Mango Chicken Wonton Nachos
Winter is an unseasonable time to be posting a recipe for a fruit-based dish, but these mango chicken wonton nachos have their roots during the cold a barren times, so it felt appropriate on a personal level that they get released upon the world during that period. These nachos first got their life as part of a grand tiki-inspired Christmas dinner a couple years back, where they served as just one piece of a large meal that also included char siu ribs, beef skewers, and pineapple fried rice. The original intention was actually to make these as pineapple chicken wonton nachos, but when I saw the grocery store had some half way decent mangos, I changed it up to utilize my family's favorite fruit. What I cooked up that evening was well received, but I knew I could make it even better when all the fruit was in-season during the summer, so this dish got another showing at a Meatwave this past August, where it continued to impress.
Mango works its way into these nachos in two ways, the first being as the base for a glaze. This sauce is pretty much just the recipe I've been using for huli huli chicken, except with the pineapple juice subbed out in favor of mango nectar. To be completely honest though, once you add in the vinegar, garlic, and ginger and boil the thing down until it's thick and syrupy, the difference between mango and pineapple isn't huge—they both create a similar fruitiness that becomes even less distinct after being brushed onto chicken.
Considering the other toppings beyond the chicken, I didn't want to go too overboard, but felt cheese is pretty much a requirement for nachos and decided to use a queso to get it into the mix. Ever since falling in love with my green chili queso, I haven't made any other recipe, but I thought this particular plate of nachos called for the more standard orange variety. I started that out with a mixture of sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack tossed in cornstarch, which would later thicken up the dip.
I did use green chilies as one of the seasonings here, but in a smaller amount than I normally do in favor of a more diverse flavor that was built up with onion, garlic, tomato, cumin, cilantro, and scallions. The final queso was good, albeit fairly standard, so if you wanted to cut down the effort of this recipe, it's pretty safe to swap the homemade queso for store bought and you'll still end up with almost the same end result.
Both the glaze and queso I actually made in the days leading up to when I served this dish, the actual day-of cooking began with making the wonton chips. If you haven't had wonton nachos before, you're missing out and these chips are so easy to make, there's little excuse not to try them. To make the chips I just picked up a package of Hong Kong-style wonton wrappers at my local Asian grocery, cut them in half diagonally to create triangles, and then fried them up. The wontons fry faster than tortillas and it doesn't all that long to get through enough for a large platter of nachos, all golden brown, crisp, and delicious.
The second, and more pronounced, way mangoes got into these nachos was via a grilled mango salsa. Again, if you want to speed things up, you can pick up a mango salsa from the grocery, but unlike the queso, the grilled salsa has a pretty distinct taste that I feel is worth the effort. I started it off with just slightly underripe mangos which are a bit easier to cut up and grill, and gain some of the sweetness they lack after being cooked.
I also grilled red onions, red bell peppers, and jalapeño to intensify the grilled character of the salsa. Once everything was cooked, I diced up all the fruit and veggies and tossed them in a large bowl with diced tomatoes, lime juice, and cilantro to round out the salsa equation.
Once the salsa was complete, I was able to move on to the chicken, which started with plain chicken thighs that I seasoned simply with salt and pepper. I grilled those over direct heat until they developed good color and were cooked through, at which point I brushed them all over with the mango glaze.
I continue to cook the chicken until the glaze set and picked up some charring here and there, which would help intensify the grilled flavor even more with a different dimension than the salsa would provide. Once the chicken was done to my liking, I transferred the thighs to a cutting board and roughly chopped them all up.
With all components complete the final assembly went like this: cover a large sheet pan in a single layer of wonton chips. top generously with the chicken, spoon on the salsa all over, ladle on the hot queso, squeeze on sour cream, and finish with a sprinkling of scallions. Like at that Christmas dinner, these were served at a tiki-inspired cookout and they fit in exceedingly well thanks to their bright, fruity, and sweet flavor with the soft toppings contrasted by the crunchy and light wonton chips. Not going too overboard with the toppings was good move because, not only did everything taste pretty in sync as-is, but the wonton chips are also more delicate than tortilla chips, so adding much more than what was already on them could have rendered the nachos too fragile to pick up and eat, and to me, nachos that require a fork kinda of defeat part of their purpose. Making these with in-season fruit was definitely a boon, but this recipe was also still quite delicious when I constructed it in the winter, making it worthy of this seemingly untimely posting.
Mango Chicken Wonton Nachos
- Yield 8 servings
- Prep 1 Hour 15 Minutes
- Cook 20 Minutes
- Total 1 Hour 35 Minutes
- For the Queso
- 8 oz Cheddar cheese, grated
- 4 oz Monterey Jack cheese. grated
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup finely diced white onion (about 1/2 a small onion)
- 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 12 oz evaporated milk
- 2 roma tomatoes, cored and diced
- 4 oz roughly chopped roasted green chiles
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions
- Milk, as needed
- Kosher salt
- For the Wonton Chips
- 2 to 3 cups canola oil
- 8 ounces small wonton wrappers, halved diagonally
- For the Chicken
- 18 oz mango nectar
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
- 4 teaspoons freshly minced garlic (about 4 medium cloves)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the Salsa
- 2 large almost ripe mangos, peeled and cored
- 1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch rounds and skewered horizontally
- 1 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 4 large pieces
- 1 medium jalapeño pepper
- 3 roma tomatoes, cored and finely diced
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons lime juice from 1 lime
- For the Nachos
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
- To make the queso: Place cheese in a large bowl and toss with cornstarch, set aside. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add in onion and cook until softened and starting to brown around the edges, about 8 minutes. Stir in garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in evaporated milk and cheese and heat, stirring constantly, until cheese has melted. Add in tomatoes, green chiles, cilantro, and scallions. Thin queso with milk as needed. Remove from heat and season with salt to taste. Set aside.
- To make the wonton chips: Heat oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet, dutch oven, or wok over medium-high heat until it registers 375°F. Adjust flame to maintain temperature. Working in batches, add wontons and fry, agitating with a metal spider, until edges just start to brown. Flip chips over and continue to cook until crisp and light golden brown. Transfer chips to a paper towel lined tray, sprinkle with salt to taste, and let sit for 2 to 3 minutes to drain. Repeat with remaining batches. Set aside until ready to use.
- To make the chicken: Combine mango nectar, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, lime juice, and red pepper in a saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until thick and syrupy, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- To make the salsa: Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place mango, onions, red pepper, and jalapeño on the grill. Cook mango until grill marks develop, 2-3 minutes per side. Cook onions until charred and slightly softened, 4-5 minutes per side. Cook red pepper until softened and charred in spot, about 3 minutes per side. Cook jalapeño until lightly blistered and charred all over, 3-5 minutes total. Remove all grilled ingredients to cutting board and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes. Finely dice mango onions, and red pepper; transfer to a medium bowl. Stem, seed, and finely diced pepper and transfer to bowl with mango and onion. Add in tomatoes, cilantro, and lime juice and stir to combine. Season with salt to taste. Set aside.
- Season chicken all over with salt and pepper. Place chicken thighs on grill and cook, flipping occasionally, until well browned and just cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes total. Brush chicken all over with mango glaze and continue to cook, flipping occasionally, until chicken begins to brown and char in spots. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Roughly chop chicken.
- To assemble the nachos: Reheat queso as needed. Spread a single layer of chips out on a large baking sheet or serving platter. Spread chicken across chips and spoon on salsa and queso to taste. Squeeze or spoon on sour screen and sprinkle on scallions. Serve immediately.