Though India grows more than 1,000 varieties of mangos, one clearly wears the crown, dubbed "the king of fruits" by the locals: the Alphonso.
It's rarely seen here in the U.S., and what a tragedy that is for mango lovers like myself. Alphonso mangos are big and buxom in both size and flavour. This is no shrinking violet of a mango. The mango flavour is loud, sweet and intoxicating, which combined with its juicy, buttery texture sets my heart on fire.
Luckily for us, we can get a close facsimile: Alphonso mango puree. You often can find it both canned and frozen. One of my favourite things to do with it is pour it directly into an ice cream machine to make sorbet. You also can use it as a smooth, fruity layer in a tropical summer trifle, or use it to make a mango mousse.
In India, pureed mango is mixed with milk or cream and served with deep fried rounds of dough called "puris." The hot fried bread against the cool, creamy mango is an unbeatable match.
But perhaps my favourite way to use it is to make a lassi, the Indian yogurt drink that is ubiquitous at Indian restaurants here. It took me years to figure out that the key to making a restaurant-style mango lassi was not to use fresh fruit, but to use mango puree. Fresh American mangoes aren't nearly brash enough to counteract the tang of the yogurt. So make a big batch and keep it in the refrigerator. Let the king of fruit reign!
REAL DEAL MANGO LASSI
Start to finish: 10 minutes
2 cups mango puree
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1/2 cup water
Big pinch of salt
Big pinch ground cardamom (optional)
4 to 5 ice cubes
Sugar, to taste
In a blender, combine all ingredients. Process until smooth and well combined. Process for an additional 30 seconds to give the lassi a lighter, whipped texture, then pour into chilled glasses and serve immediately.
Nutrition information per serving: 90 calories; 20 calories from fat (22 per cent of total calories); 2.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 90 mg sodium; 18 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 16 g sugar; 3 g protein.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Food Network star Aarti Sequeira is the author of "Aarti Paarti: An American Kitchen with an Indian Soul." She blogs at http://www.AartiPaarti.com .