Eat Like You’re On A Tropical Vacation

Nappa Spoons with Lentil-Rice Caviar, Mango, Avocado, Almonds and Mango-Chia Sauce   

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

You may not be basking in sunshine on a beach today, but it doesn’t mean you can’t give yourself a taste of an exotic vacation. With mango prices as low as a dollar each,I took a culinary adventure with this tropical fruit in my own kitchen.

Mangos are fine as a salad or snack, but I wanted a meal. I whirled them into a tangy sauce with trendy chia seeds. Eating more plants is a goal for many people (1), so I took the challenge of matching my mango sauce with a superfood-powered, plant-based meal.

The “caviar” is made with meaty-tasting black lentils (sometimes called beluga or caviar lentils) paired with black rice (sometimes called forbidden rice).  They cook together in the same pot. The anthocyanin pigments that color them black are antioxidants with many potential health benefits. (2,3) The combination of lentils and rice make a complete protein, equivalent to animal sources. Plus, you get dietary fiber and other nutrients.

The meatless “caviar” is piled on nappa cabbage leaves (spoons!), with the Mango-Chia Sauce, chopped mango, avocados, fresh basil and toasted almonds. You’ll find flavors, textures, richness, crunch – and more than a spoonful of nutrients. Its almost as good as a tropical vacation.

Superfood Snapshots (4-7):

Mango: Their sunny orange flesh signals the antioxidant pigment beta-carotene which your body converts to vitamin A.  One cup of mango is also an excellent source of another antioxidant, vitamin C. And you get significant amounts of folate, dietary fiber, B6 and other nutrients.

Avocado: People can’t get enough creamy avocados – rich in healthy monounsaturated fats. They’re an excellent source of potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, E and B6 and good source of magnesium.

Nappa Cabbage: This Chinese variety of cabbage is in the cancer-fighting cruciferous vegetable family. I love it’s mild taste and keepability. It holds well in the fridge and is great in stir-fries, salads and coleslaws.

Chia Seed:  Popular in chia pudding because they absorb water and make a gel, these tiny seeds are full of nutrients: plant-based omega-3 fats, dietary fiber, protein, calcium and more.

Almonds: Another great protein and fiber source and one of my favorite snacks, almonds have many nutrients, including vitamin E and magnesium.

Nappa Spoons with Lentil-Rice Caviar, Mango, Avocado, Almonds and Mango-Chia Sauce

Consider making a double batch of the sauce – it goes fast.  See below for how to serve this meal “bowl-style” or as a portable lunch.

Serves 2 to 3 as a meal, 4 as an appetizer.

Mango-Chia Sauce:

1 cup diced, peeled ripe mango

3 tablespoons avocado or other vegetable oil

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 teaspoon siracha or other hot sauce, more to taste

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Lentil-Rice Caviar:

½ cup black (caviar or beluga) lentils

½ cup black rice

1 clove garlic

1 bay leaf

¼ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon avocado or other vegetable oil

To Serve:

8-10 small, inner leaves nappa cabbage

1 cup diced, peeled ripe mango

1 cup diced avocado

1/4 cup small or torn fresh basil leaves

¼ cup thinly sliced red onion

1/4 cup toasted, slivered almonds

  1. Combine ingredients for Mango-Chia Sauce in a blender; whirl until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Spoon into a container and chill until ready to serve.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine rice, lentils, 1 3/4 cups water, garlic, bay leaf and ¼ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer very gently for 20 minutes or until rice and lentils are tender. Drain any excess liquid. Place in a bowl. Stir in vinegar, oil and additional salt, to taste. Remove garlic and bay leaf. Cool to room temperature. (Chill if made ahead and rewarm before serving.)
  3. To serve, spread about 1 tablespoon Mango-Chia Sauce in the bottom of each nappa cabbage leaf. Add a basil leaf or two and a couple spoonfuls of Lentil-Rice Caviar. Sprinkle on mango, avocado, onions and almonds. Drizzle with more Sauce, if desired.  Eat out of hand as a light meal, snack or appetizer.

To serve bowl-style: Thinly slice nappa cabbage. Spoon Lentil-Rice Caviar in glass jars or bowl. Top with Mango-Chia Sauce, cabbage, mango, avocado, onions and nuts.  Drizzle with more Sauce, if desired.


  1. Why the Global Rise in Vegan and Plant-Based Eating Isn’t a Fad…Future of Food. January 18, 2018. Food Revolution Network
  2. Anthocyanins. By Densie Webb, PhD, RD. Today’s Dietitian. Vol. 16 No. 3 P. 20.
  3. Heart health gain locked in pigment of black lentils. Food Navigator. September 18, 2005. Updated July 19, 2008.
  4. Everything you need to know about mangoes. Medical News Today. August 22, 2017. by Megan Ware RDN LD. Reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD
  5. Health Benefits of Mangos
  6. AICR’s Foods That Fight Cancer: Broccoli and Cruciferous Vegetables
  7. Avocado   
  8. Avocado Love One Today
  9. The Health Benefits of Almonds. December 14, By Joseph Nordqvist,
  10. Almonds
  11. Chia Seeds

© Lorelle S Del Matto 2019

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

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