Mango Lassi and Mango Fruit Flies in Mexico

Mango season continues in Mexico, as do the languid, humid days. Icy drinks help us forget the heat while we enjoy our bounty of mangoes on a tropical afternoon. Mango Lassi is a good way to enjoy these flavorful beauties and rehydrate at the same time. Lassis are cold fruit and yogurt drinks from India, reputed to aid digestion when taken with a spicy meal. They are so refreshing, so welcome on a hot afternoon, I don’t need the excuse of eating spicy food to enjoy one. Quick to whip up in the blender, they serve as one more way to enjoy the luscious, drippy, golden, succulant mangos that abound this time of year. Indulge me, please, and let me get away with an overuse of descriptive mango words. They really are that incredible.

Mango Lassi       serves 2

  • 1/2 cup (240 ml.) diced mango
  • 1/2 cup (240 ml.) plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup ( 240 ml.) cold water
  • 1/2 cup (240 ml.) ice cubes
  • sugar or honey to taste, optional
  • pinch of ground cardamom, fennel or coriander
  • sliced or slivered almonds for garnish

Zizz all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into two ice cold glasses and garnish with sliced or slivered almonds. Listen to the sound of the greening bamboo leaves rustling in the moist breeze as you sip a mango lassi in Mexico. لسی

A large Kent mango, green on the outside when ripe

Are you squeamish, faint of heart and stomach, and generally a picky eater? If so, stop reading right now. If you choose to stay with me, don’t give me, “Oh, ewwww!” when you see me next. See those little tracks in the photo above, the tiny tunnels in cross section? They are most likely made by larvae of the Mexican fruit fly, Anastrepha ludens, the scourge of citrus and mangoes in Mexico. Some mangoes are so infested, they are inedible. This mango, the same one I used for the lassi, was not banished to the compost pile. It is a simple matter to trim out buggy parts, if you feel you must.

Mangoes for export are sprayed, as are many grown for domestic use. Malathion and diazinon are two of the chemical sprays used to treat mango trees. According to one source, both of these pesticides “harm children and farmworkers, poison wildlife, and taint food and drinking water”. Nice.

I know it is virtually impossible these days to be chemical-free, despite our efforts. Sprayed mangoes, the perfect ones in the super markets, can be had. The local mangoes I buy from my neighbors have evidence of fruit flies, so I will assume they are not sprayed. I don’t have a problem with eating a few bugs now and then. Years of living in Mexico has inured me to many types of other life forms: leggy spiders, winged termite clouds, six-legged tiny beings I can’t even categorize.

Indigenous people of Mexico and other countries, to this day, rely on insects for additional protein in their diet. Who am I to question the wisdom of centuries? The alternative is to continue adding to my body’s chemical cocktail accumulation. Just in case you are wondering, I also researched the safety of eating fruit flies and larvae. They are safe to ingest. Meat is meat.

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Making mango chutney in Mexico

Chutney and mangoes both originated in India, the birthplace of my mother. As a child, my mother’s second language was Urdu. She probably knew the word for chutney, چٹنی, spelled phonetically as catni. Making mango chutney connected me to that far-away country, when that part of the world was still part of the British Raj.

Chutneys in India are described by Wikipedia as “pasty sauce” made with a mortar and pestle. They can be sweet or hot, both forms containing spices. The western palate has adapted chutney to the familiar tastes of fruit, sugar and vinegar, reduced with many of the same spices found in curry. Joy of Cooking, the first cookbook I owned, inspired this recipe.

Mango Chutney can be blended with mayonnaise to dress a chicken salad, served with crackers and queso fresco (or cream cheese), and enjoyed as a condiment with curries and stir-fried dishes.

Mango Chutney

  • 6 cups (1.5 liters) chopped mangoes, either ripe or green
  • 2 cups (480 ml.) organic sugar
  • 1 seeded, finely chopped lemon or 1 large lime
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml.) finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1 cup (240 ml.) raisins
  • 2 cups (480 ml.) cider vinegar
  • 1/4 scant (1 ml.) teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 3″ (7.5 cm.) cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml.) cayenne pepper or 1 small, whole cola de rata chile
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml.) salt
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy-bottomed pot.
  2. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until thick, about one hour.
  3. Remove chile pepper, cinnamon stick and cardamom and cloves.
  4. Spoon into sterilized half pint canning jars, cap and seal tightly.
  5. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Makes 9 cups (about 2 liters).

Notes:

In case you are wondering why the raisins in the above photo look a little crumby, there is a perfectly good explanation. When I started to make Mango Chutney, I discovered I was out of raisins. The solution was to sort through the box of All Bran cereal, picking out every raisin I could find. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

“Process in a boiling water bath” means to submerge the canning jars, tightly sealed, in a pot of water and bring to a boil for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the jars with tongs and cool. Store in a cool place. These instructions are for sea level. If you live at a high elevation, consult high altitude cooking directions for proper time.

