Apples, bananas and oranges get boring eventually and start tasting like sawdust. If you struggle to eat such mainstream fruit and thus fail to ‘get your vits’, as Aussies say, join the club and discover some exotic species of fruit popular around Asia.
If you mix them up, these succulent fruits might just revive your jaded tastebuds and make consuming vitamins more enticing. You can always try them blended at increasingly common blender-powered Asian smoothie stalls.
With its gnarly purple skin and dual-bump pale interior flesh, the sweet and juicy mangosteen looks straight from Mars. Its nickname is the Queen of Fruits thanks to Queen Victoria, who offered knighthood to any Brit who could offer her a mangosteen fruit in mint condition. Her subjects failed. The reason: it was near impossible to preserve the fruit during the weeks-long journey to England. So, oddly, the mangosteen’s majestic nickname stems from failure.
This oval spiny tropical fruit hosts a smelly, succulent pulp. Some people find it disgusting, like moldy ice-cream or kissing a cadaver. Why they hate it so much is a mystery. Durian actually tastes like creamy coconut with a mild whiff. In smoothie form, it tastes like nectar. Still, some Malaysian and Thai shopping arcades, buses and trains display signs banning durian consumption.
Rambutans look ugly. Small, red and spiny, they could be straight from a bad joke that asks what has those properties. But rambutans taste fine, a bit like lychees. And rambutans are appealingly accessible because those spines are surprisingly soft, like hairs. Give the loose skin a twist and it rips and the sweet flesh pops out.
Increasingly mainstream a la Kiwi fruit, lychees are another seductively easy-to-eat fruit that you can rip open in seconds with a little fingernail action. The moreish orbs taste a bit like grapes. Watch out for the black stone inside that consumes excessive lychee real estate and does not go down well.
If any fruit might deserve durian’s reputation for tasting vile, it is papaya. Diced papaya has a baby’s nappy smell. But, if you liquidize the orange, melon-like black-seeded tropical fruit in a shake, its flavor calms down. In fact, it actually tastes nice. Better yet, if you have been eating too many flabby, colon-blocking pork baguettes and need a detox, papaya is superb on that front – a natural laxative. If you are daring, try the sweet, tart and spicy papaya salad (som tam): a popular Thai dish that is an acquired taste, you may find.
Also called the pitaya, this slightly mushy fruit is low in calories and high in vitamin C. Leathery pink skin with leafy green shoots encases soft white or red seeded flesh – an interior texture not unlike kiwi, though thankfully free of the tingle. The pitaya plant is a type of cactus – hardy and decorative. When in southeast Asia, keep a look out for the beet-colored juice from street vendors.