I love mangoes. They’ve been my favorite fruit since childhood.
Growing up in the Philippines, we had a young mango tree in our backyard that became a vital part of our summers. Aside from bearing delicious fruit, that tree, for my brother and I, was an endless source of bugs. Putting all our weight behind us, we would shake its trunk vigorously, setting in motion a shower of salagubang (June beetles) that we would carry home in our shirts to keep as pets.
As much as we enjoyed collecting beetles, there were a couple of summers when we stayed away from that tree, too afraid to approach it because of the ill-tempered simian patrolling its base, our exiled pet macaque Kong. An absolute terror in our household, we were all deathly afraid of him. He was aggressive, mean, and hated every single one of us.
Despite the cantankerous personality that came to define him however, there was a time when Kong wasn’t so surly. Straight from the pet shop, he was mild-mannered and manageable, even eating small treats like corn pops off our hands. For those first few days, he was docile as a daisy.
Until we tried putting a dress on him.
Clearly offended by the smocked dress, he bit, scratched, and tore at the garment, refusing to let anyone put it on him, no matter how pretty it made him look. My younger brother Erwin, who was all but five at the time, thought that he could make Kong submit with a quick spray of hose water. It didn’t. Instead, it sent the macaque into a frenzy. Pouncing on Erwin’s shoulders, he began wildly pulling on his hair, livid and screeching while he rode my brother like a bull. Terrifying at the time but hilarious in hindsight, that image of Kong latched onto my brother’s head while he ran around crying and screaming, is as clear to me today as it was thirty years ago. It still brings us to tears whenever we talk about it.
Sadly, from that day, Kong was banished and chained to a makeshift doghouse at the base of our mango tree. Deemed too vicious to keep, he clearly never forgot about that hose nor that stupid dress, sending the house into a panic every time he escaped. My dad gave him away not long after, to a policeman if I remember correctly. I never knew what became of him after that.
Though largely uneventful, those listless, summer days spent harvesting beetles, running away from an escaped Kong, watching him eat our mangoes and the occasional June beetle, will forever remain one of the warmest, most indelible memories from my childhood.
This dessert, made with the sweetest, most luscious Philippine mangoes, brings me back to that time, and that beautiful mango tree.
Here’s to Kong, June beetles, and countless summer days spent under that mango tree.
*Original recipe from thaifood.about.com.
- 1 cup glutinous rice
- 1-2 ripe mangoes (Philippine preferred), cut into bite-size pieces
- 4-5 Tbsps palm or brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 can good-quality coconut milk (thick)
- Water (for boiling or steaming rice)
- Soak rice in 1 cup water for 20-30 minutes. Ideally, soak up to 4 hours.
- Without draining rice, add 3/4 cup (more) water, plus 1/4 can coconut milk, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1 Tbsp brown sugar. Stir into rice.
- Bring to a gentle boil, then partially cover with lid (leaving room for steam to escape). Reduce heat to medium-low.
- Simmer like this for 20 minutes, or until coconut water has been absorbed by rice. Turn off heat, but leave pot on burner with lid. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.
- To make sauce, warm but do not boil rest of can of coconut milk over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add 3 Tbsps sugar, then stir to dissolve.
- Taste sauce for sweetness, adding more sugar if needed. NOTE: Sweetness will diminish when added to rice.
- To assemble, place a few mounds of sticky rice in each serving bowl. Top with slices of mango, then pour over with sauce.
JB and Renée are the Traveleaters behind Will Fly for Food, a travel blog for the gastronomically inclined. They enjoy experiencing food from different cultures so they’ve made it their mission to try every country’s national dish. Read more about them and their National Dish Quest here.