Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fruits of Thailand

One cool bonus of a trip to a tropical climate is the opportunity to try many exotic fruits.

Tropical fruits such as oranges, bananas, pineapples, mangoes, watermelons, and grapes have longer shelf-life and can be easily transported, hence they are readily available in the West. But many other tropical fruits have shorter lifespans and don't travel well, hence they're rarely--if at all--available on the western markets. To these fruits I'm dedicating my today's blog post.

However, it has to be noted that even the tropical fruits that are available in the West often have a completely different--better!--taste in the country of their origin, so if you travel to tropical countries make sure to try them out too.

In the quest to find as many exotic tropical fruits as possible, on one morning during our week-long stay in Chiang Mai we woke up inhumanly early (at 5 a.m.!), and went to a farmer's market to buy ourselves some fresh local fruits.

This is what I bought.

Can you name all the fruits present in the picture? Before my trip to Thailand I wouldn't have been able to, so kudos if you can!

Bananas, grapes, and mangoes can be bought almost everywhere in the world, so I don't think anybody has problem identifying them. But how about those red hairy balls?

This fruit is called "rambutan." Rambutan is a seasonal fruit, available during the rainy season, between May and September. Its red and hairy casing can be easily peeled with fingers, revealing a sweet, sticky, white fruit with a single pit in the middle. The taste is delicate, lightly sweet and juicy. Mniami!

The other pink-red fruit is called "dragon fruit." Its sweet and delicious. The best way to eat it is to cut the fruit in half and scoop the flesh out with a spoon.

There are two varieties: a red one (like the one in the picture above) and a white one (like the one in the picture below). To me they taste almost the same, but some claim that the red variety is sweeter and better. Try both and decide for yourself.

The fruit on the next photo is "longkong." It's similar in taste and texture to lychee. It has white flesh, a single pit in the middle, and it's very sweet. There's also a similar fruit called "langstat," but we didn't have an opportunity to try it.

The dark violet fruit in the next photo is "mangosteen," by Thais considered to be the "Queen of Fruits." It's truly the queen, as its taste is delicious. It's so sweet, delicate, and creamy that it's difficult to stop eating after just one fruit! The mangosteen has a thick casing (about 1 cm thick), which can be cracked open with one firm squeeze revealing the delicious white flesh. The edible part of the fruit is split into segments some of which have small inedible stones.

"Rose Apples" are bell-shaped red fruits that both on the inside and the outside resemble apples, but have somewhat different taste. They're crisp and crunchy, but much less juicy and less sweet than apples. They weren't my favorites and I prefer "real" apples over the rose apples.

Thai oranges might not look as pretty as oranges sold in the West, but they're equally tasty and probably healthier.

Below is a photo of another typical Thai fruit--a "santol." I only saw it on one market and hadn't bought it then, so I can't tell you how it tastes. Regrettably, the list of other interesting tropical fruits that I haven't tried is long: pomello, star fruit, jujube, sapodila, sala, snake fruit, custard apple, jack fruit, and sweet tamarind. Well, I guess I have one more reason to come back to Thailand in the future!

Fruits in Thailand are very cheap--they cost between $0.5 to $1 per kilo--and Thai vendors are very happy to help foreigner choose ripe fruits and give instructions on how to eat them. So don't be shy about buying the fruits you don't know and indulge!