One of my favorite treats to get while I was in Hong Kong was a cold mango drink from Hui Lau San. I particularly gravitated towards a concoction of mango juice mixed with coconut milk, tapioca balls and chunks of fresh mango – rich and refreshing tropical bliss.
I decided to create a dessert version of that drink when I returned home, and here’s the result: a parfait made of layers of mango cubes, rich coconut pastry cream, soft mango mousse, and a sprinkling of tapioca on top, like a dash of caviar.
Unfortunately the coconut pastry cream didn’t come out as white as I’d hoped due to the eggs in the recipe; although I lightened it with a bit of whipped cream the resulting hue is still fairly close to the color of the mango mousse. I didn’t get the tri-color layering that I wanted – but the flavors are still a sensual combination of creamy, fruity, velvety, chewy, fluffy: a sweet memory of Hong Kong.
It’s hard for me to imagine anyone not loving the mango, which embodies all the honeyed, voluptuous charms tropical fruits possess, from the rainbow-hued skin to its florid scent. Consuming a burstingly ripe mango by hand on a warm summer’s day is a gloriously heady exercise. Most likely mangoes will still be firm and unripe when you purchase them; let them sit in a paper bag for a few days until the flesh yields slightly under light pressure, and the fruit smells wonderfully sweet.
Of course, mangoes are also known for that annoyingly large pit in the center. I used to have to practice slicing and scoring halves off of mangoes to make those pretty "blossoms" to decorate fruit tarts; now I discover there’s a handy pitter that’s been invented to easily separate the mango flesh from the pit. Does it work? I don’t know, but it could be worth a try!
The sweet fruitiness of the mango makes a lovely partner to the lush creaminess of coconut. Using coconut milk in place of dairy milk to make pastry cream results in an even richer, thicker product; sinfully velvety on the tongue and a perfect foil to the airiness of the mango mousse.
The chilly winds of winter are still blowing here, but a bite of this dessert and I can almost feel the sunshine coming through the clouds.
Mango Coconut Parfait
makes about 6-8 servings
Coconut Pastry Cream
1 cup (218 g) coconut milk
2 Tablespoons (30 g) + 3 Tablespoons (44 g) sugar
3 egg yolks
2 Tablespoons (14 g) cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup heavy cream
Fresh Mango and Mango Mousse
3 ripe mangos (about 600 g total)
1 1/2 teaspoons gelatin
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar (plus more to taste)
1 cup heavy cream
To make the pastry cream, combine 3/4 cup (172g) of the coconut milk with 2 Tablespoons (30g) of sugar in a small saucepan. Heat on the stove over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and bubbles appear on the edge of the pan.
Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and 3 Tablespoons (44g) sugar in a bowl.
Whisk the cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup (46g) coconut milk in a small bowl and then add to the egg yolk mixture, whisking to combine.
Pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking.
Return the entire mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens. Stir in the vanilla.
Scrape the pastry cream into a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface, and refrigerate until needed.
When you are ready to use the pastry cream, whip the cream in a mixer to soft peaks, and then fold gently into the pastry cream to lighten.
To prepare the bottom mango layer, peel the mangos and slice away the flesh from the pit. Cut the flesh into small cubes – you will need about 300g total. Save the rest of the mangoes for the mousse.
Puree about 100 g of the mango cubes with 1/4 cup (or more to taste) of sugar until smooth.
Combine the mango cubes with the puree and pour into individual serving glasses to make the first layer.
Top the mango layer with a layer of the coconut pastry cream. Refrigerate while you are making the mango mousse.
To make the mango mousse, puree the remaining mango flesh with about 1/4 cup (or more to taste) of sugar until smooth.
Place about a third of the puree in a saucepan with the gelatin and heat on low heat, stirring constantly until the gelatin is melted.
Pour the warm puree out into the rest of the puree and let it cool slightly until it thickens a bit, but don’t let the gelatin solidify.
Whip the cream in a mixer bowl until it holds soft peaks.
Carefully fold the whipped cream into the mango puree until it is combined. Divide it among the serving glasses. Refrigerate overnight to let the mousse set.