This would have been Thai, except I hate shredded coconut. And then I forgot to drizzle this dish with the coconut milk with which I was planning to replace the shredded (dreaded?) coconut…
…And my mangoes were Mexican. The best you can do right now in terms of mangoes is buy un-sprayed (pesticide-free but not officially labeled “organic”) Brazilian vine-ripened mangoes. For those I head to my mango guy in Jean-Talon at Leopoldo’s (rarely, since the flight they take to get here while still ripe has a huge carbon footprint). I’ve crawled my way back to him after a long separation, mango junkie that I am.
The problem was that I bought these Mexican mangoes at the Atwater Market and they made me so sad that the next day I went 1 1/2 hours out of my way, tail between my legs, back to Leopoldo’s. I also bought some (officially) organic mangoes at Marché Bleuet next to the Atwater Market, but they just weren’t as good either.
So if you can’t eat these lacklustre Altaulfo yellow mangoes fresh and swoon in bliss, it’s best to either shave them into Thai salads (the kind that you get as appetizers at every Thai restaurant in the world with a dressing made of shrimp paste, fish sauce, chili, palm sugar and lime) or cook them into chicken dishes (ex: “mango chicken”). This rice salad is a third option. It would have been better with better mangoes too, but at least they livened up the dish. And if you’ve never had a better mango, then you won’t know what you’re missing and it’ll be that much better. I’ll just be sad for you.
To balance the crazy carbon footprint of the mangoes in this dish (even though these weren’t the business class Brazilian variety), I used an ultra-local, picked that morning red chili pepper and sweet green pepper from Lufa Farms. The almonds were probably from California, as were the organic shallots and cilantro, and the rices were Indian and Thai. Thank goodness I didn’t use the canned coconut milk or my carbon footprint would have squished my little locavore heart like a bug. I will spend the rest of the week eating local greens and cabbage – oh so much cabbage – as repentance. My own version of a thousand “Hail Mary”‘s.
Ingredients (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Plenty”):
2/3 cup Basmati or Jasmine rice
1 tsp butter (I used Earth Balance, but you could just skip it)
1 tsp salt (normally I’d skip the salt when making rice, but since it’s also essentially seasoning the salad, don’t skip it)
1/2 cup water
1 cup loosely packed basil, still attached to stems (Thai basil if you happen to have it)
1 cup red rice (“Camargue red rice” is what the originally recipe calls for. It’s a hybrid rice grown in France. Seems like a strange palce to be growing exotic rice, but what do I know? Personally, I’d still opt for Thai red rice. It’s more of an “heirloom” rice. You could also just make an extra cup of Basmati. Really any rice is absolutely fine)
1 red bell pepper, diced (green is fine, especially if it’s a Lufa Farms pepper, with none of the bitterness of a traditional green pepper)
2 tsp mint leaves, roughly chopped (don’t dice these or you’ll bruise them too much and lose the flavour)
2/3 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped (just grab a handful. Reserve the stems to make homemade Thai green curry paste, or just chop the stems finely and add to the salad. That’s probably more practical)
2 green onions, thinly sliced (use both the green and white parts. Or use 1 small shallot, diced)
1 fresh red chili, seeded and finely chopped (a yellow Lufa Farms chili is fine too. I used both…)
grated zest and juice of one lemon (or lime)
1 large mango or 2 smaller mangoes, cut into 1/2″ to 1″ cubes (if you use Altaulfo yellow mangoes as I did, use at least 3, maybe 4, depending on how much you like mango. It’s evident above how much I like mango…)
1/2 cup roasted almonds, chopped (the original recipe calls for salted peanuts, but you can also use unsalted peanuts or almonds and just sprinkle this entire salad with a little more salt. Better still is to roast the unsalted peanuts or almonds yourself in a small skillet over medium low heat until aromatic, then sprinkle with salt and remove to a bowl to cool before chopping. The salt will stick to the oil that’s released during the roasting. Almonds are sweeter than peanuts but they’re all I had. Peanuts make this more Thai, hence my commitment to Thai red rice and non-Mexican mangoes)
2 tbsp toasted peanut oil (or sesame oil. This adds a lot of flavour, but you can use less if you want to lower the fat content – it’s a low fat salad already but if you’re serving it with something heavy, or something that has a lot of flavour itself, there’s no point wasting good sesame oil)
3/4 cup crisp-fried shallots, optional (you’re supposed to shallow-fry thinly sliced shallots in hot oil until crispy and then let them drain on paper towels. I caramelized mine, but the flavour didn’t cut through the bright salad, so the next time I made the recipe I skipped this time-consuming step…and added more mango)
1. Soak the two types of rice separately in cold water for 30 minutes. Rinse several times each until the water runs clear. Drain separately. Combine the Basmati or Jasmine with the butter in a pot on medium heat. Let it toast for about 30 seconds and then add the salt, 1/2 cup water and half the basil leaves (with stems still attached. In fact, pick the leaves off the remaining half of the basil and add the stems to the pot. Otherwise they’ll be wasted. Reserve the leaves for step 3 below). Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and spread in a large dish to cool. You could also just put it back in a strainer. You just don’t want it to be soggy when you add it to the rest of the ingredients.
2. Cook the red rice with 4 cups water (overkill, I know) for 20 minutes. No need to toast it like the Basmati, apparently; bring it to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer for at least 20 minutes. Apparently Camargue is supposed to take 40 minutes to cook, but I trust Ottolenghi more than Wikipedia. Or, at least I did until I made this recipe and cooked the red rice for 30 minutes. Mine was probably not Camargue, though. Spread in a large dish or tray to cool like the Basmati. You can also just fluff it like sushi rice to evaporate the excess moisture.
3. Chop the remaining basil leaves (just the leaves are left, remember?) and combine them in an enormous bowl with the cooled rices and the rest of the ingredients (minus the optional crispy shallots). Stir to mix, or leave it as a layered salad. Don’t mix the mangoes too much if they’re really ripe or they’ll fall apart and become mango mush. (If you’ve never cut a mango before, slice off the two sides lengthwise, avoiding the pit, then make vertical slices down to the peel, then horizontal slices down to the peel – like a lattice, or tic-tac-toe – then scoop out your cubes with a spoon, being sure not to scoop too deep or it’ll come out as all one piece. Besides, you get to slip the skin inside out and eat what’s left…). Garnish with the shallots if you like, or just a little extra cilantro or mint.
Gorgeous, isn’t it?