Using mango in home cooking used to be difficult, because of the problem of ripening the fruit just in time for use. It got much easier when I discovered an excellent canned mango pulp product. Like orange, this is a fruit that we use both as a food ingredient and as a spice.
Unripe mangoes on tree
Ripening mangoes on tree
Wild mango trees are known only in North-East India and Burma, so it appears likely that the species evolved there, although the plant is cultivated in parts of both Southern Asia and South-East Asia.
Anacardiaceae (cashew family).
Sour and astringent, with a slight resinous overtone.
The name "mango", almost identical in countless languages, is derived from the most important language of South India, Tamil, and was transferred to the West by the Portuguese. The general term for mango in Tamil is mamaran, but the fruit is usually referred to either as manpalam "ripe mango fruit" or mangai "unripe mango fruit". The latter term was probably transferred to Europe by Portuguese sailors who encountered the unripe mango fruits being traded in harbours and markets.
The North Indian names for mango derive from Sanskrit amra, itself probably a Dravidian loan and thus related to the Tamil names and even to English "mango". Only Hindi amchur (or aamchoor) refers to the dried spice, whereas Hindi am means "fresh fruits". The Sanskrit name madhulaka refers to the sweet taste, from madhu "sweet". Genus name mangifera "bringer of mango" contains Latin ferre "carry" or "bring" (cf. lucifer "bringer of light" and Christopher "he who carries Christ"). Species name indica is Latin for Indian.
Mango is one of the most popular tropical fruits and is enjoyed by everyone who ever had the opportunity to eat a fresh, ripe fruit in the production countries. Mangoes available outside the tropics vary a great deal in their quality, depending on the state of ripeness at plucking time. Nevertheless, ripe mangoes are often used for desserts in Western cuisine and make an excellent ice cream.
It is not much known that the unripe fruit gives a remarkable spice much used in North India. With the stone removed, the fruit is cut into slices, dried and ground to a pale grey powder. This powder is used as a frequent replacement for tamarind (the other important sour element in Indian cuisine).
Mango powder is much weaker than tamarind and has a subtle, resin-like taste. It is mainly used if only a hint of tartness is desired or when the dark brown colour of tamarind is to be avoided. Mango powder is generally more popular with vegetables than with meat, but is frequently found in tikka spice mixtures for meat cooked in an Indian tandoor clay oven. Meat to be grilled is seasoned with a mixture of several spices (cumin, coriander, fresh ginger, garlic and mango powder) but little or no chilli and blended with red food colouring and plain yoghurt. After some hours of marinating, it is quickly roasted in the very hot tandoor. Mango powder here serves not only as a tart and sour spice, but also as a meat tenderiser.
Ripe mangoes are a popular fruit and may be used for stewed fruits, fruit jam, fruit cakes and many other standard fruit applications as well as for some savoury dishes.
Indonesian fruit salad rujak combines fresh fruits (not too ripe mango, pineapple, papaya and in Java frequently cucumber) with a pungent sauce of palm sugar (from coconut or other palm trees), fresh red chillies and salt. On Bali, a hint of the shrimp paste trassi is never omitted. The result tastes delicious, despite the recipe looking strange.
Mexicans sometimes use ripe mangoes for their fiery salsas. The extremely hot habanero chilli goes very well with the aromatic mango fruit.