So, now that we’re back onto sweet sauces, what do you lot say we take another look at one of my favourite fruit?
This, here, is Can I Play with Mangos – A product that I promised to talk about back when I tried Rock A Doodle Do’s other, more mythology-themed sauces. Because, while that pair highlighted their irish heritage, the company’s origins lie elsewhere. In classic rock and metal puns.
But, truth be told, I’ve felt no urgency in getting to their Iron Maiden-inspired mango and habanero sauce because, hard as such a pairing is to screw up, Rock A Doodle Do’s last feature didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.
So, just in case they have gone that extra mile somehow, I’m going to throw in another couple of mango sauces alongside theirs. Both with rather more exciting chillies.
Rock A Doodle Do’s sauce certainly doesn’t look like a bad one, though. It’s a strong, consistent shade of orange, visible through the glass, that appears both thick and smooth, as I tilt the bottle. Almost soupy, in its consistency, yet still carrying small shreds of peppers, seeds and toasted I’m not sure whats.
Plus, the rooster in their logo is about as fearsome as such a bird could ever be and, while the silver fake-wood label is an odd choice, it’s also somehow sleek and stylish, contrasting well with the far more colourful contents.
Visually, the packaging says little about the product but it presents an air of quality and does give us a good glimpse at the sauce inside.
So how how do its competitors compare?
Well Char Man’s Caribbean sauce is very in your face with its regional imagery, depicting a slightly shrivelled old lady of unmistakably caribbean hair and dress sense.
Yet its blues and yellows say little more and nothing about the bottle screams “MANGOES!”. It could just as easily be a mustard and scotch bonnet sauce, like Pepper Kitchen’s or the countless others from the caribbean.
The blurb, on the back, about a lesser-known local variation on a vampire – The glowing Loogaroo – is both interesting and explains some of the more specific art choices but I just don’t see her and the sauce having unforeseen depth as a good enough tie in to the fruit.
And then there’s Badger’s Artisan Foods’ take on a Mango & Lemon sauce. One that bares very little art, at all, yet clads itself in peachy-orange to both stand out from its yellowy-orange contents and highlight the colour of its fruit.
If anything, it’s the most informative of the bunch but it’s still missing something. Which we’ll talk about when I try it.
First up, though, here’s Rock A Doodle Do’s again:
Now I won’t waste your time with talk of how it pours – Having already mentioned how it flows within the bottle – but I will say one thing for its consistency: It’s as smooth to the tongue as it is to the eye. You can definitely tell that there’s a bit of emulsion going on in this one.
Taste-wise, however, it’s only the tiniest bit creamy and not nearly as fruit-forward as I expected.
There’s at least as much tomato as mango in the flavour of this sauce and a fair bit of cooked bell pepper, too, but it’s the blend of carrot, onion and fruity, white wine vinegar that forms the bulk of the experience. A blend of orange veg, natural sweetness, fruity tang and allium and ginger zing that makes for something utterly different to your usual orange chilli and fruit concoction.
If anything, this one’s going to make a savoury addition to tomato and root vegetable soups, stews and casseroles, rather than the standard sweet heat for wings, curries, fish and salads. And, while I do see it going well with lighter meats, I think think chicken might be a shade too pale for the Can I Play with Mangos.
It’s not really a mango sauce but a sauce with mangoes. Which, now that I think about it, is exactly what its name implies. And what the ingredients list says:
Onion, Carrot, Bell Peppers, Garlic, Shallots, Ginger, White Wine Vinegar (contains Sulphates/E220) i, Maple Syrup, Sugar, Salt, Pepper, Olive Oil, Lime, Mango 5%, Tomato Puree, Garlic Paste, Stabiliser (Xanthan Gum).
Peppers used – Habanero Chilli Pepper 8%.
It’s just not how it was described online.
And nor does it possess quite the full on habanero heat that its makers seem to think but it does pack a sneakily creeping
that lingers in the upper mouth and back of the throat. A pleasant warmth that’s still going to come across as relatively hot to the average consumer.
I like this sauce. It’s a brighter, zingier, fruitier take on a carrot and habanero blend with a delightful, soup-like texture.
It’s not what it was made out to be but it’s definitely a lot more enjoyable than my previous purchase from the company.
Yet I still have two other items to show you, this time around, and I have to wonder: Are they any more mangoey?
The short answer is “yes” but, when it comes to Char Man’s Caribbean, it still isn’t as much so as you might think.
This vampire-themed sauce is rather pulpier than the previous product and its less vibrant and opaque shade of brownish-orange certainly suggests more mango and less carrot. Yet it also hints at something else: The fire-roasted nature of its peppers.
Those peppers, not the tropical fruit, are the highlight of this sauce. They are, however, very fruity peppers, as I can tell without even tasting them.
The aroma, drifting up from my spoon, is sharp, pickled and slightly oniony, yet sweet and filled with an almost appley, soft, red chilli aroma, somewhat reminiscent of pickled biquiños. But, as fruity as those little peppers are, these are even more so.
Plus, when it comes to tasting them, their heat is a dull yet long-lingering
felt across the top and sides. Not the sharp sting of an annuum or frutescens variety.
