FRUITS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
Among the locally consumed fruits are pineapples, bananas, coconuts, mangos, papaya, and wide variety of local fruits. In southern Southeast Asia and China you can find things like guavas, rambutans (lychee-like fruit) lychees, custard apple (zurzat), bread fruit, passion fruit, jerek (pomelo), starfruit, and smelly but delicious durians.
Carambola or Star fruit (Khe) come in the colors yellow, orange or green. Cut into cross sections to reveal its star shape. Eaten raw and finely sliced, the young star fruit has an acidic taste and is often served on a Vietnamese vegetable platter along with unripe, sliced banana. Soursop (zurkal,, sirsak) is a fibrous fruit with s a warty, green-skinned fruit that cover a soft, juicy white pulp. You can peel it or slice it into segments. Soursop is shaped like a human heart and has a a tart, slightly lemony, custard-banana flavor. Some say they taste like mangosteens.
Woodapples are a tasty fruit inside a wood-like shell. Water apples are a pink bell-shaped fruit with a refreshing flesh. Salak is small and ear shaped and has brown snakeskin covering and tastes like a cross between an apple and a walnut. Peal of the skin to get at the fruit. each segment contains a large, brown seed.
Sawo is a brown-skin fruit that looks like a potato and has a honey-flavored flesh. Bitter melons from Southeast Asia are made into drinks and cooked and stuffed like peppers. “Lamoht“ resemble big kiwis. Calamondins are sour, limelike fruits used to season fish and meats. Other fruits found in Southeast Asia include guanabanas, uvilla, Malay apples, pulasans and cherry-size plums.
Lychees and Longan
Lychee is cultivated in the humid tropical regions for its fruit and wood. Lychees are exquisite fruits encased in brown skin which is peeled to reveal white tropical, juicy fruit. Lychees are somewhat similar to longans. Unlike the skin of the longan, which is rather smooth, the dark red skin of the litchi is rough and rippled. The meat of the litchi is also transparent white, but it is thicker and juicier than that of a longan. The litchi seed is also smaller than the longan seed. +++
Native to southern China and found in large quantities in India, Taiwan and Southeast Asia, lychees come from an evergreen tree, are rich in vitamin C and have a grape-like texture. The fruit has started making its appearance in markets worldwide, refrigerated or canned with its taste intact. [Source:http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/10-must-try-exotic-fruits/
Lychees are a sweet, plum-size fruit popular in China and Southeast Asia. They have a red, acorn-like shell and a white gelatinous flesh. They are often made into juice. Chinese like them more than oranges. One food critic called the fruit a "taut, membranous flesh which looks more like a sea creature than a fruit" and said it "slices from the shell like a hard boiled egg."
Lychees are the size of a walnut and have a sweet flesh coveted by Chinese emperors, who had special courtiers that brought them to their palaces, and extolled by Tang dynasty poets. Longans are similar to lychees.
Longan are small brown skinned fruits. The inside is a juicy cream colored fruit with seed. In Vietnam longans were among the food items reserved as tributes to the Kings. The fruit is as small as the tip of a thumb. Inside the thin and light brown skin is the transparent white pulp which covers a small glossy black seed. The thicker the pulp, the juicier, more fragrant, and crisp the pulp. Longan is a protein rich fruit. It is usually used as a main ingredient, along with lotus seeds, to make sweet soup, which is considered a very good summer refreshment. The seedless longan, when dried, is also a very fine choice for connoisseurs. +++
Rambutans are bright red fruit, covered in soft, hairy spikes. They are somewhat similar to lychees. In some places they are so valuable that growers have to guard their trees from poachers. Rambutan means “hairy.” You have to break it open like a nut to get at the white fruit inside.
The rambutan exterior is a vibrant pink, with hints of green, with a coat of thin, long, soft spikes. Inside, the fruit is similar to a lychee, but thicker and sweeter. This fruit is native to Malaysia, and has spread throughout Southeast Asia. It grows to a limited degree in India, and parts of South America.
