Trinidadian Mango Chow

mango chow

For this month’s #LetsLunch, a virtual monthly potluck on Twitter, the theme is 3-ingredient recipes.  I thought of all the simplest recipes I know, many of which are my favorite recipes, period.  We just came back from Trinidad, so I decided to remember the trip by making one of my favorite new tastes, mango chow.  This is a really easy recipe– a child with basic knife skills can make it.  Even so, I had to cheat a little to whittle this down to 3 ingredients: mango, garlic and shado beni or culantro (here substituted with cilantro). These three ingredients are the soul of this zesty snack.

What is chow? It’s basically a garlicky, spicy fruit salad.  I’ve long laughed at my husband, who best enjoys any fruit doused with a shot of Trinidadian pepper sauce.  Anything– apples, peaches, mangoes. I tell him, don’t waste that! And he continues chomping.  I didn’t understand the drive to pour hot sauce on sweet fruit until our  trip to Trinidad last week to visit my in-laws, when I had a chow revelation.

How did this happen? It started out with feeling carsick, and all-too-familiar predicament I unfortunately found myself in whenever I was driven along the winding, bumpy roads in Trinidad.  After one such drive, I started the 2-hour boat tour of Caroni Swamp expecting the worst.  Ever since my first trip to Trinidad two decades ago, I had longed to see Trinidad’s national bird, the Scarlet Ibis, in its natural habitat, Caroni Swamp.  In the state I found myself in, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it.  It didn’t help that I was in the last row of the boat, in front of the motor, which was spewing gas fumes right in my face; nor that we were surrounded by a lively and loud family group that talked, laughed and snacked nonstop.  I didn’t mind passing their snacks to various members of their group, and was not shy/positively excited to accept an offer of their homemade mango and pommecythere chow.  One bite of the tart, garlicky and spicy fruit snack , and my nausea disappeared. I was rejuvenated (yes, by chow) just in time to appreciate the wildlife of Caroni, which include such wonders as tree-climbing crabs, snakes, silky anteaters, herons and humongous termite nests on trees (oh my!).  And the finale– the astonishing scarlet flock of scarlet ibis, Trinidad’s national bird, flying in to roost for the night.  Chow and scarlet ibis– two singularly Trini experiences.   scarlet ibis

These are not blooms but some of the hundreds of scarlet ibis I witnessed flying to roost and sunset.


closeup of a scarlet ibis via Wikipedia images

*     *     *

Trinidadian Mango Chow

mango chow 2

The 3 main ingredients are unripe mango, culantro and garlic.  To it, you add other seasonings to taste– pepper sauce, lime juice, salt and pepper.  You can also substitute other fruits, so long as they are tart– think Granny smith apples, plums, pineapple.   Cucumbers and pommecytheres, a plum-like citrus fruit, are commonly used in Trinidad.  I’m planning to try to grow some culantro, because while cilantro is its botanical relative and a passable substitute, I’d use it here only because culantro is harder to obtain.   (It’s known by many names in the areas it is grown: In the Americas, it is known as culantro ,shado beni or bandhaniya, recao, long coriander, wild or Mexican coriander, fitweed, spiritweed, stinkweed, duck-tongue herb, sawtooth or saw-leaf herb, and sawtooth coriander.  The Vietnamese call it ngò gai’.) Culantro is the herb I associate most with Trini cooking, a key component of “green seasoning” (along with thyme, chives and celery),and a unique flavor  I think once I grow it, I’ll be using it on everything.

Serves 2 as a snack


1 unripe mango

1 clove garlic, minced

1-2 tablespoons shado beni/culantro/, minced

Trinidadian pepper sauce or habanero pepper sauce to taste

Juice of a lime

salt and pepper to taste


1.  Choose an unripe mango: it should be greenish and firm with a slight give, not rock solid.


2.  Peel the mango with a peeler, then slice it into strips or slices.  Trinis include the pit and it’s the lucky one who gets to suck on that.

mango sliced

3.  Add minced garlic, culantro or cilantro, pepper sauce to taste, and squeeze the juice of a lime over it.  You can add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.


No, this humble plant is not a weed.  This is culantro, growing in an herb garden on Tobago.  The longer leaves are what are used to season many things, wonderfully.

4.  Stir it up, and eat up!


Thanks for coming by! If you enjoyed this post, please comment and share it with your friends.  And please come back later to see the other contributions to #LetsLunch, and in the coming weeks for more of my Trini eating adventures. 

38 responses

  1. I love hearing about these Caribbean ingredients you cook with; I just wish I knew where to lay my hands on them! The dish sounds great — I might have to try it even if I can’t find the culantro.

  2. Pingback: Glass of Fancy » Blog Archive » Spring’s Bounty (Let’s Lunch) - Fashion, fiction, and life in the city.

  3. Pingback: 3-Ingredient Challenge: Gluten-Free Almond Cookies | The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook

  4. Crazy easy. Wonder what exactly made car sickness go away. I didn’t find culantro very strong tasting like cilantro. Maybe I am not used to it. Will have to try esp. as it’s mango season.

  5. I love the combo of sour mangoes and chilies! I grew up on a similar snack too–add vinegar and sugar but minus the culantro. Is culantro used a lot in Trini cooking?

    • I’ll share your recipe with my husband, he’ll love it. Culantro is the main herb I associate with Trini cooking, one of a triumvirate of herbs: culantro (called shade beni), chives and thyme. I love its distinctive flavor.

  6. Pingback: 3-Ingredient Lemon Chocolate Bonbons

  7. Pingback: A Tour of Tobago Cocoa Estate | spicebox travels

  8. Pingback: Keep It Simple Sammy! | sandwich surprise!

  9. Pingback: Caribbean Eats! Curry Mango – Trinidad and Tobago | Caribbean Eats!

  10. It’s good to see others enjoying Trini foods. I never recommend that anyone reside there, but a visit to taste the cuisine is definitely in order.

    If you live in Washington state, I can tell you that Pam’s is a great Trini place to go to. She’s the real deal, and super sweet. The food is decently priced too. She inspired me to start cooking my native foods at home. It means sourcing some ingredients online, but it really helped with my nostalgia. Plus everyone loves what I make, even when they’re only trying it reluctantly. Lol

    I’m planning to start growing some of the things I can’t easily source, like culantro. I live in a small town. The only options are Walmart and a local grocery chain.

  11. Luckily, after years of searching, I found chadon beni at a local Chinese grocery, two blocks from home, here in San Francisco. I knew I’d eventually stumble on some, given the once rich, multicultural, implosion here. Key is to know what certain things look like, then venture out to other ethnic markets. Likely they refer to it as something else.

    Making chow, now!

  12. Pingback: Kachoombar– Indian Savory Fruit Salad | spicebox travels

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s