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Taste of the Tropics
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— July 15, 2013

Taste of the Tropics

By Lisa James
  • Once an exotic oddity, the mango has claimed a place in American cuisine.

If we could visit an average American kitchen of a century ago, the fruit bowl would be filled with familiar cold-climate staples: apples, pears, cherries, plums. But in today’s smaller, more connected world, all sorts of tropical fruits are now common in the US marketplace.

One of the most popular is the mango. Different varieties of this Southeast Asian native are available in this country year round, hailing from Central and South America and Haiti as well as warmer parts of the US.

Juicy and sweet, the mango is an excellent source of fiber, beta carotene and other carotenoids (which give the flesh its vibrant yellow color), and vitamin C. Mangoes supply notable amounts of copper, folate and vitamin B6 in addition to phytonutrients such as quercetin. They also contain a digestion-promoting enzyme similar to that found in papayas.

Don’t judge a mango’s ripeness by sight—color is no indication. Instead, squeeze it gently; a ripe fruit will give slightly (and may have a fruity aroma at the stem end). Unripe mangoes will continue to ripen at room temperature. Ripe fruits should be used within a week.

The mango’s large pit can pose a challenge when cutting. For best results, use a sharp, thin-bladed knife. To dice, stand the fruit on its stem end and slice off the two “cheeks” on each side of the pit before scoring the flesh in both directions. Then either turn the cheek inside out and scrape off the chunks or scrape the dice off with a spoon. Wash the fruit before cutting.

As tasty as they are when eaten out of hand, mangoes also work well in a variety of recipes. The fruit’s enzymes make it an excellent tenderizer in marinades, especially for chicken and pork. Its tropical nature is enhanced by other hot-climate flavors, such as lime, chili, ginger and coconut, making mangoes a popular ingredient in chutneys and salsas.

Sitting under a palm tree by a warm sea may be just a vacation dream—but the mango can bring that feeling to your kitchen anytime.

ET Recipe

Coconut Shrimp with Mango Sauce

1 large ripe mango, peeled and pitted
2 tbsp plain rice vinegar
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1 lb large raw shrimp, tails on, peeled and deveined
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp hot chili oil
2 cups flaked coconut

1. Puree sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a large baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Rinse shrimp and pat very dry between paper towels.

3. In a medium bowl, stir together honey, soy sauce and chili oil. Dip shrimp in mixture and then roll in coconut, pressing so that it sticks to the shrimp. Place shrimp on the baking sheet; sprinkle with some of the excess coconut.

4. Bake 6-8 minutes or until shrimp is firm and coconut golden brown. Carefully remove from sheet with a spatula to a platter; serve sauce on the side for dipping.

Yields 8 appetizer servings. Analysis per serving: 269 calories, 14g protein, 15g fat (12g saturated), 4g fiber, 26g carbohydrate, 135 mg sodium


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