Rambutan fruit has a tender, translucent, white flesh with a cool sweet flavor. A rambutan tree has broad foliage and many branches. In warm areas the tree yields fruit at the beginning of the rainy season . The season lasts until the end of the rainy season (from May to October). The skin of this fruit is tough, thick and hairy. [Source: Sawadee.com +++]
When buying rambutans look for fruit that are bright in colour, with little-to-no browning at the tips of the spikes. Rambutans contain some protein and fat, as well as phosphorous, iron, calcium, and vitamin C. It is thought that the seeds, when eaten raw, can help to reduce body fat. Copper and zinc are also prominent in the fruit. Rambutans come from an evergreen tree. They are a popular garden fruit tree and one of the most famous in Southeast Asia. The fruit is juicy and commonly found in jams or available canned. [Source:http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/10-must-try-exotic-fruits/
Jackfruit is the world's largest tree fruit. Native of Southeast Asia, it is brown and is covered by spikes like a durian and can weigh 60 pounds or more. A relative of the smaller breadfruit, it is produced by a tall, evergreen tree, and has a strange, musty flavor and odor like "a cross between an open grave and a sewer." The fruit breaks up into hundreds of slightly-rubbery, bright orange-yellow segments. The wood from the jackfruit trees is used in some places to make furniture.
Jackfruit flesh is eaten raw or cooked, often into a curry. Its seeds are boiled like chestnuts. The taste of the white pulp has been described a cross between a pineapple and an overripe melon. Vietnamese like to dip jackfruit into a mixture of salt, sugar and chopped chilies.
Jackfruit (Mit) is a large, green fruit with a tough, knobbly skin which reveals a yellow segmented flesh when opened. With a taste described a cross between a pineapple and an overripe melon, it It contains a lot of sugar and calories and has a taste that is naturally sweet. In Vietnam, the young jackfruit is used like a vegetable in cooking or in salad. Vietnamese like to dip jackfruit into a mixture of salt, sugar and chopped chilies.
Jackfruit grow on every part of the tree: the trunk, branches, and even on the roots. Jackfruit trees bear approximately 150 to 200 fruits per year. When the fruit are ripe, their pulp is yellow and sweet, containing a lot or little juice depending on the species. Nu jackfruits are small and come from a short tree. The flesh of ripe fruit is firmly stuck to the core; when eating a jackfruit, simply hold the core and pull it out. In the south, the to nu jackfruit harvest season starts from March to June. There are several other species of jackfruits divided into two main groups: hard jackfruits with hard and crunchy flesh, and soft jackfruits with soft flesh and a lot of juice. [Source: Sawadee.com +++]
According to hotelclub.com: Native to southwestern India, Bangladesh, Philippines and Sri Lanka, jackfruit is a common fruit for Asia and Australia. The juicy pulp around the seeds have a taste similar to pineapple, but milder. Unlike durian, jackfruit it is almost universally-liked, as it has the vague taste of cotton candy. This fruit is believed to be indigenous to the rainforests of the Western Ghats, located in India, and has long been cultivated throughout much of Southeast Asia. Apart from canned jackfruit, it is also available as sweet chips. The wood of the tree is used for making various musical instruments, while the fruit is a common ingredient for many Asian dishes. [Source:http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/10-must-try-exotic-fruits/
“Jackfruit is high in sugar (hence its candy-like taste), but also a good source of vitamins A and C. It’s also rich in dietary fibre, and antioxidant flavinoids like beta-carotene and lutein, which are known to protect against certain kinds of cancer. Like durian, jackfruit is sold extracted from its shell. When buying make sure the fruit doesn’t look limp – it should be crunchy. The fruit is in season from March to July or August. [Ibid]
Rose Apples and Star Apples
The rose apple is sweeter than an apple, and shaped like a pear. Its exterior is pinky-red, rigged, and shiny, and the fruit is crunchy. The inside is white and has a subtle, watery, and vaguely apple-like taste. Native to the East Indies and Malaysia, the rose apple has been cultivated and naturalized in many parts of Southeast Asia and India. [Source:http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/10-must-try-exotic-fruits/
According to hotelclub.com: Rose apple is known to be a helpful fruit for diabetics, since it is thought to affect the pancreas, blocking the conversion of starch into sugar. It is also known to help with diarrhea, sterility in females, and liver problems. Rose apple season varies widely, but can start as early as January, and is usually over by July. The fruit often comes pre-cut at roadside stands. Look out for bruising or browning around the edges.
