ANCIENT HINDU texts called it the "food of the gods," and in an episode of Seinfeld, a few bites of one helped George rediscover his manhood. Seductively fragrant, sweet and juicy, the mango, a once-exotic East Indian fruit, is now easily cultivated in warm locales across the globe and widely available in grocery stores everywhere.
Yet while there are more than 500 varieties of mango, only a few—primarily the Tommy Atkins and the Haden—show up in produce aisles. These common varieties can be quite stringy, however, which is why chef Adrienne Inskeep of Siam Society was delighted recently to discover champagne mangoes, a variety that’s had the fiber bred out of it.
"They’re grown primarily in the Philippines," says Inskeep, who became familiar with many other types of mango during her travels in Brazil and Southeast Asia. She discovered the champagne mango—also known as an ataulfo or honey manila—only last summer.
"There was a huge abundance of them at Hong Phat," Inskeep says, referring to the Asian market at 9819 NE Prescott. She instantly knew the slender fruit was a mango, but she didn’t realize how much more flesh it would have (due to its relatively small seed) than other mangoes did. And that’s not its only draw. The texture of a champagne mango is lustrous and smooth, its color a vibrant orange, and its flesh sweeter—so much so that, when it’s in season from late spring through late summer, Inskeep uses the variety almost exclusively.
While the quintessential way to enjoy this summery treat may be to eat it straight from the peel, Inskeep puts the champagne mango to savory use, for instance in an habañero salsa she serves with roasted pork. She also features mango desserts on Siam Society’s menu, the most popular of which is sliced champagne mango with sticky rice, a dish that is very simple to make but that "sells like crazy," a phenomenon the chef attributes to the oft-held belief that mangoes are a lot of work to peel and cut at home.
"If you’ve got a sharp knife, it’s easy," says Inskeep. "Peel first along the narrow sides, or the ‘fingers,’ and then the wider sides, the ‘cheeks.’" Using this same method, you can then cut it into fat slices or create vertical ribbons. Any way you slice it, however, you have about an hour after cutting the fruit before any variety will develop an unappealing film.
As for the seed, Inskeep, who is expecting her first baby this month, puts that to a special use. "I’ve been craving a lot of fruit lately," she says, "so I usually just suck what’s left of the fruit right off the seed."
Champagne Mangoes with Sticky Rice
Recipe Courtesy Adrienne Inskeep, chef and co-owner of Siam Society.
To steam the rice, she suggests using a bamboo rice steamer, which you can find at Asian markets. You may also use a standard metal steamer basket—just make sure you can fit a lid over it.
- 2 cups uncooked sticky rice (also called glutinous rice)
- 2⁄3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 2-3 champagne mangoes
- In a large bowl, cover rice with cold water by 2 inches. Soak for at least one hour and up to 24 hours. (Rice soaked longer than one hour should be refrigerated.)
- Drain rice and pour into a bamboo rice steamer.
- Place over a pot filled with 2-3 inches boiling water and steam rice, covered, for 7 minutes.
- Then, shake rice several times until it “flips,” so that the rice that was on the top of the basket is now on the bottom.
- Re-cover and steam for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat.
- In a medium-size bowl, whisk together coconut milk, sugar and salt.
- Reserve several tablespoons of mixture, then mix rice with remaining mixture until it is creamy and rich.
- Peel mango and slice into ½-inch-thick slices or cubes, discarding the large seed.
- To serve, put a scoop of rice on each plate, fan mango slices around rice and drizzle with reserved coconut milk mixture. Serve immediately.