Yesterday we began our two-part series on the fruits of Southeast Asia, highlighting the dragonfruit, durian, guava apple, jackfruit, long kong, and the lychee. Today we conclude our series with six more interesting fruits found in the region.
Sometimes called the “Queen of Fruit” because of Queen Victoria’s love for them, these dark purple-red coloured fruit are my favourite in Southeast Asia. Grown mainly around the equator due to the consistent warm temperatures, these baseball-sized fruits hide a juicy, flavourable fleshy interior behind its thick fibrous rind.
What it tastes like: Despite what its name might imply, mangosteens taste nothing like a mango. They are sweet with a slightly sour taste, and the wedge-like segments have a fibrous texture. Some of the wedges may contain little pits, so don’t get too excited biting into them.
How to eat it: Using the tip of your thumb, push down into the side of a mangosteen until you reach the fleshy interior. Then, pull back the rind and start pealing it away. Another way to remove the rind is to pull the stem out and pull apart the rind from the top. Be careful of the red juice that may spray out when peeling the rind. It might stain!
Native to South America but found in many part of Southeast Asia, the passionfruit grows in two varieties: the purple or yellow passionfruit. Round or oval, and very lightweight, the passionfruit has a thin, brittle exterior and contains numerous juicy edible seeds inside. The purple passionfruit also contains a bright orange pulp around the seeds, whereas the yellow passionfruit will contain a more colourless pulp.
What it tastes like: The purple passionfruit is a little sweeter than it’s yellow counterpart (which can sometimes taste quite tart). The taste is similar to a pineapple and guava combined and the edible seeds are crunchy and feel like they’re popping in your mouth when chewed.
How to eat it: Since the rind of a passionfruit is thin and soft, you can break it in half using your thumbs to separate it into two parts. Then you can either suck out the seeds and orange pulp or scoop it out with a spoon. You can either swallow the seeds whole or chew them for an added sour taste.
Easily mistaken for lychees (and vice versa), rambutans are quite similar to their hairy-red coloured cousins. Grown in bunches and ripened on trees, rambutans can be found all over Southeast Asia. They are oval in shape, slightly larger than the size of a golf ball, and contain a white-ish fleshy edible interior.
What it tastes like: Rambutans taste very similar to lychees, though they’re slightly less sweet. The seed inside the rambutan is also a bit smaller than those in a lychee.
How to eat it: Just like you would with a lychee, peel the rind off by splitting it into two pieces with your thumbs, and pull the two halves apart. Either remove the pit before eating the fleshy part, or pop it into your mouth whole and chew around the pit.
Possibly one of the most interesting looking fruits, snakeskin fruit (also referred to as salak) gets its name purely from its reddish-brown scaly-looking skin. Found mainly throughout Indonesia, these pointy-tipped fruits may not seem like a fruit at first glance. Beneath the exterior are three segment pieces each containing a large inedible pit.
What it tastes like: Although the interior part of the fruit looks very much like peeled cloves of garlic, rest assured that it tastes nothing like garlic and leaves no lingering foul taste in your mouth. The texture is usually crunchy and moist, similar to an apple. The taste itself is somewhat bland, and can be sweet or slightly tart.
How to eat it: Snakeskin fruit can be easily peeled. Break off the top of the tip first so that the skin will come off more easily. There will be a small film coating the tops of the 3 segments. Just give them a little rub with your fingers and it will come right off. Break the segments apart and bite right in, but be mindful of the pits within each segment.
What it tastes like: It’s best to eat a starfruit when it’s fully ripened (it will be yellow with hints of green in colour). There is a slight earthy taste to the fruit, similar to that of a pear and apple combined. It has a grape-like texture, with a firm and crunchy exterior and a soft juicy interior.
How to eat it: Using a knife, first cut a very shallow strip length-wise off each ridge of the fruit. Cut off the top part where the stem would have been attached. Then cut the fruit width-wise in ½ inch pieces and remove the seeds.
WATER APPLES/ ROSE APPLES
Found in the southern half of Southeast Asia, water apples (also called rose apples & love apples) are a bright red, bell shaped fruit. The interior is usually colourless and contains a few small black seeds.
What it tastes like: Although called an apple, the water or rose apples don’t taste anything like an apple, and even have a different texture and density to them. It’s slightly crunchy and the flavour is similar to a very bland or bitter pear.
How to eat it: The skin and interior of the fruit are fully edible. Slice the fruit into wedges and remove the inner seeds.
How many of the 13 fruits we mentioned have you tried? Which one is your favourite?