The fruits of Southeast Asia (2/2)

The fruits of Southeast Asia (2/2)

This is an article in a mini-series about fruits:

And here are the newest fruits that we found in South-Easy Asia:

Jackfruit

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Because of its size and weight (according to Wikipedia up to 90 cm in length and 35 kg in weight), jackfruit is rarely sold in one piece. Instead it’s cut up in pieces of 1-2 kg which are wrapped up in plastic foil and sold individually.

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To enjoy the fruit flesh you have to separate the elongated yellow-orange segments one by one from the outer skin, then pull them apart to remove the large light-brown seed. Wikipedia describes the taste as a combination of apple, pineapple, mango and banana, but to us jackfruit has the pleasant taste and aroma of … Fanta.

The seeds look like tasty chocolate candy, and indeed they are edible, but only after boiling or roasting them.

Marang

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Marang is a very interesting fruit with the size and shape of an ostrich egg and the texture of a massage ball with plastic knobs. Fruits which are green-yellow on the outside are optimally ripe, so avoid those which are completely yellow or brownish.

To enjoy your marang, peel off the outer layer and throw it away as it sometimes has a slightly unpleasant smell. The inside is best described as a tight cluster of  grapes, which are white, juicy and creamy. The taste and aroma resemble those of a banana, but marang is more complex and “exotic.” Once you start eating a marang finish it quickly otherwise it will lose its taste and aroma.

The relatively large seeds are edible, but only after boiling or roasting them.

Durian

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Discussions about durian are usually quite controversial. Those who like it refer to it as “the king of fruits” and rave about its incredibly complex sweet taste and rich creamy texture. All others who’ve held a durian in their hands are appalled by the idea that a person would eat something which smells this horrible.

Indeed, the smell is very strong and repulsive. If you press us for a description anyway, we’ll have to say it’s at least 10x worse than a mixture of fresh vomit and old gym socks. The smell is so strong that it escapes airtight containers and so repulsive that the fruit is forbidden from the public transport throughout south-east Asia.

So now you probably understand why we put off buying and tasting durian until our very last day in the Philippines. In fact Bojidar didn’t even want want to, but Katja convinced him that the readers of this webpage deserve to find out the truth.

So, without further ado, here is a short video of our first direct encounter with “the king of fruits”…

Even though the flesh tasted sweet and creamy, overall it was not a positive experience for Bojidar. But Katja tried more than just a fingertip of it and she actually liked it. So apparently if  are not turned off by the smell, you’ll probably enjoy your durian.

Guava

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Guava looks a lot like a pear, but usually it’s smaller and a bit more round. As the fruit ripens, the flesh turns white or pink and the thin green skin turns yellowish and shrivels a bit.

The texture is not very juicy and feels slightly gritty on the tongue. It’s comparable to that of a pear except for the numerous yellow crunchy seeds in the middle. Katja found the taste sour and refreshing, slightly reminiscent of a lemon. Bojidar, not being a big fan of sour tastes, didn’t like Guava very much.

The skin is edible, but we suggest that you peel it off. The seeds are edible and give a crunchy feeling.

Star Apple

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This fruit takes its name from the star which is visible in its flesh if you cutting the fruit horizontally. Unfortunately we cut it vertically and photographed it before learning about the English name…

A star apple has one or two small black seeds. Its skin is thick and firm but not hard, and it can be green, red or dark purple in color.

The texture of the fruit flesh reminded us of kaki/sharone. The taste is like a mixture of a very ripe banana and mulberry.

To eat a star apple you peel off the skin, remove the seeds and try to eat the flesh with your teeth and tongue, but without touching it with your lips. If you do get the sticky liquid produced by the fruit’s flesh onto your lips they will start feeling rubbery and unpleasantly sticky. Funny enough, this is not a problem for your teeth or tongue.

Even with the strange sticky liquid, the fruit is quite tasty, so don’t avoid it on purpose.

Maracuja / Passion fruit

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This egg-shaped ultralight fruit is known to many people since it’s often an essential ingredient in exotic juices. Depending on the countries you visit, you will find variations of color (from intensely orange to bright yellow, rosé or even purple), size and taste. On Wikipedia you can learn about the differences in some countries.

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The skin seems to consist of two layers. The outer layer is hard and thin, and can be smooth or shrivelled. The more shrivelled the skin, the riper the fruit. The inner layer is soft and thick and has hundreds of “threads”, each one connected to a single seed. The seeds are enclosed by gelatinous and very juicy fruit flesh and all of them seem to stick together. With a bit of fantasy it looks like a brain and a bit alien-like, don’t you think?

The general taste is fruity, pleasantly refreshing, very juicy and simultaneously sweet, sour and acidic — a mixture of orange and a really ripe honey-dew (melon). Each fruit seems to taste differently, depending on its type and the degree of ripeness. Some are sweeter, others a bit more sour.

To eat a maracuja cut it half or push your thumbs into the outer skin and break the fruit apart. Now scoop out the jelly-like flesh with a spoon or suck it out with your lips. Juice will flow out immediately, so it’s best to do the entire procedure over the kitchen sink.

Bojidar doesn’t like to chew on the crunchy seeds and thinks it’s too much work to get anything edible out of a maracuja, but Katja eats the seeds and likes this fruit very much.

Balinese sour (Buah buni)

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At first sight these small berries can easily be mistaken for large blueberries. That’s why we didn’t pay much attention to them at first, but in the end we did buy and try them.

The outer skin is very hard, so you might struggle a bit to tear it open with your thumbs. Now break up the flesh and take out the large, bean-like seed. Scratch the flesh from the skin with your teeth and enjoy a mixture of sweet and sour flavor reminiscent of unripe cherries with a touch of lemon.

Eating a few of these fruits was OK, but they didn’t make it among our favorites.

Tamarillo

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Tamarillos are native to South America, but we also found them in Southeast Asia. The fruit’s shape and its color reminded us strongly of tomatoes, and indeed Tamarillos are known as tree tomatoes. Some say they even tastes a bit like tomatoes, but we don’t quite agree.

Beneath the thin red skin you find orange-colored flesh and many small edible seeds surrounded by deeply red jelly. The flesh is predominantly sour and acidic with slight sweetness, which makes the fruit quite refreshing. The taste reminds us remotely of kiwi and passion fruit.

To enjoy the Tamarillo choose a dark red and slightly soft fruit, cut it half and scoop out the inner part of the flesh and seeds. Do not eat the skin as it tastes sour.

Sabo

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This oval-shaped fruit has a dull yellow-brownish skin, which feels a bit furry. The fruit flesh is similar in color, maybe a bit more reddish in the centre. It’s relatively firm and has a shiny black seed in the middle. The taste is sweet, similar to honey with a hint of pear. The texture is slightly grainy, also similar to a pear.

The skin is not edible, so peal it off, and remove the seed(s) before enjoying the tasty fruit flesh.

Longan

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Also known as Dragon eyes, this small fruit is sold in bunches, and can easily be confused with litchi (lychee). But while the litchi has a rough reddish skin and an intensely white flesh, the longan is yellow-brown on the outside and white-transparent inside. Both fruits have a big black seed in the middle.

We found the taste pleasant and very similar to litchi, but peeling off the outer skin and then removing the flesh from the seed felt like too much work for the relatively small amount of fruit flesh.

This article is part of mini-series about fruits:


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