It's mango season in Ottawa, and restaurateur Joe Thottungal is stoked

·2 min read
Chef Joe Thottungal, owner of Coconut Lagoon and Thali restaurants, took CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on a mango shopping trip earlier this week. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC - image credit)
Chef Joe Thottungal, owner of Coconut Lagoon and Thali restaurants, took CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on a mango shopping trip earlier this week. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC - image credit)

A lot of people love mangoes, but not many love them as much as chef Joe Thottungal.

He grew up in Kerala, a state along the Malabar Coast in the southernmost tip of India, and uses them liberally in dishes at his two Ottawa restaurants, Thali and Coconut Lagoon.

During the April and May summer holiday months in Kerala, Thottungal and his relatives would race around his mother's property to pick up ripe mangoes that had just fallen from their trees.

"It's our snack, it's our breakfast, it's for dinner, dessert," he recently told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

Hallie Cotnam/CBC
Hallie Cotnam/CBC

Mango season has arrived in Ottawa and shipments of the sweet fruits from all over the world are available in stores across the city. But it wasn't always like this.

"Ten years ago it was a different story, it was hard to get good mangoes," Thottungal recalled.

"But now a lot of mangoes are coming from India, Pakistan, Mexico, Peru; all these countries produce beautiful mangoes and there is a lot of variety."

Hallie Cotnam/CBC
Hallie Cotnam/CBC

Each variety has its own slightly different taste and texture. Some are more fibrous than others, some are sweeter, and some pack a slightly more sour punch. Even one variety of mango can produce different-tasting fruit.

"The mangoes change with the climate and the soil and the monsoon, the rain and everything. It is the same, but it tastes different [depending on where it comes from]. It all varies," he said.

For Thottungal, it doesn't get much better than the alphonso variety that originated in India, though he also enjoys honey mangoes grown in Pakistan later in the summer.

At Mangosteen Fruits and Vegetables on Bank Street, he shared a few of his top mango tips:

  1. Never keep them in the fridge.

  2. Don't pick mangoes that are too firm.

  3. Any green should be well faded into yellow, orange or red.

  4. Use a peeler to get rid of the skin.

He'll go through three a day at home, he said, and his seven-year-old son loves them, too.

"For us, apples and oranges were different, unique. But mangoes were the king fruit."

LISTEN | Thottungal's mango shopping trip with Ottawa Morning

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