Mango — A Delicious Delight: Indonesia


There is nothing more appealing on a hot day than to have to a cold mango juice, or better still, peeling a mango and slicing it up into a fruit salad. They are one of Indonesia’s most popular fruits.

Admittedly, when you are slicing them with a Swiss army knife the juice tends to drip everywhere but, that’s the fun of enjoying this delicious fruit. Gastronome and epicurean el supremo Suryatini N. Ganie explains about this special fruit:

Mango the Attractive Himalayan

Some people are addicted to mango. I include myself among this group. Born in the eastern point of East Java where mango trees grow abundantly, my family was always waiting for mango season to arrive.

The poor trees in our garden! Even when the fruit was still small and sour-tasting, someone from our house was sure to take it for some sour rhojak (fruit salad), sometimes only eaten sliced, then dipped in a mixture of crushed chili and salt.

But the gardener said it was not good for the trees to take the fruit before it was ripe, so he stood watch and nobody dared to take even one mango for rhojak. This allowed the fruit to grow into the sweetest mangoes I ever tasted, plump arum manis (literally fragrant and sweet) and mana lagi, meaning where is more (of the fruit).

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Though not all regions in Indonesia have the soil for the cultivation of mangoes, there are still many varieties in the country. The best mangoes, experts here say, come from Java and Madura. Cirebon has its famous mangga golek and mangga gedong.

A newer variety is mangga apel (apple mango), which has sweet fruit flesh and looks like an apple. One of its characteristics is that its skin stays green even though the mango is ripe.

A very popular mango in the Riau Islands is mangga Tanjung Pinang. It has an aromatic fragrance, is very sweet, grows year-round and changes color when ripe to an aubergine-like color. One can also harvest some 500 fruits from one tree!

A variety considered very special by mango growers in Java is mangga Brasil, with its reddish-orange peel. It came to Indonesia about 30 years ago, and now mangga Brasil produces three times a year.

In Indonesia, mangoes are eaten any time of day, though especially in the afternoon when it is hot and humid. There are many methods for preparing mango, depending on what we are craving.

In South Sulawesi cuisine, known for its pungent taste, a semi-ripe mango is chopped and mixed with trassi, salt, salted fish and then coarsely ground. When the tutuk pao — as the sambal is called — is served with hot steaming rice, the aroma of it makes the fishermen come home!

Going west there is the asinan mangga from the Sundanese highlands. This is mostly made in large quantities and kept is a very good appetizer when served at brunch.

When passing by the verdant city of Cianjur, it is common to see people selling the asinan variety of mango from large containers.

To make a dish for four people, all you need is one green unripe mango on hand, the best being an Indramayu mango, coarsely grated. Two cloves of garlic, two red chilies and 1/4 roasted trassi are made into a paste and boiled with 200 ml water. Season with three Tbs granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp salt or to taste and « tsp vinegar. Add mango to the spiced water and leave for two hours in a cool place or in the refrigerator. Before serving top with coarsely pound peanuts.

According to legend, mangoes originally came from the slopes of the mighty Himalayas before spreading to nearly every region in the world. For Hindus, the mango is considered a holy fruit, a reincarnation of Prajapati, the god who created heaven and earth. When there are food shortages, the mango becomes a staple. And for that reason, on the slopes of the Himalayas mango trees are always planted in the garden.

Suryatini N. Ganie