Miami chefs share mango memories, recipes


If you go

International Mango Festival: 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Rd., Coral Gables; admission free for members and children 5 and under, $25 for adults, $18 for seniors, $12 for children 6-17; 305-667-1651,

Florida Cookery: The James Royal Palm, 1545 Collins Ave., Miami Beach;


Khong River House: 1661 Meridian Ave., Miami Beach; 305-763-8147

St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort: 9703 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour; 305-993-3300

Mango miscellany

• The mango is a member of the cashew family of flowering plants; relatives include the pistachio tree and poison ivy.

• Mangos were first grown in India more than 5,000 years ago, and that country remains the fruit’s leading producer. The paisley pattern, also developed in India, is based on the shape of a mango.

• More than 20 million metric tons of mangos are grown annually throughout the world.

• A ripe mango has a full, fruity aroma emitted from the stem end. The fruit is considered ready to eat when slightly soft to the touch and yielding to gentle pressure — like a ripe peach.

• A 1-cup serving of sliced mango has about 100 calories, and provides 75 percent of the vitamin C, 25 percent of the vitamin A and 12 percent of the fiber an adult requires daily.


Mango Mousse

This easy-to-make recipe – sweet aromatic mango tempered by whipped cream – yields an ethereally light summer treat.

2 cups diced ripe mango

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

2 cups whipping cream

Purée the mango with the sugar and lemon juice in a blender or food processor until smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a large bowl.

Pour about a third of the purée into a small saucepan and warm it gently. Dissolve the gelatin in 1/4 cup water, and add it to the warm puree, stirring until combined.

Pour the warm puree back into the bowl. Allow it to cool, stirring from time to time.

When the purée is close to room temperature, whip the cream to soft peaks and fold into the mango mixture. Divide among 8 tall glasses or dessert bowls, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Makes 8 servings.

Source: Adapted from pastry chef Antonio Bachour, St. Regis Bal Harbour.

Per serving: 179 calories, 11 g fat (7 g saturated, 3 g monounsturated), 41 mg cholesterol, 1 g protein, 20 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 12 mg sodium


Mango-Smoked Cobia With Dried Mango-Champagne Salad

Some rather elaborate prep work is required here, but the resulting salad bursts with exhilarating contrasts of sweet, spicy mango glaze, smoky fish and crunchy fennel. If you’re not equipped or inclined to smoke your own fish, you can substitute purchased, thick-cut, smoked marlin or trout.

For the cobia:

3 tablespoons coarse salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons ground cumin

3 teaspoons freshly ground pepper

3 pounds fillet of fresh cobia, swordfish or other dense wild fish

2 tablespoons ginger juice

1 tablespoon mango puree

For the glaze:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil for the pan

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 cups diced ripe mango

1/4 to 1 teaspoon minced habanero pepper (to taste)

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons mango jelly

2 tablespoons fresh ginger juice

For the salad:

1/2 cup champagne vinegar

1 cup canola or other neutral oil

1 cup diced fresh mango

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb

12 ounces mixed sprouts, shoots and cress (or any mix of greens)

4 tablespoons diced dried mango

1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges

Combine the salt, sugar, cumin and pepper, and rub it onto the fish.

Mix ginger juice and mango puree, and brush onto fish.

Smoke the fish in a smoker, if you have one, for 1 to 2 hours at 165 degrees or lower. Otherwise, use your home grill and off-set charcoal and/or wood to one side of the grill, place fish on the other side, close top and cook on very low heat for 1 to 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the glaze: Heat the oil in a sauté pan over low to medium-heat, and sauté shallots and garlic 1 minute. Add the mangoes and habanero and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, jelly and ginger juice, and cook, covered, over medium heat for 4 minutes. Strain through food mill or mesh strainer.

Paint the glaze onto the fish for the last half-hour of smoking. Then transfer the fish the oven and bake at 225 degrees for 25 minutes, or until flesh flakes upon gentle pressure. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

(If using purchased smoked fish, rub spice mix onto fish, skipping the ginger juice and mango puree. Brush glaze onto it, and cook in oven at 300 degree for 10 minutes, just to get the fish to absorb the flavors.)

Meanwhile, make the salad: Whisk the vinegar, oil and fresh mango with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the vinaigrette over fennel slices and set aside at room temperature for an hour.

Toss the salad greens with the fennel and vinaigrette. Stack the greens high on 6 large salad plates, adding any residual mango dice from the bowl.

Break up the smoked fish, and scatter over the greens. Top with dry mango bits. Finish each salad by squirting on the juice from a lemon wedge. Makes 6 servings.

Source: Adapted from chef Kris Wessel, Florida Cookery at The James Royal Palm.

Per serving: 533 calories, 30 g fat (5 g saturated, 9 g monounsaturated), 88 mg cholesterol, 46 g protein, 18 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 2540 mg sodium


Pandan Mango Sticky Rice

This traditional Thai treat celebrates the tropical marriage of mango and coconut. The pandan leaf, customarily used in preparing rice dishes and desserts, contributes a distinctive fragrance and a subtle grassy/herbal flavor. You can purchase pandan leaves online (18 leaves for $15.95 at, or at local Asian markets including Asia Grocery (9501 SW 72nd St., Miami-Dade; 305-595-9678) or Asia Market Oriental Food Store (9525 SW 160th St., Miami-Dade; 305-232-2728). Sticky rice is a round-grain rice that is readily available at Whole Foods and Publix markets. It may be labeled as “glutinous,” “sushi” or “pearl” rice.

