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Food: Ten Tropical Fruit Treats

Updated: Apr 27

Can’t differentiate between a mang cut and a mang cau in Vietnam? Don’t know a lychee from a longan? Not sure what to do with a dragonfruit? Here are ten tropical fruit treats to try.


Rambutan


Appearance: Rambutan are small, round fruit with thick skin that turns from green to yellow to red as it ripens. Overripe, they turn deep red and are hard enough to crack skulls. The skin has soft fleshy hair over the entire surface. The flesh inside is white and firm, with a central stone. Both rambutan and longan are the offspring of lychees.


Flavour: Rambutan have a light, sweet flavour with a faintly acidic tang. The flesh is a similar consistency to grapes.


Try: Rambutan and mint blended with ice makes a deliciously refreshing cooler.


Trivia: Rambut means hair in Malaysia, giving rambutan the nickname the Hairy Cherry.



Pomelo

Appearance: Pomelo are the largest citrus fruit, ranging between 15-25cms in diameter and weighing over a kilo each. They are shades of green or yellow, with an extremely thick rind and pale yellow or pink flesh, similar to grapefruit. The skin around each segment is too thick and woody to eat.


Flavour: If you could remove the bitterness from a grapefruit, you'd have a pomelo. The pink-flesh fruit are sour and rarely eaten.


Try: Pomelo rind can be used to make marmalade.


Trivia: The pomelo is sometimes called Shaddock, named after the English Captain who took it to the Caribbean during the 17th Century.



Custard Apple


Appearance: Custard apples are round and bumpy and the peel is thick and covered with white or green pollen. It looks like dragon scales if you have the right imagination. The pulp is white or light yellow and contains a lot of black seeds.


Flavour: The custard apple has an unusual texture – gritty, but juicy. It is a sweet bread-pudding like fruit.


Try: Blend equal amounts of custard apple puree and ranch dressing to make a sweet dressing perfect for a summer salad.


Trivia: If you want to speed up the ripening process of a custard apple, put it in a paper bag with a banana.



Mangosteen


Appearance: Mangosteens are slightly smaller than a tennis ball, with a deep purplly-black rough skin. The skin is fleshy and inside there are partly transparent, white pulp segments.


Flavour: The segments taste both sweet and sour and have an acidic after-taste, close to the flavour of a peach.


Try: Mangosteens can be used to make chutney with zing. Just throw chilli, onion, mangosteen, lime juice and brown sugar in a frying pan and stir gently until the onion and mangosteen soften.


Trivia: Mangosteen is hard to grow, taking 8-15 years for a tree to bear fruit.


Jackfruit


Appearance: Jackfruits are usually oblong and grow up to 90cm long, weighing up to a whopping 44kgs. Jackfruits have a thick green rind with hundreds of hexagonal spines and inside there are many yellow pulp segments with a brown pit in the centre.


Flavour: The yellow flesh is rubbery and sweet. It can be torn into fleshy strips with a mild odour reminiscent of lemon-scented insect spray. The flavour is a mix between a pineapple and an almost ripe banana.


Try: Works really well in a Thai curry.


Trivia: Jackfruits grow on every part of the tree - the trunk, branches, and even the roots.



Dragonfruit


Appearance: Dragonfruit lead the pack when it comes to exotic looks. A deep pink exterior with lime green wedge-shaped spikes hides pure white flesh (or sometimes red) with hundreds of tiny black seeds.


Flavour: The flesh of the dragonfruit is light and tangy, with a hint of lemon. Take a kiwifruit, mix it with a crunchy pear, and voila, dragonfruit.


Try: For a delicious fruit salad, combine chopped mango, dragonfruit, and pineapple and sprinkle lightly with brown sugar and lime juice.


Trivia: Dragonfruit are a kind of climbing cactus with white flowers that bloom at night.



Sapodilla


Appearance: Sapodillas are shaped like eggs, with brown peel that has tiny cracks near the stalk. The pulp is yellowy brown with 2-5 black seeds in the central cavity.


Flavour: Sapodilla have a malt flavour, moving closer to caramel at the right stage of ripeness.


Try: Pressed through a colander with a splash of orange juice and topped with whipped cream, the sapodilla makes a delicious dessert sauce.


Trivia: When unripe, sapodillas are inedible as they contain a lot of sticky resin. The fruit doesn't ripen unless it is picked.



Water Apple


Appearance: Varying from pale green to ruby red, the water apple, Java apple or wax apple (along with a number of alternative names) looks much like a standard apple, but it's much lighter in weight. It is bell shaped and the centre of the fruit is hollow.


Flavour: Water apples have a mild flavour. They are crunchy and insubstantial, with a limited amount of juice. It’s like eating fairy floss sprinkled with lime juice.


Try: Water apple jam makes a tasty spread. Boil around 50 fruit with 2 cups of water until the volume halves, then strain. Simmer the juice with a cup of sugar until it sets when you drop a small amount onto a plate.


Trivia: Water apples are often used as offerings at the altar in Vietnam because of their vibrant colours.


Star Fruit


Appearance: Star Fruit are green when young, turning yellowy-orange and slightly translucent when ripe. The skin is tough while the flesh is soft. When sliced cross-wise, the pieces look like five-pointed stars.


Flavour: The entire fruit can be eaten and the flesh is juicy, sweet and sour tasting. Unripe starfruit taste like green apples, while ripe they taste like a combination of pears and oranges.


Try: Starfuit and avocado salad, with lettuce, tomato and red onion, drizzled with lemon vinaigrette.


Trivia: The five ridges running down the side of the fruit are not definite. There may be as few as three, distorting the star to a triangle.


Durian


Appearance: Resembling jackfruit, durian are large, spiky green or yellow knobbly fruit. Inside there are five pods of creamy yellow flesh with three seeds.


Flavour: If you can ignore the potent scent, the flavour is custard-like, with an almond tinge, rich and creamy, complemented by the smooth flesh. Unfortunately this is marred by the pungent odour that has led to it being banned in enclosed public transport and hotel rooms across Asia.


Try: If you can’t get past the smell, try durian ice-cream. I',m not saying it’s good, I'm just saying it smells less.


Trivia: The edible portion of a durian only accounts for around 15-30% of the total mass of the fruit.


#food

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