Rice cakes stewed in coconut milk and mango are a wonderful food pairing. The richness of the coconut milk, the slight hint of ginger, the sweetness of a good mango make this combination a favorite in the Southeast Asian region. They are the essence of enjoying what is grown around you. Simple and sublime. Hard to improve in. So I had never really previously toyed with the idea of playing around with the pairing, figuring, “why mess with a good thing?’.
During a recent trip to Batangas, I spied local mangoes (which aren’t the cats meow) at the market for an amazing PHP30 a kilo. These mangoes, when fully ripe, are good for mango shakes, ice candy, etc so we stock up on them, scoop out the flesh and freeze in individual sized portions. They form the basis for ripe mango shakes for months to come. But as I was buying several kilos, I wondered out loud if they might grill up well, and bought a couple more kilos to experiment with. Next purchase, some sticky rice and grated coconut.
Leny, our resident puto/suman (depending on where in the country you are, plain sticky rice with coconut milk and ginger can be called either) expert made a batch of her puto in time for lunch time dessert. As soon as we got the coals nice and hot for our lunch time barbecue, I sliced up some of the local mangoes (which are a bit more fibrous than Cebu mangoes, and have a sour/sweet flavor) and plopped them down on the hot grill.
The initial results were a bit of a disaster. The mangoes burned to a crisp (second photo from the top) and were ugly and unappeling. A second attempt at a “naked” grill is in the photo above, mango cheek to the right in the picture.
I decided to add some dark brown sugar and grill it for a shorter period, say 2 minutes or so, then turned it over for another few minutes before taking it off the flames.
After cooling the mango down for a couple of minutes, I took one small spoon full and alarm bells went off and a huge smile was plastered on my face. Eureka! YUM. It was a bit like a wonderful mango creme caramel. The sweet glaze on top gave way to a warmed and softened mango underneath. Absolutely delicious. And a wonderful complement to the rice and coconut milk. I realize I am by no means the first to think to grill a mango, but I do think this is the first time anyone has posted this combination and technique on the internet, so I am claiming the a la Marketman title for it!
This is also going into that mythical Marketman cookbook. It’s hard to improve on a classic. But the next time you have access to mangoes and a grill, try this combination and I think it will be hard to go back to the original. :)