What is it about mango and chile spice that just works? That combination of sweet and tangy with a peppery kick is equal parts refreshing and sweat-inducing. The flavor mashup works in Trader Joe’s bags of dried mango liberally coated in chile powder, or simply in a bowl of cold, fresh mango chunks sprinkled with spice.
Then there’s the classic Mexican drink the mangonada, which takes it to levels Baton Rouge is only recently discovering.
Imagine a mango smoothie laced in a savory, spicy red sauce, topped with fresh mango, dusted with chile seasoning and served with a spicy tamarind straw. It sounds like too much, but it works on every level. The secret is in the sauce—chamoy, to be exact. This red condiment, derived from pickled and pureed stone fruit, is equal parts sweet, spicy, sour and salty. It adds a savory, syrupy texture to the drink without any cloying sweetness.
Next is the spice, usually from the popular Mexican seasoning Tajín, a coarse chile powder flecked with salt and acidic dried lime. Tradition dictates that a straw wrapped in dried tamarind and coated in even more seasoning is driven into the drink, though you can always opt out if you think it’s overkill.
Yet none of this overpowers the freshness and pucker of the mango, and that’s the point. It’s essentially a tropical fruit smoothie adhering to that Mexican rule of adding chile powder even to dessert.
And thus, the bigger conundrum: Is it a dessert? Is it a refreshing midday smoothie? Either way, it’s got summer swirled all over it.
Where to try it
A few places around Baton Rouge where you can order a mangonada
Teatery: Tea & Tapioca
7620 Corporate Blvd.
This bright little shop also offers versions featuring strawberry, pineapple or watermelon mixed with the spicy ingredients.
4855 S. Sherwood Forest Blvd., Suite B
Besides a straightforward take on mangonada, check out the Mexican snacks and guava, coconut or watermelon popsicles at this paleteria.
3260 Highland Road
Finding mangonada at a Vietnamese café makes sense when you realize most of its ingredients—mango, tamarind and even chamoy—were brought to Mexico from Asian countries. The more you know!