One thing that’s great for me (as a foodie) is the amazing array of fruits that are being sold in Hong Kong. I am not talking about apple, bananas or grapes or the more exotic fruits (for us Westerners) like pineapple and mango. No, I am talking about real exotics. Fruits that I’ve never seen or tasted in Europe
This fruit is believed to have originated in the Sunda Islands and the Moluccas of Indonesia. It is now commonly found in the south of Thailand, and it appeared on markets in May and continued through most of the rainy season through late summer.
The fruit grows on trees, and it is dark purple on the outside. It has a very solid skin, and you need to use a knife to cut the skin in two. You have to be careful not to spill any of the purple liquid on your clothes, as the colour can stain. Once you’ve cut the fruit in half, you can see the white flesh (which is edible).
There are 4-8 segments, with the larger ones harbouring seeds that are unpalatable unless roasted. Often described as a subtle delicacy, the fruit has an exceptionally mild aroma and it smells a little of caramel and butter.
The word “rambut” in the fruit name ‘rambutan’ is Malay for ‘hairy,’ and this refers to the spiky rind. Indeed, without the soft spines on the rind, the rambutan would resemble the lychee which is in the same botanical family.
The structure internally is quite similar, with a single central inedible seed and edible white flesh wrapped around it but the skin is the part that makes the rambutan so distinctive in appearance.
The opening of the rambutan can be accomplished by either cutting part way into the rind or, if fresh, biting into it as the spines are quite soft and pose no threat. Once the rind is cut part way around the equator of the fruit it can be pried open. The rambutan can now be removed from the rind by squeezing until it pops out. There is one seed in the center which you discard as it is bitter.
Pitaya Fruit or commonly known as the Dragon fruit is among the most nutritious and wonderful exotic fruits. It looks fantastic from the outside, with its bright pink colour. The skin is soft, and you can easily cut the fruit in half and then peel the skin back. The inside of the fruit can be white with black seeds, or bright purple with black seeds – both looks very nice. To me the taste is similar, regardless of the white or purple flesh.
The taste is very light – personally I do like to add a little bit of lemon to it, to make a stronger contrast. The texture, is a little bit similar to a kiwi fruit, with little black crunchy seeds.
This is a very typical Chinese fruit – Chinese people love to eat it. They could eat it as it is, mix it into puddings but also make juices and drinks out of longan fruits. The longan (“dragon eyes”) is so named because its fruit, when it is shelled, resembles an eyeball (the black seed shows through the translucent flesh like a pupil/iris).
The seed is small, round and hard, and of an enamel-like, lacquered black. The fully ripened, freshly harvested shell is bark-like, thin, and firm, making the fruit easy to shell by squeezing the fruit out as if one is “cracking” a sunflower seed.
The flesh of the longan has a juicy texture reminiscent of a grape, with a mildly sweet, floral flavour. It is not as sweet as the lychee, making it a popular fruit for savory preparations in the East, where it is widely grown.
Widely known and revered in southeast Asia as the “king of fruits”, the durian is distinctive for its large size, unique odour and formidable thorn-covered husk . The fruit can grow as large as 30 centimetres long and 15 centimetres in diameter, and it typically weighs one to three kilograms. The edible flesh emits a distinctive odour, strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact.
Some people regard the durian as fragrant; others find the aroma overpowering and offensive. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as almonds, rotten onions, turpentine and gym socks. The odour has led to the fruit’s banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in southeast Asia.
The flesh can be consumed at various stages of ripeness, and it is used to flavour a wide variety of savoury and sweet edibles in Southeast Asian cuisines. The seeds can also be eaten when cooked.