Sunday, July 5, 2015

Burong Mangga

When I was little, especially during summer, my mom would drag me all over Chinatown while she did her shopping.  I would always beg for preserved green mangoes when she passed by the local Chinese grocery where (literally) one wall was filled with jars of preserved fruit.  The (supposedly Chinese version of) preserved mangoes had 2 types - the salty one and the sweet one.  I preferred the sweet one, of course.  My brother J and I would fight over the small bag that my mom usually bought.

Of course, my mom had her own recipe for burong mangga...

(To be honest, I do not really know how burong mangga translates to in English.  Is it  preserved mango?  pickled mango? fermented mango?)

Hers was a really good one if memory serves me - a sweet, sour and (a tad bit) salty mix with the mango strips still crunchy!  Her recipe was a rather complicated one involving several steps (1) soaking the sliced unripe mango pieces in a brine overnight, (2) boiling the syrup and cooling it completely, (3) mixing the cooled syrup with beer, (4) submerging the brined mangoes in the beer-syrup liquid, and finally (5) leaving it for 1 week in the fridge.  I could never wait a week and definitely got a lot of scolding for it!

Sadly I cannot find my mom's recipe.  But I couldn't forget that particular taste mix!  I have tried many preparations, and even store-bought ones, but there was nothing like the specific blend that I loved as a youngster.  The ones I tried (taste-testing prepared concoctions, or homemade attempts) were always wrong - too salty, too sweet, too yeasty, and yes, even too sour!  After a while I just gave up.

For some crazy, unknown reason, though, I recently asked A-te J if they made burong mangga in her home province and if yes, what was their recipe?  She said that they did make lots of burong mangga but as for the recipe?  They just winged it!  Bascially, in their version, they sliced the mangoes, placed them in jars and poured in vinegar, a sugar syrup laced with their local sea salt (which she claims to be saltier and cleaner-tasting than those sold in the nearby wet market) and a couple of siling labuyo (chili pepper)!  Then they just let it sit out in the open (she said they didn't have refrigerators when she was little) for a couple of days at least and it would be ready to eat!

Whoa!  Her method seemed a whole lot simpler and faster than what I remember of my mom's.

I immediately bought 3 large, unripe carabao mangoes (almost a kilo in weight) and prepared them for a new burong mangga experiment.  Then I made the sugar syrup - 1:2 water to sugar ratio and adding the Pangasinan sea salt (in half tablespoon increments) until I got the taste that I liked.  I found it a bit lacking in sourness so I added local cane vinegar, also in increments until I was satisfied.  After cooling the syrup I poured it over the mangoes in the jar (a Mason quart jar) and then (tried) to leave it alone, covered tightly, for at least 2 days in the fridge.

Of course I took some out to taste the next day (not even 24 hours later).  Today is the second day and yes, it does taste better.  I can't wait to taste it tomorrow!

As for the recipe?  Well, it's not exact since I was still experimenting and the recipe will (definitely) vary depending on the type of ingredients used, especially the salt and vinegar.  But roughly, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup local vinegar, and 2 to 3 tablespoons sea salt.  (Actually I added a bit more water in mine because the soaking liquid was a tad short and did not quite cover all of the mango strips.)  Add a couple of chilis, if desired.  Leave for at least 2 to 3 days in the fridge.  Then enjoy to your heart's content!

NB - friend D pointed out to me this link to a good burong mangga recipe.  She says that it is her go-to recipe when her craving strikes!

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