Whenever I go someplace new, I seek out the markets. Not the tourist trinket traps, or even the quirky weekend crafty markets (though I’ve a fond spot for those as well). I seek out the produce markets frequented by locals, where they sell the fruit and veg and, if you’re lucky, some damn fine street food. Usually you have to get up good and early to catch markets at their bustle-y best, but each place has its very own rhythms. No matter my feelings towards a new town or city, discovering the markets will inevitably allow me to tap into the heart and the beauty of a place.
A few years ago in India I arrived in Jaipur late one afternoon. After checking in and stuffing my face with delicious aloo paratha I took a stroll around the streets. I turned a corner and stumbled across the most colourful market sprawled in the narrow alley between two rows of buildings. Although I associate produce markets with early morning, this one was doing a brisk evening trade. Baskets heaped high with gleaming purple eggplant, plump sweet peas in their jackets, mounds of turmeric and fiery red chilli, were being picked over by elegant women in saris and salwars, tiny bangle-clad children underfoot. I bought myself a street-side chai, found a perch, and drank it all in. It was during that moment I fell in love with India.
And then in Ubud with my family a couple of years ago we spent most of our mornings strolling through the markets (pictured below). We would walk down early in the morning, soon after dawn and well before the sun hit its zenith, then fill our bags with small sweet bananas, bags of real-deal vanilla pods, deep red papaya, mangoes the size of our baby daughter’s head. While I finished up the shopping S would buy a coffee and sit on a crowded narrow green bench that overlooked the main market courtyard, watching the day unfold.
This Toasted Coconut & Green Mango Salad is both Balinese and market inspired. At our local markets a few weeks back I saw a big pile of lean green mangoes and snatched up a few on a whim. I wasn’t sure what to do with them until I remembered all the beautiful coconut and peanut flecked salads we ate in Ubud, complete with lashings of spicy, aromatic sambal, that most ubiquitous of Indonesian condiments. If you’re not familiar with green mango, they’re simply unripe mangoes – crispier than their orange counterparts with a pale yellow-green flesh, you’ll find them at most Asian groceries or markets at the start of mango season.
When you run a food blog, it isn’t nice to play favourites. Almost like picking your favourite kid, or brother. But not quite. Which is why I’m happy to declare this my new favourite salad. The sharp tang of the green mango pairs perfectly with the mellow toasted coconut. Add a zing of lime juice, sambal heat, and the sweet-sour taste of tamarind to that, and oh baby.
Toasted Coconut & Green Mango Salad
This salad is simple, and that’s the way it should be. However if you want to jazz it up, you could add snake beans, or cherry tomatoes. As you can see in the photos, I served it up with coconut rice and grilled eggplant.
2 green mangoes
1 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
1 bunch coriander, roughly chopped
1/4 cup peanuts, roasted
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1/2 tbsp tamari
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 – 1 tbsp sambal
Juice of 2 small limes
In a small jar whisk/shake together the tamarind paste, tamari, sesame oil, sambal and lime juice. Set aside.
Dry toast the coconut over a medium heat in a shallow pan, stirring frequently until the coconut starts to colour brown and smell delicious. Be warned – as soon as it starts to brown you’ll have to remove the coconut from the pan straight away to prevent burning.
Peel the mangoes and finely shred using the medium blade on a mandoline. In a large bowl combine the mango, toasted coconut, chopped coriander and peanuts. Pour the dressing over the top and mix thoroughly through.