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Mango Madness in St. Louis

University City resident and U City Patch restaurant and food contributor Natalie McLaury writes about taking part in the Mango Taste-Off Tour.

Do you think of mangoes as an exotic fruit, something that you can only see while vacationing in Mexico or the Caribbean?

On Friday, May 6th, the National Mango Board made a stop in St. Louis as part of its Mango Hometown Tour to, as they called it, spread their “mango passion”. 

I had the opportunity to attend the Mango Taste-Off Tour where two local chefs, Josh Galliano of Monarch and Nick Miller of Harvest, competed against each other to create a unique mango recipe that reflects our region. Set in Monarch’s dining room, the atmosphere was buzzing with hungry attendees, excited to sample each chef’s masterpiece.

Though I’ve used mango in recipes before, such as Mango Chicken, I hesitate to buy and cook with them regularly because they’re such a pain to cut. I’ll no longer have to use that excuse, though, because an employee from the National Mango Board kicked off the event by teaching the audience the best way to cut a mango.

Her tips?

  • Make two vertical cuts, around the seed (located in the center), so that you’re left with two “cheeks”
  • Using a knife, make a checkerboard pattern inside each cheek and then use a spoon to scoop out the flesh

With these tips in mind, I feel confident to tackle my next mango!

When the mango lesson concluded, it was time to sample each chef’s creation. First up, was Chef Miller who paired pork with each of his dishes to create a trio of tastes: pork belly on brioche toast with a mango yolk, a mango roll, and carnitas atop a tortilla and topped with mango salsa. Miller explained his reasoning for selecting pork, explaining that local pork is both good and readily available in St. Louis, making it a prime match for the versatile mango fruit. Each taste was as fancy as it sounds and I was hesitant to dig into food so beautifully presented. Though I loved all three of Chef Miller’s recipes, my favorite was the mango roll…fashioned after a Vietnamese Spring Roll, but using paper thin mango rather than rice paper to hold the jicama, Canadian bacon, basil, and cilantro tucked within.

While I was still licking my lips from the first plate of mango goodness, Chef Galliano emerged with his completely different take on the fruit. Galliano centered his plate around a homemade shrimp chorizo, highlighting the mango in a Romescu sauce (a Spanish sauce that typically uses peppers, not mangoes), a mango tuile, and a whipped mango vinegar. I was particularly impressed by the mango tuile, best described as a mango fruit roll-up!

After a quick tally of the judges' scores, the winner was announced: Chef Galliano with his shrimp chorizo and mango accompaniments! After being “crowned”, guests were left to mingle, finish enjoying the little cups of mango chunks at each place setting, and leave with a bag containing their very own mango.

A fun Friday afternoon activity, I left inspired to whip up some new mango dishes in my own kitchen. While I don’t have plans to make a mango yolk anytime soon, I do have a few recipes in mind!

The National Mango Board was quick to remind everyone of the health benefits of mangoes (only 100 calories for 1 cup and 100% of one’s Vitamin C), and that they have a place in many dishes—the super ripe ones best belonging in smoothies or chutneys and the less ripe ones are ideal for salsas. Not sure if your mango is ripe? Give it a squeeze! You want your mango a little soft…and if it’s not yet ready, set it on your countertop for a few days to ripen.

Schnucks, a partner of the event, has mangoes readily available at this time of year. Pick a few up this month and experience this delicious fruit! I’ve rounded up a few recipes from around the Internet for you to experiment with:

Chicken Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa

Coconut Mango Frozen Yogurt

Thai Green Mango Salad

Mango Bavarian Cream

Happy Mango cooking!

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