2 cups sticky rice

4 cups coconut milk

3 pieces pandan leaf

1 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon toasted white sesame seeds

1 large mango, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

Combine rice and 4 cups water and soak overnight at room temperature. Drain rice. Using a bamboo steamer if you have one, steam the rice for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, gently heat coconut milk in a medium-size saucepan. Stir in sugar until dissolved, add pandan leaf and bring to a boil. Once it boils, remove from heat and set aside (keep it warm).

Just before serving, peel and cut the mango.

Transfer steamed rice to a large bowl (remove pandan leaf), and pour three-fourths of the coconut milk sauce over the rice. Stir well with a fork, being careful not to mash the grains. Transfer to serving dishes and drizzle remaining coconut sauce on top of each. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve with cut mango on the side. Makes 6 servings.

Source: Adapted from Khong River House chef Piyarat Potha Arreeratn.

Per serving: 673 calories, 33 g fat (29 g saturated, 1.5 g monounsaturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 8 g protein, 93 g carbs, 1.5 g fiber, 410 mg sodium

Special to the Miami Herald

A lush mango tree flourished outside of the Fort Lauderdale home where Florida Cookery chef Kris Wessel spent his early childhood. “My mother tells me that when I was 5 years old, I would peel and eat mangoes right in the hot Florida sun.”

When St. Regis Bal Harbour pastry chef Antonio Bachour was growing up in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, sweet and sizable “pineapple mangoes” from his family’s backyard “would fall from the tree straight to the mouth.” The fruit had so rich and delicious a pineapple flavor “that people would try to steal them — but my brothers and I would always catch them.”

Khong River House’s Piyarat Potha Arreeratn, known as “Chef Bee,” remembers “waiting until a storm would pass and the mangoes fell” in the yard of his home in Ban Sankhohiang, a village in the Chiang Rai province of Northern Thailand. At other times, he was the sort of kid Bachour was on the lookout for: “We would steal mangoes from our neighbors. When red ants would bite us in the trees, we would catch them, take them back home, and cook those too.”

That Wessel, Bachour and Arreeratn fell in love with the mango as green youths comes as no surprise: The succulent fruit inspires a fervent fan base wherever it is grown — which is to say throughout the world’s tropical and subtropical lowlands.

These particular mango aficionados, however, matured into top Miami chefs, and they haven’t forgotten their roots, bringing personal perspectives to the way they prepare the fruit at their respective restaurants.

Piyarat’s parents are farmers who still reside in Ban Sankhohiang. He learned the culinary basics from his mother at an early age, and during summers with his grandparents in the nearby village of Ban San Macade, his grandmother taught him to prepare the regional street foods she sold at the market. Sticky rice with mango was one of those treats.

It was a recipe that stuck with the culinarian-to-be: Piyarat presents Pandan Sticky Rice with Fresh Mango on his summer dessert menu at Khong. He and pastry chef Dominique Pereira also fuse mango coulis with pastry cream in a Thai-inspired Mango Napoleon.

“Mangoes should be smooth and flavorful with a little bitterness; not too sour, not too sweet,” Bee says. “It’s all about balance. If the mango was sour, we dipped it in salt, sugar and roasted dried chile. We also shredded it and used it in papaya salad. For dessert, we would make it sweet and creamy. We enjoyed the fruit every possible way.”

Things were different in Puerto Rico, Bachour says: “Never did we use the mangoes for something savory — sweet only!”

Perhaps this is because from ages 7 to 17, his kitchen encounters with the nectarous fruit were mostly at his parent’s bakeries in Rio Grande and Ceiba. Father, mother and son prepared all of the desserts.

“We were doing many things with mangoes,” Bachour recalls, including macadamia-crusted tarts and cheesecakes.

The acclaimed pastry chef continues to do many things with mangoes. At J&G Grill, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurant in the St. Regis, his dessert menu includes a Mango Basil Vacherin composed of mango compote, mango gel, mango sorbet, mango foam, basil ice cream and coconut meringue. He gives the hotel’s room-service Key lime pie a garnish of “mango glass” (“a kind of sugar tuile made with mango, isomalt and glucose”).

Mango pie is a Wessel family specialty. His parents migrated from Broward to New Orleans when he was 8, but Sunshine State relatives sent them packages crammed with the tropical fruit. His mother would transform these garden gifts into Grandmother Esther’s Mango Pie.

His grandma “used to bake these in the ’30s and ’40s, and bring them to my grandfather’s construction crews on Miami Beach,” Wessel says.

Esther would also prepare pies for the family’s annual “mango event” at the beach, which involved a hand-crank ice cream maker “and her 10 sons each taking a turn at churning mango ice cream made with McArthur Dairy cream.”

Wessel returned to Florida when he was 18, and worked under original Mango Gang member Mark Militello.

“The attention to mangoes in a fine-dining setting became clear,” Wessel says. “I continued using mangoes and all tropical fruits in my cooking and restaurants for the next 20 years.”

This spring, Wessel took part in an invasive-species event “where one of my python dishes involved smoking it in mango sauce.”

Recipes from the three chefs follow, but relax: None require python or red ants. All you’ll really need to make these dishes snap to life are fresh, ripe mangoes – and now is the prime time to get them.

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