Tong, a tiny festive Bangladeshi food stand, in Jackson Heights has the honor of being America’s first fuchka cart. This post is not about those amazing crunchy orbs though, it’s about aam bhorta, or Bangla style spicy mango.
For some 30 years I’ve been a fan of spicy South Asian pickle. It all dates back to a college roommate, Harold, who was the ringleader in many a Patak’s lemon pickle eating contest. Since then I’ve branched out to mango pickle. I’m especially fond of amba—the tangy Middle Eastern mix of pickled mango and turmeric—on my falafel. So when I learned Tong offered spicy mango, I had to try it.
There are many Mexican purveyors of freshly sliced mango—to be eaten with one’s choice of lime, salt, and hot sauce—throughout Jackson Heights, but Tong is the first South Asian spicy mango specialist I’ve encountered.
I’d just polished off a order of fuchka, so the mango was dessert. For sure the creamy orange chunks were sweet, but they were also quite savory and spicy thanks to cilantro, red onion, and chilies, but there was another flavor as well. It was more of a sinus clearing sensation than a flavor.
“Do you use mustard oil?” I asked one of the brightly clad fuchkawalas. “Yes, a little,” he said proffering a bottle filled with an electric mustard yellow concoction. Right there on the label, below the word “kasundi,” was a picture of sliced mangoes. It’s a popular condiment in Bangladesh and Jackson Heights.
I reached out to my Bangladeshi friend Sufia Hossain, creator of Silly Chilly Hot Sauce, for some kasundi 411. “Did you eat that?” she asked. “I am familiar with this sauce,” she said adding that her mom likes it. Reading between the lines I can only surmise that Sufia is not a fan. I’ll bet Harold would dig it though. In any case I plan to be eating more aam bhorta during New York City’s sweltering South Indian summer.
Tong, 37th Ave. & 73rd St., Jackson Heights, 929-257-6996