Mangoes are more than just a fruit in Thailand; they are a symbol of the country’s rich agricultural heritage and culinary prowess. Bursting with flavour and versatility, Thai mangoes are a staple in a wide variety of dishes, ranging from appetisers to main courses and desserts. This article explores the different kinds of mangoes grown in Thailand, the regions where they flourish, the stages of their ripening, and their culinary applications.
Varieties of Thai Mangoes
Thailand is home to a plethora of mango varieties. While the exact number can vary, it is generally accepted that there are at least 100 to 200 types, each with its own unique taste, texture, and use. Some of the most popular types include:
- Nam Dok Mai: Known for its floral aroma and sweetness, it is primarily consumed fresh or used in desserts.
- Kaew: A variety often used for pickling and cooking, as its sour notes provide a sharp contrast in flavours.
- Keo Romadon: Originating from Cambodia, this variety is appreciated for its creamy texture and mild sweetness.
Thai mangoes are cultivated across a range of locations in Thailand, with the main growing areas being:
- Central Thailand: Provinces like Chachoengsao, Nakhon Pathom, and Samut Songkhram are known for high-quality Nam Dok Mai.
- Northern Thailand: Here, you’ll find mango varieties suited for cooking, often harvested while still green.
- Eastern Thailand: Regions like Chanthaburi and Rayong produce a large share of Keo Romadon mangoes.
The Journey to Ripeness
The time it takes for a mango to ripen can vary depending on the variety and growing conditions, but generally, it ranges from 3 to 5 months from flowering to harvest. As for determining ripeness, here are some general guidelines:
- Colour: Most varieties transition from green to a more yellow or orange hue.
- Texture: A ripe mango should yield slightly to gentle pressure.
- Aroma: A sweet, fruity aroma around the stem is often a good indicator.
Mango Salad (Yum Mamuang): A tangy blend of green mango, chilies, and other seasonings, this dish is a delicious and refreshing way to start a meal.
- Main Courses
Mango Curry: A harmonious blend of ripe mangoes, coconut milk, and Thai spices make this curry both sweet and spicy.
Mango Stir-fry: Green mangoes can be thinly sliced and stir-fried with shrimp or chicken, adding a tart complexity to the dish.
Mango Sticky Rice (Khao Niew Mamuang): A classic Thai dessert where ripe mango slices are served alongside glutinous rice, all drizzled with coconut milk.
Mango Sorbet: For a lighter option, a simple sorbet made of Thai mangoes captures the essence of the fruit in a refreshing form.
Mangoes are deeply integrated into the culinary and cultural landscape of Thailand. With their varying textures and flavours, they are employed in a multitude of dishes that captivate both locals and visitors alike. From the orchards of Central Thailand to the bustling markets of Bangkok, the journey of the Thai mango is a fascinating tale of diversity, tradition, and, of course, unparalleled flavour.