Star Apple is known in Vietnamese as "vu sua," milk from the breast." The shape of the star apple matches the name attached to it, as does its juice which is fragrantly sweet and milky white like breast milk. The most popular way to enjoy the fruit is to eat the whole fruit. People tend to drill a small hole at the top of the fruit, lift it to their mouths, lean their heads backward, and drink the flow of the fragrant juice as a baby sucks milk from its mother's breast. One thing you should remember before taking in the juice is that you must squeeze the tough fruit until it becomes tender so that the juice mixes with the meat of the fruit to become a sweet and fragrant muddy substance that looks like breast milk. A novice will certainly peel the fruit with a sharp knife, which may cause the precious juice inside to be wasted. When using a knife to cut the fruit, it is advisable to cut the fruit into two parts before using a spoon to scoop out the pulp, bit by bit, until nothing is left. The most famous star apple orchard is located in Can Tho Province in the Mekong River Delta. The round smooth fruit are all of equal size. +++
Custard apple is tough, bumpy and green on the outside, and white and thick, creamy and granular flesh on the inside, with medium-sized black seeds. It has a vaguely sweet taste and is believed to be native to the West Indies, but has been since introduced to many of the world’s tropical regions. It is common throughout most of Southeast Asia. In India, it is eaten only by the lower classes.
According to hotelclub.com: Custard apple is high in vitamins A and C, as well as magnesium, potassium, and dietary fibre. It is also rich in iron, phosphorous, calcium, and riboflavin. It is known to cure digestion issues and vertigo. The shell should be a yellow or brownish to signify the apple is ripe, and it should not be split anywhere. The fruit inside should be soft to the touch. The flesh can be scooped out of the shell and eaten as is.
Custard apple comes in two varieties in Vietnam: firm and soft. Both varieties can have various shapes, for example they can be round or oval. When a custard apples is ripe, it is easy to peel. The peel is thick, green, and covered with white or green pollen. The pulp is white or light yellow and contains many black seeds. In the south, custard apples ripen in July, but not all at the same time. Xiem custard apples are oval or heart shaped. Their peel is green with thorns, which turn black when the fruit is ripe. The fruits are generally big and can reach 1.5 kilograms. The pulp is white, hard, and a bit sour. Custard apple trees deliver fruit after three or four years of growth. A tree produces on average from 50 to 100 fruits per year. The fruits ripens on the tree and then cracks, especially during the rainy season. +++
Dragonfruit is so named because it grows on a tree-climbing vine that resembles a cactus. It is size and shape of pineapple, with a smooth skin and white seed-laced meat with a gentle taste similar to kiwi fruit. There are two varieties of dragon fruit: one with bright red flesh and the other white. Both have tiny black seeds. Although it can be bland in flavor it makes a striking addition to a fruit platter.
Dragonfruit is wild-looking but gentle tasting. Native to Mexico and Central and South America and also known as the strawberry pear or pitaya is a fruit of several cactus species with a sweet delicate taste and creamy pulp. The most common dragon fruit is the red pitaya, but other varieties include the Costa Rica pataya and the yellow pataya. Juice or wine can be obtained from the fruit, while the flowers can be eaten or used for tea. [Source: http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/10-must-try-exotic-fruits/
Dragon fruit has a spiky, scaly vibrant pink or yellow exterior. The scales are likely what it derived its name from. Inside is either a bright purple or vivid white flesh dotted with tiny seeds, which tastes sweet when in season, and relatively bland and even sour when out-of-season. Though native to Central America, the fruit was introduced to Vietnam by the French over 100 years ago, and became one of the country’s most profitable crops. It has since spread across Southeast Asia.
