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MANGONEADA MAY BE THE MOST INTERESTING DRINK EVER

Thanks to Ari LeVaux, my summers will never be the same. LeVaux, author of the food column Flash in the Pan, recently introduced me to one of the strangest and most interesting drinks I have ever had – The Mangoneada.

From the opening paragraph of the column, the hook was set deep and I was determined to try one of these things. After several Google attempts, I found the single place in the area that sold them – Tea Time Lounge, 3512 E. Kivett Dr., in High Point.

LeVaux calls the Mangonada or Mangoneada or chamango as it’s also called, “A raging shakedown in your mouth” and “A Mexican treat that is taking the nation by sweet, spicy storm.”

LeVaux explains, “On paper, a mangoneada has no business tasting this good. There are too many big personalities involved, too many loud notes of sour, salty, sweet, and heat. It’s too crazy a combination to work. But it does, because unlikely as it may seem, these contrasting flavors play remarkably well together.”

As you could probably imagine, the drink is built upon mango which is combined with chili powder, lime, salt, and a sour spicy sauce called chamoy. Chamoy is typically made with pickled apricots or plums, and chili, lime, sugar and salt.

At the Tea Time Lounge, owner Von Keomanivong serve three females customers ahead of Jeff Sykes and I as we wait patiently to see if it lives up to the hype. As I order, I show Von the press release I have printed out and ask him how close his product is to the one LeVaux has raved about. He smiles as he reads thru it and assures me I will be pleased.

“We make our own chamoy,” he explains. “That’s one of the secrets. You can buy it in some stores, but it is not at all the same.” When I excitedly ask him if it’s really that good he says, “It’s an acquired taste.” As he completes our order he hands them over and I try to suck on a yellow straw covered with some strange hardened red stuff.

He laughs and explains the stuff on the straw is a Mexican fruit called tamarind and it’s rolled in chili and sugar. He also says I have to bite off the candy which is blocking the bottom of the straw.

I’ll be honest, I’m not crazy about the tamarind straw, so after trying I opt for a plain straw which is readily available. According to LeVaux, “Mangoneadas come from the Mexico/California border region, some say Tijuana, and today can be found in Mexican treat shops, which are called neverias or paleterias. These establishments serve fruity popsicles and ice cream concoctions, and are found in highest concentrations in the southwest. But recently, paleterias and neverias have been popping up in big cities nationwide, wherever Mexicans and hot weather are found.”

LeVaux noted that “although they are somewhat under radar among gringos, mangoneadas probably won’t remain a cult dish for long. They have a way of evoking a certain giddy goofiness among fans, who seem eager to publically share their love for it. Instagram is full of mangoneada portraits, and Twitter is full of confessions of love and lust for its many forms, and longing iterations of its many names.”

As Sykes and I start our sipping, a couple, then a group of six, then two more customers come thru the doors all ordering the mangoneada.

We sip and watch and then look at each. Our first reaction is one of uncertainty. Is it good? Is it bad? We are letting everything settle. I keep remembering Von’s words. “It’s an acquired taste.” I am waiting to see if I acquire it. As we look around the cool little shop with candy we have never heard of on the shelves, I think I’m being won over. My co-drinker is not so sure.

I finish mine and we walk to the car. The whole ride back to the office we seem to be in deep silent thought trying to wrap our heads and taste buds around the variety of flavors.

Four hours later, just after 5pm something starts to happen. I want to go back and get another one. For me, I have acquired the taste of the mangoneada. (- Charles Womack)

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