Asia’s Exotic Beauties

There are many exotic looking fruits in Asia and trying to figure out which ones to eat or how to eat them can be daunting. I’ll do the research and hopefully the upcoming postings will encourage you to sample these beauties.

What is this hairy fruit? Surely it’s not something for human consumption. When I first saw this fruit I didn’t think it was edible and thought it was in the market for decoration. Oh, how wrong I was. The red, pink, or yellow fruit, 3-5 cm long, consists of a single seed covered by a translucent, juicy but firm, sweet pulp. The fruit is sold fresh and can also used in making jams and jellies.

It’s a close relative of the lychee. It distinguishes itself from the lychee by its soft, red hairy rind. Sometimes, it is called the hairy lychee and it derives its name from the Malaysian word for hair, “rambut.”

To open rambutans, partially cut through the skin, or just break open using a strong thumb-nail. The large seed is not to be eaten as it is bitter.

It’s so prehistoric looking that one could imagine only dinosaurs enjoying! The jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, weighing up to 90 pounds (you won’t find me resting under that tree!). At first I thought it was a big Durian but then the Durian has a very hard shell whereas the Jack Fruit I’ve seen doesn’t. However, for exporting purposes Jackfruit does come in the ‘hard shell’ variety!

Each jackfruit contains large, edible seeds – up to 500 of them – known as breadnuts. The seeds are starchy, like chestnuts, and are similarly roasted, processed for flour, and candied. The seeds are wrapped in bulbs of yellow or pink flesh. When ripe, the flesh takes on a thick, chewy texture, and is candy-sweet. Unripe jackfruit flesh can be cooked as a starchy vegetable.

If you do come across a whole jackfruit, there are several ways to tell if it’s ripe and ready to eat. Its pale green skin will turn yellow or brown, and as the fruit expands, the skin stretches, causing its spikes to stand apart from each other. The smell of a ripe jackfruit is another dead giveaway. Many people say it just plain stinks. However, once cut, the inside of the jackfruit smells delicious, like bananas and pineapple.

As I watched the lady in the wet market dissect the fruit, it was as if she was unveiling little presents all neatly wrapped up.