According to hotelclub.com: Dragon fruit is known to improve eyesight and prevent hypertension. Its seeds (which are difficult to remove and usually eaten with the flesh) are thought to control blood glucose levels in people with a certain kind of diabetes. The purple flesh variety is high in antioxidants. The fruit is ripe when the green, spiney leaves (the spikes) turn brown and dry. It’s not advisable to eat the skin, so it’s best to buy it pre-cut and peeled. The purple flesh variety will stain clothes, so be careful.
Green dragon (Thanh Long) is the name of a newly cultivated fruit in Vietnam . It is rather big, weighs from 200 to 500 grams, and has pink or dark-red color. The ripe fruit looks like the kohlrabi cabbage and has an oval shape. When ripe, the fruit peels as easily as a banana. Its pulp is white and gelatinous. The pulp contains many seeds that cannot be extracted. The seeds taste like cactus, giving the fruit a sweet and sour taste. Before 1945, green dragon fruits were not sold in southern markets. It is said that Americans brought green dragon fruits to the south. From Phan Thiet to Nha Trang or from Ninh Hoa to Buon Ma Thuot, bushes of green dragon fruits can be seen climbing to tree trunks in gardens and even on doors. The fruit is available in markets in October, November, April, and May. It is more expensive in October and April, since there are smaller quantities available then. +++
Sweet Tamarind and Sapodilla
Sweet tamarind comes in long, brown pod form. The flesh inside is dark-coloured, chewy acidic, and, as the name implies, sweet. The flesh is wrapped around black, jewel-like seeds. This fruit is native to tropical Africa, and reached India several thousands of years ago through human transportation. It spread throughout tropical Asia, and even into China. [Source:http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/10-must-try-exotic-fruits/
According to hotelclub.com: Tamarind typically comes into season during the dry months, around December to April. Buy quite a few pods, since the yield inside is much less than it may seem on the outside. To eat, break the shell and remove the strings. Fish out the dark flesh and be sure to watch out for the hard seeds. Tamarind is a favoured snack among Asian women because it’s a fat-free, tasty snack. It is high in both vitamin B, and calcium (which is unusual for a fruit). Tamarind is used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for gastric and digestion problems. It is also thought to be a laxative, an antiseptic, antiviral, and curative for a long list of ailments.
Sapodilla fruit is shaped like an egg and weighs from 10 to 200 grams. Its peel is brown with tiny cracks near the stalk. The pulp, which is brown and yellow, is very juicy and smells very sweet. When it is not ripe, it is not edible because it contains a lot of sticky resin. There are two popular species of sapodilla grown in Vietnam: orange pulp and white-yellow pulp sapodilla. The orange pulp sapodilla is planted in the north on the highlands. The pulp of the white-yellow sapodilla is light yellow or yellow and the peel is green or yellow. The peel is thin; the pulp is soft and has taste of peach, banana, and apple. Sapodilla flower consecutively bloom in bunches so that it has fruits to offer throughout the year. +++
Mangoes and Green Mango
Mangoes come in many varieties. In Vietnam they are divided into several kinds, known locally as xoai cat, xoai tuong, xoai xiem and xoai ngua to cite just a few. The finest mangoes are xoai cat. This type of fruit has a bright yellow peel, a round shape, and weighs as much 0.5 kilograms. The meat is considered sweeter and more fragrant than that of other varieties. [Source: Sawadee.com +++]
The green mango is a hard, starchy, green version of a mango and is not a dessert like its sweet, yellow cousin. Instead, it is sour, and often used in main dishes and salads in Southeast Asia. The mango, and all its varieties, is native to Southeast Asia (notably Burma), and India. [Source:http://www.hotelclub.com/blog/10-must-try-exotic-fruits/
According to hotelclub.com: It’s possible to get fresh green mango from fruit stands almost any time of the year. It usually comes with salt or sugar to dip the pieces in. Look for a nice, green colour in your fruit. The unripe mango is rich in pectin, which is a soluble fiber that aids in intestinal regulation. Green mangoes are also rich in vitamin C (much more than ripe mangoes), and vitamins B1 and B2.
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Last updated April 2022