It’s not that easy being green;
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves.
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold…
or something much more colorful like that.
This song could have been written for young mangoes, as they slowly grow on mango trees, nestled in the mango flowers (!), blending in with the leaves and other ordin’ry things.
As we go into late summer, mangoes ripen, and take on the colours of red, or yellow or gold. They become such a luscious fruit, the essence of summer, humidity, sun, and heat like a warm blanket.
But each year, part of me looks back nostalgically on the green mangoes, appearing in the markets so briefly, like that moment between spring and summer. Green mangoes that are fresh and cool, rather than heady-tropical. As Kermit might have said:
But green’s the color of Spring.
And green can be cool and friendly-like.
And green’s the color of green mangoes.
And green can be crunchy and sweet-sour-like.*
* with apologies for the textual travesty
This year’s green mango season, I made the green mango salad from Naomi Duguid’s book, Burma: Rivers of Flavor.
Unlike the better known Thai salads, this one won’t have you breathing fire (from the level of spiciness), and mostly uses fresh ingredients that were easy to find, at least in Sydney. But with a handful of fresh ingredients, the salad had a surprising depth of flavour and range of interesting textures. Each ingredients had room to shine – green mangoes, slightly bitter leaves, savoury shrimp powder, peanuts, fresh shallots and crispy fried shallots, chilli (and other things I just toss in for fun).
On really humid evenings, this salad plus some Tibetan bread was dinner (which also leaves space for frozen yoghurt or gelato). I must have made it 3, 4 times, a record in our house. To misquote Dr Seuss:
I like green mangoes, and –
I do!! I like them, Sam-I-am!
And I would eat them in a boat!
And I would eat them with a goat…
And I will eat them in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
They are so good, so good, you see!
So I will eat them in a box.
And I will eat them with a fox.
And I will eat them in a house.
And I will eat them with a mouse.
And I will eat them here and there.
Say! I will eat them ANHYWHERE!
The Asian markets have two types of green mango, one labelled ‘sweet green mango’, and the other just ‘green mango’ or sometimes ‘sour green mango’. I use the sweet ones, as I prefer their milder, nutty/floury, tart-sweet flavour. I’ve also read the sour ones are usually used in cooking rather than eaten raw.
The salad recipes in the book ask for a couple of unusual ingredients. But the good news is once you’ve made them, you can use them again and again in a range of salads. This one calls for dried shrimp powder, which sounds horrible and smelly and difficult, but was actually a cinch to make, and keeps well in the pantry, away from sunlight. Since making a small jar, I’ve tossed it into stir fries and omelettes to add a little savoury depth.
And if you’re struck by the Burma travel bug, like me, here is a bit of armchair travel.
So, where’s the recipe?
Well, I haven’t found the recipe published on the internet, so I also won’t put it up yet. But if you’re curious about this salad and want the recipe, leave a comment.
There are also many, many versions of green mango salad from a number of South-east Asian countries. Here is a handful of slightly random links; if you know a better recipe please let me know!
Phew! While I wait for next year’s supply of green mangoes, I’m heading over to Angie’s Fiesta Friday with a big, imaginary bowl of this stuff. It’ll go great with Angie’s jambalaya, really!
Tagged: Burma, chili, Dr Seuss, dried shrimp, early summer, Fiesta Friday, green eggs and ham, green mango salad, green mangoes, it's not easy being green, Kermit the Frog, Naomi Duguid, Novice Gardener, peanuts, Rivers of Flavor, shallots, spring, summer, textual travesties