No, the key pepper in this sauce is a capsicum pubescens. One of the lesser-known peruvian varieties. A rocoto.
A species of chilli that is rarely talked about, outside of specialist grower communities, but is integral to certain traditional dishes, like ceviché, and prized for just how uniquely fruity its flavour is.
I’ve had rocotos twice before. Once in Simpson’s Seeds’ Funky Monkey sauce, where it was overwhelmed by orange and mandarin, and once at HipChip’s restaurant, where I could definitely taste and feel the special pepper but couldn’t fully identify it, due to a lack of experience with it.
Upon my third tasting, however, it is unmistakably the same chilli and its flavour is purer than ever. A wonderfully fruit-filled, pepper taste that comes across oh so clearly in the aroma but, once in my mouth, is also supported by tropical fruit undertones, the oaky tang of a cider vinegar and a little bit of extra habanero heat.
The lack of black seeds in this sauce makes it pretty apparent that the rocoto isn’t its main chilli, by volume, but it most certainly is in flavour. So why they fail to list it in the ingredients is beyond me:
Chilies, Water, Vinegar, Mango, Pineapple, Sugar, Garlic, Salt, Spices, Xanthan Gum
But they do, at least, make mention of them on their website, under their other name: Manƶano.
Still, you’d think that such a well-regarded and specialist pepper would be a talking point. Especially when it’s such a major part of their product.
As for our third sauce, well, that one’s actually first ingredient mango but, if you look at the ingredients, it doesn’t state its peppers, either:
Mango Nectar, Lemon Juice (Sulphites), Onion, Vinegar, Sugar, Ripe Chilli, Red Chilli, Olive Oil, Garlic, Salt, Lemon Peel, Coriander Seeds.
All that it states is “Red Chilli” and “Ripe Chilli”. Which is a curious distinction but tells us very little.
A quick look at the list on their website clarifies that the reds are bhut jolokias (ghost peppers) but still doesn’t specify the other variety. Which, as it turns out, is for a reason.
Lee Farina, the guy behind Badger’s Artisan Foods, doesn’t actually know what the pepper is and nor do the people at Edible Ornamentals, from whom he sourced it.
It’s simply an oddity that popped up in their grow tent which resembled a yellow scotch bonnet but turned out to be a good deal hotter. A pepper known only as a “yellow knobbly thang” and one which I only know about from watching the people involved partake in online chilli festivals.
So yeah, it’s definitely worth talking to the people behind the products, if you want to hear this sort of trivia, and small sauce makers, like Lee, are full of stories. It just comes with the territory, when you go into a business that you’re passionate about.
But how about his sauce? Is this little Mango and lemon blend worth picking up?
Well, if you’re looking for smooth and fruity, it definitely delivers!
Its consistency is almost as thin as 📽️his others📽️ but the mango adds just a little extra viscosity and smoothness, helped along by the addition of olive oil.
But, when it comes to flavour, the sweet mango is only a small part of the puzzle, since I’m also hit with a huge wave of citrus. One that’s tangy, from the juice, yet also zesty and slightly bitter, from the lemon’s peel.
Combined with the subtle undertones of fresh coriander seed, that peel gives the sauce a wonderful, sherbert-like note that I’ve not experienced in any other.
Even that, however, is not the full story, since there are also small shreds of red ghost pepper to enrich the taste of the mango and sweet, yet zingy onions to help to marry the two fruit. As well as a slightly tropical second pepper which, as its heat grows in, carries a very distinctive sourness. One which, if you’ve read my other reviews, you should already understand the meaning of.
That’s right, folks, the yellow knobbly thang is part reaper!
It doesn’t carry the full force of the world record, only bringing this sauce up to a strong
that the ghost pepper could have managed on its own, were it the first ingredient, but it does have a very familiar taste and feel to its burn. One that is instantly recognisable, yet continues to grow in slowly and go for the sides of my tongue.
And, while I’m not usually fond of that specific reaper sour note, it’s actually right at home in today’s third and fine product, fitting in perfectly with the already sour and bittersweet citrus.
If you have a genetic aversion to coriander, this sauce is not going to be for you but, otherwise, it’s a beautifully bright and refreshing blend, perfect for this year’s hot summer. Throw it over chicken and fish or use it to liven up greens, like broccoli.
It’s rather more citrus-forward than most mango sauces, so I don’t know if it’ll go quite as well on enchiladas and tacos, but that tartness only makes it better for other tomato-based dishes, like bolognese. Plus, its sweet and sour qualities will make it a perfect replacement for the magnificent 7 when it comes to topping cupcakes.
Badger’s Mango & Lemon is my favourite of the three, for sure, but that doesn’t mean that you should overlook the orange veg of Rock A Doodle Do’s Can I Play with Mangos or Char Man’s uniquely Rocoto-forward, “Caribbean” blend.
All three have been winners and all three have their own merits. This one just happens to be the best at its original brief – Being a mango-based sauce. And that’s what I went in for when I was writing this review.
I’d still recommend that you check them all out, as well as checking out their three main chillies – The Orange Habanero, Red Rocoto and Yellow Knobbly Thang – in my encyclopedia, for more information and a look at what else uses the same peppers.