How to Peel and Slice a Mango

When an American sees me peel something with a knife — be it a piece of fruit or a potato — he or she invariably makes a comment about the way I hold the knife. Apparently, Americans generally hold their knife with the blade facing the body and, with the thumb guiding the knife, also work their way toward the body as they go. (The only exception to this is when they use a vegetable peeler in which case the peeling is done in quick strokes away from the body.) This is my observation. If you’re an American and you don’t peel this way, I’d say you’re definitely in the minority.

Thais, and perhaps other Asians, hold a knife with the blade facing away from the body and also peel away from the body, guiding the knife with the index finger. I can’t explain this cultural disparity. I am not presenting one way as better than the other either. I’m just reporting it.

That’s how we peel a mango — a ripe one, that is. (We have 2-3 different ways of peeling and slicing a green mango, but that’s irrelevant here.) Peeling a mango with a knife is as common to us as flipping a pancake or a burger patty is to most Americans. It’s done in a simple, straightforward, gadget-free fashion. It’s so instinctive that we don’t even think about it. When I told one of my cousins that I was going to blog about how to peel a mango, she wondered out loud whether I had completely run out of blogging ideas.

During my mother’s last visit to the US, we watched a cooking show together. You should have seen her reaction when the chef demonstrated three ways to cut a mango. The first was done by cutting the fruit — skin and all — into two halves, flipping each half over so the mango half rests on the skin side, scoring the flesh with a knife, and scooping out the scored flesh with a spoon. The second method was done with what the chef thought was the greatest kitchen tool ever — OXO mango splitter. The last method was done by slicing a piece off the base of the mango, standing it on the base, and slicing off the skin (along with half of the edible flesh in the process, unfortunately) the way one would a butternut squash.

My mother looked at the TV screen then at me. Not just her face, but her whole being, turned into a big question mark. No trace of self-righteous incredulity was found on her face; just sheer puzzlement. All that was followed by a monosyllabic utterance that captured it all, “Why?”

You see, I am a self-proclaimed non-dexterous dunce. So I’m the last person to tell you how you should peel a mango. This is just a post on how the Thai people peel a ripe mango, especially when it’s prepared for our traditional dish — mango with coconut sticky rice.

How to Tackle a Ripe Mango the Thai Way

1. Start off by getting a good semi-ripe mango from the store. You shouldn’t buy a mango that is perfectly ripe, but one that is a day or two before it reaches that stage. Perfectly ripe mangoes are very fragile and can easily get bruised in transit. It’s better to let your mango ripen on your kitchen counter than in a huge pile of mangoes at the store where it gets fondled by other shoppers.

2. Wash the mango thoroughly. The dirt and pesticide residue on the skin can be transferred to the exposed flesh through contact with your hands.

3. With a very sharp knife (or a serrated knife which works very well), make a shallow under-the-skin slice at the top of the mango. With your thumb pushing the blade (away from your body) and your index finger navigating the path, slowly peel a strip of skin off the mango along the curvature of the fruit. Start off with a thin strip as the wider the strip, the more likely you are to slice off too much flesh along with the skin.

4. Once the entire mango is peeled, position your knife parallel with the wide surface of the pit. (A mango is built like a fish with its flesh analogous to the fish meat and the pit analogous to the spine bone. So “fillet” a mango the way you would a fish.) Make a cut as close to the pit as possible. In see-sawing motion, work your knife blade along the length of the pit all the way to the end tip of the mango.

5. Cut the mango crosswise into thick slices. Serve immediately.

28 Responses to How to Peel and Slice a Mango

  1. Steph March 15, 2009 at 11:49 pm #

    That was too funny!! I make the same reactions when I see chefs on the food network try and cut a pineapple or anything. It makes me feel bad for wasting all that good fruit. Maybe you could also do a post on wasting ziploc bags…hahah..

  2. Annie March 16, 2009 at 9:49 am #

    We took it a step further and actually diced the mango on the pit. Kinda dangerous but cool.

  3. Jude March 18, 2009 at 4:19 am #

    Yikes I fail as an Asian. I peel in the same way you describe Americans do it.
    I used to do it knifeless, though, when I lived in the Philippines. The skins on Filipino mangioes were easy enough to peel with a pinch and pull.

  4. _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver March 30, 2009 at 11:45 pm #

    Quite funny. I especially like that OXO mango peeler. ;D

    And oh, I’ve never peeled a mango this way before. Although, it’s usually because we usually just eat the mango straight up. Meaning, I cut off each half, eat the flesh therein, then SUCK THE PIT AND ANY FLESH ON THE PIT! =D

    OK, now I want to know how you guys do green mangoes!

  5. Hungry Jenny May 26, 2009 at 8:32 pm #

    Ah, so THAT’s how you do it! I confused myself completely the other day trying to cut a mango because I was trying to do it the way you normally cut open an avocado (slicing lengthways through the thing and breaking open to get the stone out.

    I realised quickly that I was holding a mango, not an avocado when I couldn’t even cut around the thing in a straight line, and then you can imagine the resulting mess when I wasn’t able to prise it open. Oh dear. After that, I just sort of hacked my way into it.

    I’ll be trying your way next time – cheers for the tips!

  6. Mr. What June 27, 2009 at 3:06 pm #

    Thanks, for all of us Americans!
    I usually make diced mango, using the method you surely have seen, dicing before peeling.
    I was just about to make Mango with sweet coconut sticky rice, and was looking for a better technique to make the thin slices which are often used with this dish.
    I’m off now to look at your recipe!

