I have yet to come across a person – man, woman or child in India who does not like the mango. I consider it THE ‘magic fruit’ because it works like magic on the tongue, on the taste buds, on your mood which immediately peps up the minute you bite into a small slice and put it into your mouth and raises your level of adrenalin when you are already happy and high.
So, when a cult restaurant like Flurys in Kolkata suddenly announces a festival called Mango Mania you immediately check your digestive levels and if there is something wrong you rush to check your medicine cabinet and see if there is enough stock of antacids, digestives and other medical paraphernalia ready for you.
Mangoes are one of the most popular fruits in the world—consumed most commonly worldwide, and the most cultivated fruit in the tropical world, with over 2,000 varieties. To most people in the United States, the mango is considered an exotic fruit, but to most people living in South Asia this versatile fruit is commonly eaten. The Hindi name for mango is aam, which means “common,” as the fruit is a considered a staple and a commoner’s fruit.
But if you think that the Mango Mania festival will have a table spread out with at least 20 out of the 2000 varieties of the exotic fruit that exist, served diced or quartered into bite-size pieces or made into a mango ice-cream, you are wrong. Waiting for you is an entire menu build around and with mangoes that covers choice for an entire dinner or lunch beginning with starters, main course, beverages and mouth-watering desserts waiting for you to caress,love and of course, relish them fondly.
The young Chef Vikas at Flury’s who has grown up in a mango-cultivating family, confesses that back in the village, cooking with mango is considered a ‘sin’ because they consider it gets ‘corrupted’ in any other ‘cooked’ form and can be eaten organically never mind if it is raw, half-ripe or matured completely. “Of course pickles were allowed because that is part of the Indian tradition. But the dishes you find here would be a culture shock for the family back home,” he says. He also informs us about how to check on a really good mango ready to be eaten.
“A very good mango has three qualities – the skin must be very thin, the seed must be small and there should be either minimum or no fibre in the flesh,” he informs.
Chef Vikas seems to have broken almost every rule in the “mango-farming family book” by creating an entire cooked/baked/grilled/boiled/ fried menu with mango as the main ingredient sometimes used just as a glaze to allow the flavour to exude through.
Getting down to the basics, let us first talk about the starters we were served. Curried shrimp and mango soup was a mind-boggling experience with a beautiful prawn floating in the light gravy made of raw mango. This single dish set the mood for a luscious afternoon spent in the company of the sexy mango.
We had it alongside stuffed mango mushrooms with herbed mango and cottage cheese and served with a mango dip. It was simply out-of-the-world creating the right mood for a luscious afternoon filled with sexy food as summer starters.
The King Caesar Salad is an amalgamation of fresh mangoes with or without bacon. There is spicy stuff on the table too; chicken wings with Mango Jerk Sauce specially created by Chef Vikas for this festival and Oh so tangy!
The pork in the Caribbean Pork Chops have a mango glaze is grilled and smoky and is served with a sweet-sour Mango Salsa. This, every mango lover will agree, is an unique marriage between pork and the king fruit – the mango.
If you are not a pork eater you have a rich choice from other offers such as stir-fried chicken with mango and cashew nut (heavenly to say the least)or Grilled Fish Steak with Mango Glaze or for the rigid veggie unwilling to break rules, can opt for Cottage Cheese and Mango Escalopes. This translates to Cottage Cheese Steak stuffed with Fresh Mango served with roasted pepper coulis and mango croquette. Ah! What an experience!
There was a host of summer coolers too and you could take your share of the ones touched up with mango in different stages of ripeness.
The desserts – ranged from the mind-boggling Mango Whoopie Pie that looked like a Beauty Queen and tasted like heaven through Mango and Mascarpone Custard Tart, Glazed Mango Dome to dreamy mango desserts for you to choose from.
Chef Vikas suggested we try out the Mango and Butterscotch Yoghurt Smoothie or the Fresh Mango Cheesecake New York Style. We all opted for the latter and it was truly ecstasy.
Founded way back in 1926 by Mr and Mrs J Flury, this tearoom’s name spread like wildfire for its exotic cakes, creamy pastries, rich puddings, rich Swiss chocolates and of course, the all-hour British and/or Continental Breakfast you can dip into and forget lunch.
Today, it is an integral part of The Park and with the ingenuity, imaginative and aesthetic powers of the management and the culinary skills of Chef Vikas and his team, the Mango Mania and other festivals will certainly give other restaurants a run for their money.
Images courtesy The Park and Flurys
Written byShoma A. Chatterji
Dr. Shoma A. Chatterji is a freelance journalist, film scholar and author based in Kolkata. She has 20 published titles, has won the National Award twice and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rotary Club of Kolkata Metro. She has done her post-doctoral research on cinema and has juried at national and international film festivals over time.