7D, Cebu, Philippine Brand, R&M, and More: We Open Six Bags of Dried MangoesJuly 28, 2018
Dried mangoes are a famed emblem of the Philippines, both domestically and abroad—you’ll find them representing the country at pasalubong shops, gourmet supermarkets, and delis across the globe. Made with local mangoes (often of the Carabao variety, the best of which are said to come from Guimaras) and an especially big business in Cebu (from which many dried mango brands originate), these confections allow consumers to enjoy the fruit’s distinctive flavor in a novel, candy-like form that can be eaten plain or used in recipes, all year round. Of the numerous brands produced locally, we’ve tracked down six that are relatively easy to come by at grocery shops in Manila. How do they compare?
Note: as dried mangoes are made with fresh fruit (and thus subject to possible inconsistencies due to natural factors such as the climate and season, plus variations in the time between manufacturing and delivery to their supplied supermarkets), we noted the qualities common to the general majority of pieces in every package, trying at least two packages of each brand purchased 2-3 weeks in between.
7D gives you bright yellow strips of fruit that are on the moist side; though some pieces come with a light sandy coating (likely a combination of the natural sugars from the drying process, plus—unique to this brand—powdered sugar, as shown in the ingredient list), they’re more of an exception than the rule, as most pieces come sticky and almost wet at the exterior. Firm yet succulent and chewy, they offer an intense sourness balanced with a good amount of sweetness. This makes this brand a great pick for standalone eating (they’re addictive in a gummy candy-like way) or for use in baking and other desserts (the tartness allows them to shine amidst other sweet elements).
Sweetness: 3.5/5 | Tartness: 4.5/5 | Moisture: 5/5
With Cebu’s, the reverse is true: amidst a few moister pieces, the rest feel stiffer and dryer outside, coated with similar crystalline substance (again, likely of the natural sugars, though the ingredient list is not printed on the package) that keeps the pieces from sticking together, but leaves a thin trail on your fingers and feels rough on the tongue. Still, they’re soft and pliable within, making them easy to chew through even as some pieces are cut thick. Less tangy than 7D’s and a touch sweeter, they highlight the creaminess of mangoes more so than sourness, but still end with a whisper of tang to brighten up the mix.
Sweetness: 4/5 | Tartness: 3/5 | Moisture: 3/5
Dole’s version takes the stiffness and dryness to the next level and come even more heavily coated in the said sandy coating that it practically crosses over to crystallized fruit territory. Its highly crystallized makeup gives it a brittleness that makes it easy to break apart, but difficult to chew give the hardness of the pieces. And while you do taste the mango, it tends to be dulled down given all the sugar. If anything, the dryness allows it to absorb liquids better—throw them into your A.M. bowl of oatmeal, add them to compotes and stews, or soak a few pieces in tea or liquor for use in other desserts.
Sweetness: 4/5 | Tartness: 2/5 | Moisture: 1/5
Dolly gives you strips in a lighter, brighter shade of yellow that suggests they likely began with fruit just beginning to ripen. In spite of its ever so slightly dusty exterior, its body remains soft and pliable—thanks, perhaps, to its thin, flat cut. Keeping up with its vibrant theme is its distinctively bright tang. Though about at par with (or even more intense than) that of 7D, the sourness comes through louder here as there’s comparatively little sweetness to even it out.
Sweetness: 3/5 | Tartness: 4.5/5 | Moisture: 4/5
Packages of Philippine Brand tend to contain pieces that are stiff and dry, but you get more pieces that are moist within despite its heavily-dusted exterior. Though on the sweet side initially, a tanginess that’s mellow but bright (much like that of fresh mangoes at their peak ripeness) emerges as you chew, thus keeping each bite from feeling cloying.
Sweetness: 4/5 | Tartness: 3.5/5 | Moisture: 3/5
R&M offers the best texture for us, coming dusted just lightly enough to keep the pieces from sticking together, but bearing a moist, succulent feel (just a notch below 7D’s, without being too wet), and a silky chew with little mango fibers. It’s not quite as sour or sugary as the other brands; it can feel bland at the onset, but as you chew it unveils a great balance between sweetness, creaminess, and a hint of tang (more so on some pieces more than others) without going overboard on any one extreme.
Sweetness: 3/5 | Tartness: 3.5/5 | Moisture: 4.5/5
The Verdict: 7D
It’s a tough battle as all brands’ versions are tasty for their own reasons, but in terms of the one brand we find the hardest to let go of, the great balance of sweet and sour and moist and pliable texture makes 7D our all-around top choice. Those in need of an even tangier rendition would be well to go for Dolly; sweeter versions that nonetheless let the mango shine can be had via Cebu’s or Philippine Brand’s. Should you want an even more moist, succulent bite, go for R&M; for a slightly firmer yet still soft alternative, try Dolly, Cebu’s, or Philippine Brand’s.