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As anyone who has
suffered experienced a Chicago winter will tell you—the Windy City hardly gives off tropical vibes. So when Bangkok-native Leela Punyaratabandhu wants to recreate some of her favorite dishes from home, she’s learned to incorporate some ingenious substitutions.
“If my Chicago years have taught me anything, it’s that with knowledge and resourcefulness, the cuisine of Bangkok—even old dishes from the early days of the city—can be faithfully replicated in the United States,” she writes in her latest cookbook, Bangkok.
In Bangkok, vendors loaded with seasonal fruits sell plastic baggies filled with sweet chopped produce and packets of chile-salt-sugar dip. Punyaratabandhu takes this traditional snack to another sour-sweet-salty-spicy-level with a green mango and salty palm sugar caramel dip—but she doesn’t always have green mangoes.
Green mangoes (unlike the green-red type) are rock hard with an extremely tart taste. The only way to pick a perfect green mango is to squeeze (really hard!)—it shouldn’t give at all. Green mangoes are usually sold at Southeast and South Asian grocery stores, but in her shifts between Bangkok and Chicago, Punyaratabandhu learned to swap Granny Smith apples for that tart, crisp taste.
Mangoes can be tricky tropical fruits. A mandoline is the best way to slice green mangoes, but the bleeding red hued variety need more work. Start by cutting each of the larger sides off of a ripe mango, just slightly off-center, so you miss the core. Then, make lengthwise cuts through the flesh to create a crosshatch pattern. Press up from the skin-side of the mango, inverting the flesh. Then slice away the cubes that appear.
Whew! Who’s ready for a less finicky fruit? Try these easy to cut green mango (or green apple!) dishes for an extra tart taste:
What's your favorite tropical fruit substitution? How'd you discover it? Let us know below!