South East Asia is blessed with a vast variety of exotic fruits. You can see here dragon fruit, rambutan, pomelo, mango, mangosteen, durian, jackfruit, guava and many other delicious and unique fruits. When bought in a season they can be ridiculously cheap. Here is our guide to the most popular South East Asian fruits.
Are you ready to discover them?
Watermelons are one of the most famous fruits in Southeast Asia. The fruit has a smooth hard rind—usually green with dark green stripes or yellow spots—and a sweet, juicy interior flesh—usually deep red to pink, but sometimes orange, yellow, or white—with many seeds, which can be soft and white or hard and black. The fruit can be eaten raw, pickled or the rind cooked.
Meyer lemon is a citrus fruit native to China thought to be a cross between a true lemon and either a mandarin or common orange. The Meyer lemon fruit is yellow and rounder than a true lemon. The skin is fragrant and thin, colored a deep yellow with a slight orange tint when ripe. Meyer lemon fruits have a sweeter, less acidic flavor than supermarket lemon varieties.
Sapodilla is grown in large quantities in India, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Mexico. It looks a bit like a mix of kiwifruits and potatoes and tastes similar to the pear. A fully ripened fruit has saggy skin and does not release chicle when picked. Each fruit contains one to six seeds that are hard, glossy, and black, resembling beans, with a hook at one end. You can cut sapodilla in halves, take the seeds out and eat the flesh with a spoon.
Lychee is a tropical fruit tree native to southern China and now cultivated in many parts of the world. The outside of the fruit is covered by a pink-red, roughly-textured rind that is inedible but easily removed to expose a layer of sweet, translucent white flesh. The fresh fruit has a delicate, whitish pulp with a floral smell and a fragrant, sweet flavor. Since this perfume-like flavor is lost in the process of canning, lychee is usually eaten fresh or added to desserts and served with ice cream.
The fruit of a species of tree belonging to the Mahogany family, the langsat is oval, round or elliptical in shape. The fruits look much like small potatoes and are borne in clusters similar to grapes. Langsat contains 1 to 3 seeds, flat, and bitter tasting; the seeds are covered with a thick, clear-white aril that tastes sweet and sour. The taste has been likened to a combination of grape and grapefruit and is considered excellent by most. The sweet juicy flesh contains sucrose, fructose, and glucose. Langsats are eaten raw or bottled as syrups.
Goji Berry (or wolfberry) is the fruit of a shrub native to China. This fruit is bright orange-red, ellipsoid berry 1–2 cm in diameter. The number of seeds in each berry varies widely based on cultivar and fruit size, containing 10–60 tiny yellow seeds that are compressed with a curved embryo. The berries ripen from July to October. As food, dried wolfberries are traditionally cooked before consumption and often added to rice congee and almond jelly, as well as used in Chinese tonic soups.
Kumquats are a group of small fruit-bearing trees in the flowering plant family Rutaceae, native to Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region. The edible fruit closely resembles that of the orange, but it is much smaller, being approximately the size and shape of a large olive. The peel has a sweet flavor, but the fruit has a sour center. The fruit can be eaten cooked but is mainly used to make marmalades and jellies.
The star fruit, also known as carambola, is the fruit of a species of trees native to South Asia. The fruit has distinctive ridges running down its sides (usually five but can sometimes vary); in cross-section, it resembles a star, hence its name. The skin is thin, smooth, and waxy and turns a light to dark yellow when ripe. Ripe carambolas are sweet without being overwhelming as they rarely have more than 4% sugar content. The taste is difficult to compare, but it has been likened to a mix of apple, pear, grape, and citrus fruits. Unripe starfruits are firmer and sour and taste like green apples. They may also be used in cooking and can be made into relishes, preserves, and juice drinks.
It is cultivated commercially in tropical and subtropical areas for its sweet, seedy fruit. The passion fruit is a pepo, a type of berry, round or oval, either yellow or dark purple at maturity, with a soft to firm, juicy interior filled with numerous seeds. The fruit is both eaten and juiced. Maracuja juice is often added to other fruit juices to enhance the aroma.
Soursop is the fruit of Annona muricata, a broadleaf, flowering, evergreen tree. The fruits are dark green and prickly with aromatic, juicy flesh. The taste of the fruit can be described as a combination of strawberry and pineapple, with sour citrus notes contrasting with an underlying creamy flavor reminiscent of coconut or banana. Soursop is widely promoted as an alternative cancer treatment.
The fruit is round and typically measures from 2 to 3 inches in diameter. When ripe, it usually purple-skinned with a faint green area appearing around the calyx. A radiating star pattern is visible in the pulp. The skin is rich in latex, and both it and the rind are not edible. Star apples are delicious as a fresh dessert fruit; it is sweet and best served chilled. Infusions of the leaves have been used against diabetes and articular rheumatism. The fruit also exists in three colors, dark purple, greenish brown and yellow. The purple fruit has a denser skin and texture while the greenish brown fruit has a thin skin and a more liquid pulp; the yellow variety is less common and difficult to find.
Tamarillo is a wonderful egg-shaped fruit. Its color varies from yellow and orange to red and almost purple. Sometimes tamarillo has dark, longitudinal stripes. Red fruits are more acetous, yellow and orange fruits are sweeter. The flesh has a firm texture and contains many large seeds. This fruit is very high in vitamins and iron and low in calories.
The tamarind tree produces edible, pod-like fruit which is used extensively in cuisines around the world. The fruit has a fleshy and juicy pulp. It is mature when the flesh is colored brown or reddish brown. The tamarinds of Asia have longer pods containing 6 to 12 seeds. The seeds are somewhat flattened and glossy brown. The tamarind is best described as sweet and sour in taste and is high in tartaric acid, sugar, B vitamins and calcium.