Kesar Mangoes

Photo: Danny Kim. Illustrations by John Burgoyne.

Devotees of imported Indian mangoes have heard by now that the Alphonso variety, revered as the “king” of the species, has been decimated by rain and cold. But a recent trip to Jackson Heights market Patel Brothers revealed an equally regal substitute: an unassuming cache of Kesars, the rounder, bean-shaped “queen,” native to the western state of Gujarat. Sweet, juicy, and intensely aromatic, Kesars are delicious out of hand but also work well in this coconut-rice salad from Yotam Ottolenghi, one of London’s premier vegetable cooks and author of Plenty (Chronicle Books; $35), from which the recipe’s adapted.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Mango-and-Coconut-Rice Salad

2/3 cup jasmine rice
1 tsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
1 cup loosely packed Thai basil
1 cup Camargue red rice (available at Kalustyan’s)
1 large mango or 2 to 3 Kesars
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 tbs. mint leaves, roughly chopped
2/3 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 fresh red chile, seeded and finely chopped
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped
2/3 cup flaked coconut
2 tbs. peanut oil

Put the jasmine rice and butter in a small saucepan, and place over medium heat. Add a little salt, the water, and half of the Thai basil. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and discard the basil. Spread out the rice on a flat tray to cool. Cook the red rice in plenty of boiling water (as you would pasta but with no salt) for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Drain and spread on tray to cool. Slice mangoes lengthwise along the seed. (1) Score the mangoes both lengthwise and widthwise, then (2) invert so cubes protrude from skin. (3) Slice them off and repeat with other halves of the fruit. Pick off the leaves of the remaining basil and chop them roughly. Place them in a large mixing bowl. Add both rices, the mango, and the remaining ingredients. Gently stir just to mix. Taste, and adjust seasoning. Serves 4.

Kesar Mangoes