    My recipies:

  7. Claire in Melbourne August 3, 2010 at 6:44 am #

    Aha! I am from New Zealand but my mother is from Fiji, another place where they eat a LOT of mangoes. I was intrigued to see your technique… and worried that I had been labouring in vain for 33 years… but was most relieved to see that I do the same thing! YAY!

    I love your recipes and your erudite expression. Keep up the good work. 🙂

  8. Leela August 3, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

    Claire – Ha. Good to know others do it this way too.

    “Erudite”? Really? 🙂

  9. Mardee in VT September 9, 2010 at 8:52 pm #

    My family just welcomed a Thai student for the year and she made some sticky rice, loved it and wanted to know what it was. I followed that page to the coconut rice mango recipe. I, too, like the other one, would try to slice a mango like an avocado (must be the mexican half in me). Glad to have the proper instruction. Love the way you write! And, really, what IS “erudite”? Must be a New Zealand thing 😉

  10. Leela September 9, 2010 at 9:17 pm #

    Mardee – I’m glad you like my erudite writing. 😉 Having a Thai student with you for a year sounds like fun! Makes me want to get in touch with you for an interview on life with a Thai exchange student. (Actually, I’m serious. Please write me, if you’re interested.)

  11. Anne S-P April 20, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    Great post. It reminded me of all the times I made mango and sticky rice for my friends and coworkers in LA. They would marvel at how I peeled and cut up the Manila or Ataulfo mangoes; it was just the way I grew up seeing my mom and everyone around me cut and peel a mango (the Thai way). Now, I just moved to New Zealand (due to my husband’s work) and your writings (which I’ve been running through like an addict) reminds me of home, where Thai food, ingredients, family, etc were so readily accessible; I really didn’t cook so much, even though I like cooking. Now, in New Zealand, to get those dishes I long for or the flavors I grew up with and miss (NZ’s Thai restaurants just aren’t doing it for me), I’m trying to cook myself. Your site has been a tremendous reference. Some things I know, just from growing up in a Thai family; with other things, you’ve helped to fill in the blanks. I also appreciate your having the Thai words shown, as it helps me to read the Thai. I’m not great in the reading of Thai, but I’ve always managed to be able to read menu items and food-related words in Thai – probably because they’re short phrases. Anyway, I digress… I just wanted to say thank you for your site, your info, your musings, and your writing.

  12. Leela April 20, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    Anne – You’ve just made my day. Thank you.

  13. Anonymous September 9, 2011 at 1:20 am #

    It’s refreshing to know that I’ve been peeling mangoes the right way and I’m an American 🙂 I’m not sure how anyone else does it, but I usually treat all my fruits as if they were fish! Some even look like fish!

  14. Admin September 9, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    Anon – Respect. 🙂

  15. Anonymous November 30, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    THANK YOU for validating my preferred mango-cutting method. I’m happy to know someone else cuts mangoes in this way too! I can’t even begin to count the number of funny looks I’ve garnered for the way I hold my knife or the way I slice mangoes. 🙂

  16. Anonymous January 14, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    I’m definitely with you about the peeling with the thumb guiding the knife towards you, the way you put it just cracks me up. I’m married to an American, I’m from M’sia, and I do know what you’re talking about. Anyway, I like your Mango Sticky Rice recipe!

  17. Epicuranoid January 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    I was told by Asian cooks that is is bad form to cut toward oneself. I think common sense says why. I was also told that the knife must never be pointed straight away from the body, but turned to a slight angle which requires turning your product if you wish to cut it straight down the middle. This was for superstitious reasons. However, I do and recommend whatever will give me the result I want 😀

  18. Admin January 31, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    Epicuranoid – Ha. I never thought this had anything to do with superstition. Makes sense, though. Thanks.

  19. hismineours May 4, 2012 at 1:59 am #

    That is so funny. I’m an American that has always cut away from myself. I just can’t cut towards myself, it seems wrong to me. However, I get scolded anytime my mother or grandmother sees me peeling something! They say I do it the wrong, hard, way. Makes me wonder how I started my peeling my way (potatoes, apples, everything) growing up with them! I guess it was just natural.

  20. Nancy Gallion May 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    Thanks for your how-to-cut-a-mango directions. I cut my first one about a week ago and had no idea what the seed was like. My cut mango looked like it had been attacked.

  21. Anonymous May 15, 2012 at 7:04 am #

    I’m white and this is exactly how I’ve always cut my mango…and this isn’t the first time I’ve been considered “in the minority” 😉

  22. Admin May 15, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    Anon – How do you hold the knife when peeling the mango?

  23. Paniolo November 16, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    I’m American, but I’ve never understood why anyone would peel or cut anything by pulling a knife into your body? Never realized so many did it that way. (I don’t watch cooking shows)

    I learned to peel Mango in Hawaii. We would first make the fillet cut down the middle to get roughly two halves with some other scraps with the skin still on. Take those halves and slice them lengthwise into 1″ or so wide strips. Then with the fruit meat up and the skin against the cutting board hold the tip of the strip closest to you and take the knife and slice very close to the skin away from you. It is a very fast process and leaves very little ‘meat’ on the peels of skin. But you don’t get the thick longitudinal slices like you showed, but long lengthwise strips that you can then cut as you want. When the Mango trees are going off you can peel a really large quantity of fruit this way and freeze what you can’t eat fresh.


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