The last 12 months have been memorable for chef Justin Pichetrungsi. Last fall, he was named a Food & Wine Best New Chef and his restaurant, Anajak Thai in Sherman Oaks, topped the list of best restaurants by the Los Angeles Times. This spring, he took home the James Beard Award for Best Chef: California. What keeps him humble? His mother is still in the kitchen, preparing a classic mango sticky rice using a knife with an etching that reads, “Mom’s Mango Knife (DO NOT TOUCH IF NOT MOM).”

Pichetrungsi shops for Valencia Pride mangoes from Wong Farms, the only element of the dish that he touches. At Anajak, either his mother or aunt prepares the dish. 

“In some ways, the sourcing is the contemporary spin on it,” says Pichetrungsi. “We’ve been using champagne mangoes that we get at the Thai market, but this is an amazing bit of gold that you find here at the [farmer’s] market.” 

Coconut nut milk is boiled with palm sugar and a pinch of salt for the rice. The Valencia Prides are sweet at the top, tart closer to the center, and creamy and tanic and near the stem, so every bite is a bit different.

Farmer Jason Chamberlain is part of the Wong family, which grows mangoes in the Coachella Valley. Their season was a little late this year. The Valencia Pride variety is low in fiber, so it’s not stringy and doesn’t get stuck in your teeth. A thin seed means more meat in the fruit, and the high acid makes the mango taste a bit like pineapple. A cool, dark place will slow the ripening process, while the mangoes will keep whole in the freezer for six months.

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