Relax: I’m not about to claim that any mango recipe is better than a fresh mango at peak ripeness. Soft, juicy mangoes are pretty much the best thing the plant world has come up with so far. As such, eating a perfect mango is a passive experience: When an amazing mango falls into your life, you don’t do anything to it—you just receive it with gratitude. Even peeling and pitting, processes often as difficult as interviewing Aretha Franklin, are a breeze when you’re dealing with a perfect mango.
The problem is that unless you are a mango farmer, you have no control over whether or not you will have access to perfect mangoes. Most people in this country encounter good, fresh mangoes once every presidential election cycle, if they’re lucky. And since tough, stringy, unripe mangoes are one of the worst things the plant world has come up with so far, mango admirers must turn their attention away from the produce aisle if they want to experience the sunny taste of mangoes on a regular basis.
The answer is canned sweetened mango pulp, which is, criminally, not very widely available, but can be found online and at many South Asian grocery stores. This purée of Indian mangoes—usually the Kesar or Alphonso cultivar, both of which are superior in flavor and texture to the hardy cultivars usually sold in U.S. supermarkets—is the reason mango lassis are better than any smoothie you have ever made at home. It is so good you will want to drink it straight from the can. But don’t, because it’s better put to use in an elegant but habit-forming mousse.
Mousse, in spite of its reputation, is really not that difficult to make: You whip some egg whites, you whip some cream, and you fold them together with something flavorful. (If you use the same mixing bowl, it’s a good idea to whip the egg whites first, because residue from the cream can prevent the whites from reaching their full volume potential.) Some mousse recipes use raw eggs and leave it at that, but I prefer to cook the eggs by whipping them with hot caramel, a process akin to making seven-minute frosting. (The caramel—just sugar, water, and a little lime juice cooked on the stove—should be at what candy-makers call “soft-ball stage,” but the precise temperature doesn’t matter. As long as it’s hot and syrupy, and as long as you add it to the egg whites very slowly, it’ll work just fine.) This not only kills germs but also stabilizes the egg whites, giving them a marshmallowy texture.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 30 to 40 minutes
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1½ cups heavy cream
3 cups canned sweetened mango pulp
1. Put the sugar, lime juice, salt, and ¼ cup water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook without stirring until the mixture is golden brown and syrupy, and a drop of it forms a ball when dropped into a glass of cold water, about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites with the whisk attachment of a stand mixer (or a handheld electric mixer) until soft peaks form. Continue beating the egg whites as you gradually drizzle in the sugar syrup, then continue beating until the egg whites are thick and glossy, another 2 to 3 minutes.
3. In a separate bowl, whip the cream with the whisk attachment of a stand mixer (or a handheld electric mixer) until soft peaks form. Stir about ½ cup of the whipped cream into the mango pulp. Fold the remaining whipped cream into the egg white mixture, then fold in the mango mixture. Chill before serving. (Store leftover mousse in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a few days.)