I was asked to throw around a green mango at a photo shoot recently. It’s about as glamorous as my life gets. Which is to say, not at all. I’m usually sweating in kitchens, dumpster diving for boxes behind my local IGA or in the field squatting over whatever I’m harvesting.
As I was throwing the nam dok mai mango in the air, I tried to make sure that I caught it, because to grow one of these prized mangoes takes time. Three years from a grafted tree in Arakwal Country to be exact: that’s how long it’s taken our trees to produce. We’ve been extremely lucky – I have heard from multiple growers that it can take up to six years for a grafted tree to produce fruit. As the camera flashed, I was concentrating more on catching the darn mango than working my best angle.
No matter how many green mangos appear in the markets, there never seems to be enough to go around, such is their popularity amongst so many culinary cultures. So we planted six different varieties – 800 trees in total – that can all be picked green.
I grow them organically without the use of commercial fertilisers, pesticides and hormones, for my own peace of mind. Often they get picked before the insects have a chance at them – the only concern is the wallabies that have gathered in the morning to nibble at bark of the infant trees. The sight is so lovely, I let them have at it.
The variety I planted most of is the nam dok mai. The literal Thai translation means “floral nectar”, a fitting name as that is exactly what they taste like when they are picked ripe, at a pale buttery shade of yellow (always with the stem on, at least a hand-length long, so the sap can flow away from the skin and out of the mango). Sit them on your table for a few days to soften further and they will entice you like a siren luring in ships. Take a bite, and like those sailors washed up on the shores of a lost paradise, there will be no going back.
It is the triple threat of the mango world. A luxurious ripe eating mango (it’s the mango for Thai style mango and sweet sticky rice), it also has a paper thin seed which translates to a good flesh-to-pit ratio. It is also the perfect green mango for eating savoury or sweet – slightly tart with a hint of sweet starchiness lending it a creamy texture. polyembryonic it can be planted out, to give you a carbon copy of the same delicious mango. Did I say triple? I meant quintuple.
There is no better festive party dish for me than a platter with fried local snapper decked with a tangled mass of shredded green mango salad.
So for these holidays, this dish will be made many times over.
As it turns out, my best angle is the one that involves a green mango hurtling through the air– towards my waiting snapper.
Pla yum mamuang
Deep-fried snapper with green mango salad1 green nam dok mai mango, peeled and then shredded (I use a Kiwi brand papaya peeler)finely slicedfinely mincedfinely sliced2 stems coriander, finely sliced picked and ready to tearbroken into chunks Red Boat fish saucefinely chopped cleaned, gutted and scored
Heat oil in deep frying pan over high heat. Sprinkle salt lightly on fish, then coat with the two flours. Fry red snapper until golden brown and cooked through, approximately 7-9 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside on a kitchen towel to absorb the oil.
Whisk together lime juice, fish sauce, palm sugar, garlic and fresh chillies to make the dressing. Add shredded green mango, eschalot, spring onions, coriander, mint and mix well until the dressing is well incorporated through the salad.
Place the snapper onto a platter, dress with the salad and garnish with the pounded dried shrimps and toasted cashew chunks. Serve and watch it disappear.
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