shaker and shake it up, or put ingredients into a blender and blend well.
3. Pour into a martini glass and garnish with a slice of lime.

— From Kaddy Simon, Montpelier Plantation, Nevis

Per Serving: 254 calories; 1 gram protein; 28 grams carbohydrates; 25 grams sugar; 1 gram fat; no cholesterol; 3 milligrams sodium; 3 grams dietary fiber.

Green Mango and Cucumber Gazpacho

Makes 4 to 6 servings


¼ cup champagne vinegar
2 garlic cloves, grated with a microplane
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 very large regular cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and diced (about 4 cups)
4 to 6 green mangoes peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks (about 4 cups)
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 lemon
Fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon cayenne


1. Put the vinegar in a blender. Grate the garlic directly into the vinegar with a microplane and add 2 teaspoons salt. Let sit for a few minutes, and then add the cucumbers and mango. Blend on high speed until very smooth, adding a bit of water if needed to get the blender going. Work in batches if necessary. With the machine running, add the oil through the feed tube in a steady stream. When it's completely emulsified, season to taste with salt and pepper. 
2. Zest the lemon directly into the mixture and whisk in until fully incorporated. Refrigerate until very cold.
3. Before serving, stir or blend until smooth again.
4. Divide among serving bowls and drizzle with oil. Tear the basil leaves on top and sprinkle with cayenne. Serve immediately. 

— From chef Seamus Mullen, chef/owner on Tertulia restaurant

Per Serving (based on 6): 383 calories; 3 grams protein; 41 grams carbohydrates; 35 grams sugar; 26 grams fat; no cholesterol; 103 milligrams sodium; 4 grams dietary fiber.

Olive-Oil-Griddled Florida Red Snapper With Mango Salsa

Makes 4 servings

Pargo a la Plancha: Olive oil griddled Florida red snapper, with mango salsa at Cuba Libre. Photo credit: From Cuba Libre


For the Marinade:
4 8-ounce Pacific red snapper fillets, skin on
½ pound onions, julienned
¼ ounce seafood base, dissolved in water (*Kitchen Basics or Better than Bouillon recommended)
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
1 cup vegetable oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary, whole
For cooking the snapper:
¼  cup olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
For the Jalapeño Salsa:
2 fresh mangoes, diced ¼ inch
¼ tablespoon fresh ginger, very finely grated (microplaned)
1 jalapeño chile, seeded, small diced
½ tablespoon onion, finely diced
 ½ tablespoon fresh cilantro, picked and chopped
¼ cup mango puree, from a very ripe mango
1 ½ teaspoon honey
1 ½ tablespoon fresh lime juice
¾ tablespoon Kosher salt


1. In a non-reactive bowl, mix together all of the marinade ingredients, then coat the fish thoroughly in the mixture. Marinate at least 4 hours or overnight.
2. Combine all of the salsa ingredients together. Mix well.
3. In a heavy cast iron skillet or griddle, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering.
4. Season fish on both sides with kosher salt, then place skin side down.
5. Cook until the skin is very crispy, 5 to 8 minutes. This will cook the fish fillet almost all the way through. Gently flip the fillet with a spatula and cook for 1 to 2 minutes on the other side to finish cooking.
6. Top with mango jalapeno salsa and serve with rice .


— From Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar chef-partner Guillermo Pernot

Per Serving: 614 calories; 62 grams protein; 38 grams carbohydrates; 34 grams sugar; 24 grams fat; 107 milligrams cholesterol; 1,302 milligrams sodium; 3 grams dietary fiber.