So that the small cloves and smaller cardamom seeds are not lost in the chutney, tie them up in a piece of cheesecloth, or put them in a tea infuser. Whichever you use, the spices are easily removed from the chutney to be discarded after cooking.



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Marisma Fish Taco in Puerto Vallarta

We were in Puerto Vallarta, looking for lunch — quick, reasonably priced and good — when Russ remembered Marisma Fish Taco behind Plaza Neptuno. Marisma is one of the places we take guests when we want to give them a real Mexican, fish taco-eating time. They are never disappointed.

I can quickly look a place over and see if it is our kind of eating establishment. Plenty of local diners with few or no foreigners. Check. Kitchen area appears clean. Check. Plastic plates don’t match. Check. Paper napkins. Check. Corn tortillas hot off the press.
Double check. You get my drift. I want a real Mexican eating experience, not this week’s tourist hot spot. Marisma qualifies in spades.

The menu is extensive: ceviche on tostadas, pictured above, for 9 pesos each; shrimp tacos, fish tacos (pictured below), crab salpicón tacos (crab stewed with onion, tomato and spices), smoked marlin tacos, and spicy squid tacos, all 15 pesos apiece.

Also shrimp and cheese quesadillas for 24 pesos and shrimp empanadas — like a turn-over — three for 62 pesos.

Shrimp Quesadilla

Marisma is no slouch when it comes to decorating the tacos. A small treatise could be written on their three salsas and two onion condiments. With five ways to go here, no matter how many tacos you order, each one can be different.

The avocado and cilantro salsa, always a favorite, was creamy and mild without any chile heat. The pico de gallo, colorful and popping with jalapeño chile, added brightness without overpowering the other tastes. The cooked salsa roja provided the Mexican jolt of toasted chile de arbol and tomatillos that becomes addictive once you start down that path.

Then there were the onion somethings. Is there a word for relish in Spanish? One was seasoned with soy sauce and what tasted like the ubiquitous Mexican spice, Maggi bouillon powder. Mexican cooks love Maggi bouillon. I don’t understand this. The other onion something was basically Coronado bottled hot sauce and onion slices. The two onion relishes didn’t blow Russ’s hair back, but they added color to the table.

Ana Christina, our waitress, could not have been more friendly and helpful. Service. Check.

For those who don’t care for fish, there are hamburgers with fries and chicken tacos, but you have my sympathy if you don’t understand fish tacos in all their glory.

To get to Marisma Fish Taco, turn off Blvd. Francisco Medina Ascencio at the big sculpture of the mother and baby whale, onto Avenida Paseo de la Marina. Immediately take a left behind the sculpture and continue one block to the Y intersection. Marisma is in the middle of the Y. A second Marisma Fish Taco is located in Colonio Emiliano Zapata.

Marisma Fish Taco No. 1; Marina Vallarta; Condominios Marina del Rey; open 7 days a week, 10 am-6pm; 322-221-2884

Marisma Fish Taco No. 2; South of the Rio Cuale, Calle Naranjo 320; Colonia Emiliano Zapata; open 7 days a week, 10 am-6pm; 322-222-1395

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Mango Ginger Clafoutis in Mexico

Mango Ginger Clafoutis is next on the list for July’s mango celebration. Clafoutis, sometimes spelled “clafouti” in English, is a French dessert —  part cake, part custard — traditionally made with cherries. The abundance of mangoes more than makes up for the lack of cherries in Mexico. We make do with what we have.

Once your ingredients are assembled, this is a snap to make in the food processor. It could also be mixed with an electric mixer or by hand with a whisk. As this is a French recipe, I’ll use my favorite French phrase when in the kitchen, mis en place, the practice of having every ingredient weighed, measured, peeled, cut, before you begin to assemble, mix and cook. Greater kitchen organization means no incorrect measurements or forgotten ingredients, and less hassle for you.

Mango Ginger Clafoutis serves 9

1 oz. (29 grams) crystallized ginger, thinly sliced

  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) melted organic butter
  • 1 1/2 lb. (675 grams) large mango cubes, about 2 large mangoes (how to cube mangoes)
  • 1 3/4 cups (6.3 oz./180 grams)  sifted whole wheat flour (save bran for whole wheat bread)
  • 6 tablespoon (2.8 oz./80 grams) organic sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 large eggs, farm fresh if possible
  • 1 cup  (296 ml.) milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting top of cake

Read recipe through completely. Assemble and measure or weigh all ingredients. Pre-heat oven to 350 deg. F (180 C.). Generously butter bottom and sides of a  9″ baking dish.

Evenly space mango cubes on bottom of baking dish, leaving a 1″ space around the sides for a solid cake border. Distribute candied ginger slices around mango pieces.

Add flour, sugar and salt to the food processor work bowl and process for 5 seconds. Add eggs, melted butter, milk and vanilla. Process for 10 seconds, or until completely blended. It may be necessary to scrape down the side of the work bowl and process a few seconds more. Pour batter over fruit, being careful not to displace mango pieces. It’s OK if the fruit is not completely covered with batter.

Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes. When done, the top will be golden and puffy and a toothpick will test dry.

