One of the definitive joys of a trip to Southeast Asia, particularly destinations
like Bali, Phuket or Koh Samui is the bewildering array of tropical fruit on offer. Although most people around the world can now pick form a reasonable selection of ripe delights imported direct to their local supermarket, there's nothing quite like the taste of a fresh pineapple, papaya or watermelon that has only recently been plucked from the source, especially when it's hand selected by a fruit connoisseur, which most people in this region are proud to be.
Fruit is such an integral part of daily life in places like Thailand
that it is often the topic of intense conversation, much like the weather in parts of the world where the chance of blue skies are rare enough to become question of debate. The relative merits of different sizes of banana is a common topic when people bump into each other on the street or visit each others houses, often bearing fruit rather than flowers as a gesture of goodwill. The smaller the sweeter is generally the rule of thumb in the case of bananas, but the fruit discussion can get much more complex than that, with people even taking sides and expanding the virtues of one type of lychee over another almost as a point of honour. Ask a local person in Bali or Phuket for their top 3 fruit choices, and you will quickly learn that fruit is as much a passion as it is a delicacy, and that seasons, prices and even source locations come into the quality equation, just as grape and vintage dictate the relative merits of fine wine.
If you prefer to simply indulge in the cornucopia of fresh fruit on offer in Asia rather than start a conversation about it, the opportunities to enjoy all manner of varieties, whether whole or in a refreshing juice are plentiful. A trip to the local market reveals stalls piled high with every shape and colour imaginable, and the market traders will more than happily offer you a taste of some of the more unusual tropical varieties that for them are an everyday staple. Fast fruit vendors also abound, armed with knives and plastic bags to slice and serve up succulent segments throughout the day, and you will find that most local restaurants provide a plate of fruit with breakfast, while the best hotels and villas will greet you with a tropical treat waiting in the bedroom on arrival to set the scene for a delicious stay.
Global fruit favourites tend to dominate on the menus of most toruit oriented restaurants and hotels, but if you familiarise yourself with a wider variety of Southeast Asian specials in advance, you will easily find them on sale in local shops and if you're stay in a private villa, the cook will eagerly source whatever variety takes your fancy, even making personal recommendations to help you extend the taste experience.
Below are five of the fruit varieties considered quite common to locals in Thailand and Bali, yet often a pleasant surprise to visitors in Southeast Asia's most popular destinations. Not only do they taste fantastic, they have also been identified for their health-giving, even curative properties.
A top choice in Indonesia, star fruit is deliciously crisp, with sweet, yet also slightly citrus tones and oodles of tasty juice, making it an ideal drinks as well as refreshing choice to munch in hot weather. The texture and succulence of starfruit also make them a popular choice for fruit salads.
Originally from southern China, but also widely grown in Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia where sit also boasts close cousins such as the logan and langsat, this modest, fleshy fruit has a texture similar to a grape, but with more texture, and circling a smooth stone. Canned versions often have the stone removed, but the taste and succulence when eaten fresh is a whole different experience.
The unique appearance of mangosteen almost seems hand crafted. It's touch purple shell, breaks open softly to reveal creamy, white segments with a peach-like quality and hint of citrus. Their rich texture and flavour combinations give mangosteens a special character that has elevated the fruit to the top of the treat chain and it is often served as an exquisite desert.
A real home grown favourite, once split open, the hairy red and green rambutan has plenty in common with a lychee, and even though the actual fruit is smaller than its cousin, there seems to be more flesh and therefore more juice to savour once you negotiate the soft spiky shell.
Another tropical fruit with a taste and texture that gives it an air of exquisiteness, the custard apple is moist and sweet with a pleasant aroma. Sugary and granular, it’s this custard like texture that gives the fruit its name and its a great choice for a shake or smoothy.
The above selection barely scratches the peel when it comes to the variety and pleasure on offer in Southeast Asia's overflowing fruit baskets, but they offer a juicy starting point for an exploration of flavour that will take you from sweet to sour, bitter to bursting with syrup. Make sure you take some time to make the most of the smorgasbord of fine fruit that falls so readily onto your plate during a trip to the tropics. You may even head home with a whole new topic of conversation to turn to when you bump int your neighbours at the supermarket.
by LVH Marketing