Quirky Asian Fruits

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

Lovely lychees. Image from ifood.tv

The rich agricultural soils in Asia have really borne much fruit. And I thought I’d talk about a few of the more quirky ones in this post. By “quirky” I mean not just that they are a little strange, but that the cultures that grow them use them in ways that are unusual, ways that you might be interested to try.

After all, a lot of these fruits are, with a little luck, easily found in Asian food stores that pepper a lot of cities, and sometimes one doesn’t even have to go to a specialty food store to get it.

Lychee

Lychees are lovely fruits. They have a beautiful blush-colored skin that peel off to reveal juicy translucent flesh. They have pits, which I think are particularly gorgeous — rich red-brown and very, very glossy — I swear, they look like they should be on earrings or something.

Image from HotelClub Travel Blog

It would be awesome to find them fresh, but they are more easily found peeled, pitted and canned, in wonderfully heady syrup.

These fruits find their way in simple, fresh desserts that are very popular in Chinese cuisine, the most well-loved of which probably is almond jelly.

Another recipe you might also enjoy is this exotic fruit salad recipe from Steamy Kitchen.

Avocado

Though this fruit was first cultivated in Central and South America, it eventually found its way to and put down roots in Asia, Australia, and Africa — and from there to dining tables in the rest of the world.

Avocados are strange fruits because they are so unlike other fruits. Where others are cool and juicy, avocados are creamy and custard-y. Where others are fragrant, sweet and/or tart, avocados have a totally mild and mellow flavor that is most unusual.

Avocados are usually used as savory salad component and guacamole ingredient in North and Central America, but it some parts of the world, they make wonderfully rich desserts. In Africa and Asia, they are eaten with sugar and milk, and are used in ice creams and milkshakes.

Pomelo

Usually weighing more than a kilogram each, the pomelo is the largest of the citrus fruits, and is grown almost exclusively in Southeast Asia. It may look like an overly large grapefruit, but has none of the bitter taste — it is sweet with a slight tartness, and packs a punch in terms of aroma.

A pomelo and a grapefruit

I have sat down to many a pomelo eating sessions, wherein each person is in charge of taking the rind off his or her own fruit, pulling it into segments and peeling off the slightly thick membrane to get to the pulp within. Sprinkle in some rock salt and then… bliss.

Southeast Asian cuisines tend to love a certain blend of a lot of S’s — sweet, salty, sour, and spicy, and pomelo is great at providing that sweet component. A prime example of this is the Thai shrimp and pomelo salad, which has this complex balance of chili, lime, fish sauce, and sugar in the dressing.

Durian

Oh I have previously waxed about this “king of fruits”, quite extensively too, and you can read it here.  And though many find it foul-smellingly repulsive, countless others have acquired a taste for it and find it delightful, and can’t get enough of it.

Indeed, the durian is not only enjoyed fresh from its prickly shell in its musky, creamy glory, but it is also well-loved as an ice cream flavor, and as an ingredient in smoothies, candies, and even creme brulee.

Guava

The guava is another fruit with a strong odor, but one that is generally found to be pleasantly sweet and heady. Some varieties are crunchy like pears, while some have a softer give, like that of a melon. It has a high concentration of Vitamin C, and many a health drink manufacturer has since bottled and sold it in juice form.

In the Philippines, the tart varieties of guava are used in sinigang, a traditional sour soup.

Guavas are also high in pectin, which allows it to make beautiful jellies. Try it with peanut butter for a more exotic P B and J sandwich.

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