My blog post on Durian, the “king of fruits,” got me thinking: what other wacky fruits of Southeast Asia should travellers try? Here’s a list of 5 that shouldn’t be missed.
Mangosteens look like something out a cartoon: plump, purple and round with a funny looking four-leaf top “hat”. A very thick peel encases bright white fruit segments that have a consistency/texture like a lychee fruit. The flavour is delightful.
Fruity fact: known as “the Queen of Fruits”
How to eat: cut around the equator about a centimeter deep and open. Peel away the thick purple skin and eat the white segments in the middle. Watch out, as the reddish-purple juice from the rind will stain.
They look like the punk rockers of the tropical fruit world, but are ultimately disappointing as its bland flavour fails to live up to its wild acid pink and neon green exterior. Inside the fruit is usually opaque white, soft in consistency and dotted with crisp black seeds (like those of a kiwi). It has virtually no flavour. Hey, they’re cool to look at.
How to eat: cut away the skin and cut into cubes.
Rambutan means “the hairy one” in Malay and they look more like sea urchins than fruit. The soft spines that cover the entire body can be red, yellow or green. The fruit inside is whitish, translucent and sweet with a single seed (think of a big lychee fruit with a bad hair day).
Fruity fact: the seed is poisonous and should not be eaten
How to eat: gently press skin apart with your thumbs (like you would with a lychee). Watch out for the squirting juice!
4. Rose Apple
Also known as jambosier, wax apple, water apple or Malabar plum, this bell-shaped fruit is surprisingly thirst quenching. The fruit has a thin, smooth, edible skin that is red, purple or blush coloured. The spongy yet crunchy flesh is juicy and subtly sweet with the aroma of rose water. Rose apples are a little more difficult to find compared to other fruit in Southeast Asia because they bruise and spoil easily.
How to eat: just wash and eat all except for the top and bottom. The core is hollow.
Tamarind’s name comes from Hindi “tamar Hind” meaning “Indian date.” It looks like a giant brown pea pod. The soft, sticky pulp inside is a key ingredient in cuisine all over the world including Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean. It gives that distinctive sweet and sour taste to classic Thai dishes such as pad thai and tom yum kung soup.
How to eat: eat the pulp by itself; mix with water and sugar into a drink to cool off with; use the paste for various dishes and condiments such as curries, chutneys and preserves.
Fruity fact: it is a key ingredient in Worcestershire sauce
What other fruits of Southeast Asia should be on this list?
Tell us in the comments.