Bejeweling the Mango: Trinidad Chow
I went to a 6 year old’s birthday party at a bowling alley.
The lights. The music. The flashing animated rabbit declaring who got a strike, and who got a split. The little guests so delighted to be together, to celebrate their friend, to practice new wobbly math skills to understand the score.
Some children used a ramp-like contraption which in effect bowled the ball for them. My own bowled analog, but pitched each ball more downward than forward. The games progressed in a spirit of amped-up camaraderie, and though I only had to get ice for one wounded child who had stuck her hand into the unforgiving maw of the ball dispenser, it is safe to say that we were all overstimulated.
Soon enough we moved to a party room, where a vast super hero cake lorded over a populous congregation of smaller cupcakes. Bowls of candy overflowed in the middle of the table and balloons bobbed to the ceiling. As hot dogs and pizza slices were passed around and punch was spilled on the tablecloth, the hostess drew my remaining, fractured attention to some food geared towards an adult palate.
And that is when I met the Mango Chow for the first time in my life, and I found something to zero my focus in upon.
Be careful! my friend warned, as I spooned some orange cubes flecked with . . . could those be wee wisps of green herb? Slivers of garlic? It can be a bit spicy, she said.
There is something so pure about mango. The hue of ripe mango flesh has a smooth, unvariegated intensity and gloss. But the arc of flavor is phenonemal. Some fruits are elemental: think apple, banana. But mango is already complex. Some claim it’s too sweet, but in reality, it’s the acidity and the almost delicate dusty flavor at the finish that make it so special for me. I love mango by itself. My kids beg for sliced mango as a dessert, and can frequently be heard squabbling over who gets to suck the pit.
If plain old mango is a party in the mouth, one could postulate that salting and spicing a mango would be like gilding the lily: too much. But this kind of salad is more like bejewling the mango, playing to its natural beauty. It’s like draping a beautiful person in beautiful fabric.
Memorial day is this weekend. This salad, with garlic, lime, chilis, and herbs, it just what you want on your table. No lie.
4 cups cubed fruit (try it first with mango! pineapple makes sense, too! throw some halved grapes in!)
6-8 culantro (use cilantro if you can’t find culantro)
2-3 garlic cloves
Hot pepper to taste, sliced or minced — eg. habanero or scotch bonnet, or hot pepper sauce
1. Mince culantro (or cilantro) and hot pepper.
2. Crush, grate, or mince garlic.
3. Peel fruits, if required.
4. Cut fruit into bite sized pieces.
5. Season to taste with minced culantro, hot pepper/s, garlic and salt.
6. Toss all ingredients together.