Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tropical Fruit Extravaganza!

There are many reasons to go abroad, but did you know that one of them is for fruit? Indeed! In many tropical countries, you can get fresh, exotic fruit anywhere, from the market to the street, and it will be cheap too! Or you can learn how those fruits are used in the local cuisine.
Here are eight delicious fruits you can try if you study in the tropics, especially in Asia.


What you’re looking at is not the egg of some fabulous alien creature. It’s the rambutan, a grape-sized fruit related to the lychee. To eat a rambutan, you peel of the hairy skin, eat the meaty goodness inside, and spit out the pit at the center of the meaty goodness.


You don’t mess with a fruit that has such an awesome name. The dragonfruit has a cool name in just about every language, always referencing the awesome mythological creature. It’s good for juices and smoothies. The taste is considered bland, somewhat like melon, with a mild sweetness.


I know what you’re thinking. “Come on, Nate! I’ve had bananas before! I love bananas! I’m bananas about bananas!” Those things may be things that are true. However, contrary to what you may have heard from friends of former ‘80s sitcom stars, the banana is not uniform across the globe. In Southeast Asia, where the banana originated, there are many varieties of banana. Some are eaten raw, some are only used for cooking. Wild bananas often look very different than what our conception of a banana is. In my experience abroad, most bananas were a bit bigger than my thumb, and not nearly as curved as the ones you see here. Also, it is so much easier to open a banana when you pinch it and peel from the bottom as opposed to the stem. Really, so much easier.


This is another fruit I was unaware of before seeing it abroad. My first impression was that it looks like a pretty cool fruit. I have not tried it, but the taste has been described as “tangy”. It is occasionally described as the “Queen of Fruits”, due to a legend that Queen Victoria had offered knighthood to whomever could bring her fresh mangosteen.
Guavas are native to Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. They are often made into candies. Fun fact: the guava is referred to as “farang” in Thai. Western foreigners in Thailand are also referred to as “farang”. If a Thai person sees a white person eating guava, they usually have a good laugh about it.


“First bananas, now coconuts? Nate, you’re crazy! Also, isn’t that actually a nut?” Well, smart guy, coconuts aren’t actually drupes, so there. Coconuts are fairly ubiquitous in the tropics, as a result of their amazing ability to float along in ocean currents and beach themselves in new areas. Coconut water is very popular in many areas. Coconut water is a liquid in young coconuts that serves as the suspension for the endosperm during its nuclear phase of development. Yum yum! No, really, it’s delicious. There is also coconut milk, which is different. That comes from the meat of mature coconuts, which is grated and soaked in warm water. Coconuts find there was into many dishes across the tropics. In Thailand, they’re found in many soups and curries.


The jackfruit is the world’s largest tree-born fruit. The word for jackfruit comes from the Portuguese “jaca,” which in turn comes from Malayalam chakka. It is a very important fruit in Indian agriculture, and with taste described as “starchy and fibrous,” and “a combination of apple, pineapple, mango, and banana”.


Last but certainly not least is the mango, one of the most cultivated fruits of the tropics. They are native to South Asia, and culturally significant in the region. The mango is the national fruit of India, and its tree is the national tree of Bangladesh. In Thailand, “mango and sticky rice” is a popular desert.

Some of you may have heard of another, more infamous tropical fruit, the durian. A fruit notorious for a smell described as that of rotting flesh. Well, there is quite a lot to be said about the durian, so it will be receiving a post of its own. Stay tuned! 

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