Upon removing from the oven, immediately invert onto a plate. Dust the clafoutis with confectioner’s sugar and serve while warm. In France, clafoutis is served hot straight from the oven, and it is best served either hot or warm; it becomes firm when cold. High in eggs, low in sugar, and containing whole wheat flour, a piece of Mango Ginger Clafoutis will make a great breakfast tomorrow with a cup of Mexican coffee.

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Sunday Dining at El Coleguita, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico


A more perfect setting for a Sunday afternoon meal could not have been found anywhere else but at El Coleguita in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. The most beautiful view of the Bay had coupled with an amazing, generous seafood plate. The tequila poured, the ocean breeze wafted and we dined. Please, the next time you are searching for seafood on your plate, and your expectations are high, get yourself to the nearest El Coleguito — there are three in the Banderas Bay area — and really dine. Take your time. Enjoy the company of friends, and a plate of wonderful seafood generously and thoughtfully served.

The first thing I want when eating out is a delicious plate of food at a reasonable price. El Coleguita delivered. Every entrée on the menu was 109 pesos, except for the lobster plates, priced at 300 pesos. For 109 pesos, each plate ordered at our table was decreed excellent and portioned very generously.

Three at our table, who had eaten here before, ordered Coconut Shrimp, pictured at the top. Do you see all that crispy coconut, coating tender, large shrimp? It was accompanied by a pineapple dipping sauce, a sweet-tart, fruity counterpoint to the succulent shrimp. Tip: on a subsequent visit, our coconut shrimp was not cooked enough for the coconut to be crispy. To ensure that yours are, ask for your shrimp to be muy dorado, very golden.

One of our party ordered Camarones al Mojo de Ajo, shrimp cooked in garlic. It, too, was declared wonderful. Often, in restaurants, the shrimp are not de-veined. These were.

The Coconut Shrimp looked very enticing, but for the sake of an additional photo, I ordered Lonja Coleguita, described in the menu as filete de pescado dorado bañados de camarón o pulpo — fillets of mahi mahi “bathed” with shrimp or octopus. I opted to have my mahi mahi bathed in shrimp and did not regret it. By the time I finished the shrimp, I was too full to eat but a few bites of the mahi mahi. My table mates helped me, plus there was enough mahi mahi left over for para llevar — to carry out.

To be honest, I have to make a full disclosure here. To take the kitchen photos, I introduced myself to the manager, telling him I would be writing up a review of his restaurant. Perhaps that is why my plate of Lonja Coleguita was so generous in its serving size, but my friends assured me their Coconut Shrimp had been every bit as generous on previous visits. Perhaps I need to start wearing a wig and huge hat for restaurant review visits incognito.

The rice, salad and toasted bread all looked good, but obviously, the attraction here was the huge amounts of seafood. I can’t comment on the side servings as I didn’t have room to eat any.

Have you ever seen a kitchen that was so messy and disorganized, you wanted to walk out and eat somewhere else? Not this one. With a view open to all, it was clean and efficient, a beehive of activity. Alejandro, our waiter, struck a  pose amidst the motion.

As if these beautiful, huge plates are not enough, El Coleguita throws in extras with each entrée. As soon as we sat down, we were each served a cup of fish broth with pieces of fish. For such a simple appetizer, it was very, very good. Then, a half bottle of house tequila and five small plastic cups were placed in front of us. What! They are giving away tequila? Sí, and it was followed by several more half bottles as long as we kept drinking. Next, two salsas made their appearance, served with tostadas. Very tasty, but the salsa verde will take the roof of your mouth off. I should have taken a picture of Russ turning very red in the face.

If you order a Tecate, it comes with two shrimp (30 pesos); the other beers don’t (25 pesos).  I couldn’t believe how good the shrimp were right off the top of the can, wet with cold beer. I’d go back for this alone, and I’m not even a beer drinker!

Every entrée also includes a complimentary dessert of baked banana with a sweet sauce and a Kahlua after-dinner drink.

El Coleguita is a recent newcomer to La Cruz, with two other sister restaurants in the Puerto Vallarta area, all with the same menu and prices. The La Cruz restaurant seems to be busiest between 2-4:30 pm. Arriving before or after this period will help your chances of getting a front table, the better to view the bay while you savor your meal. Parking is available on the upper level, reached by driving around and up the restaurant’s side closest to the town of La Cruz.

El Coleguita No. 3, La Cruz de Huanacaxatle

El Coleguita No. 1: Ixtapa; Carretera Ixtapa Las Palmas (the highway to Mascota and San Sebastian); open 12 noon until 8 pm every day but Tuesday; tel. 322-198-9727

El Coleguita No. 2: Puerto Vallarta Marina in front of Los Muelles Condominiums; open 1 until 8 pm every day but Tuesday; tel. 322-108-9726

El Coleguita No. 3: La Cruz de Huanacaxtle;  Carretera Punta de Mita (at the north end of town, across from the turn-off to La Manzanilla beach); open every day but Tuesday, 12 noon-8 pm; 322-108-9727

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