Durian filled chocolate

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Durian has been my nemesis since day one on this blog. I tried it in Bali and found it taste as awful as it smells. It really does remind me of rotting onions, even though I have never tried those. Over the two years of writing my blog I have tried a variety of durian flavored products. There has been the odd occasion where I didn’t mind the durian so much, such as a durian tart served during high tea in Bangkok. This is not one of those occasions.

Dove in China has recently released a set of filled chocolates ranging from rose flavored ones to wasabi. Amongst them was also a durian filled white chocolate. Chocolate usually pairs well with just about everything. Durian, however, is the exception. It only took me one careful nibble to realise I was defeated by the king of fruits once again. Needless to say I did not enjoy it and did not finish the rest of the package. The mighty durian reigns triumphant once again.

Fear Factor – 6 / Taste Test – 0

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Quandong

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It’s difficult to really tell what Australian food is. It’s mostly British food such as meat pies and fish ‘n chips or  food with an Asian influence. More and more however, restaurants around the country are starting to cook with native Australian ingredients like the Aboriginals have done for thousands of years. During my visit to Cairns I went to a restaurant called Ochre that tries to highlight local ingredients.

One of such ingredients is the quandong. A quandong is a fruit that is said to resemble a peach and has a brain-like nut hiding inside its fleshy exterior. This is a favorite food of emus and the aboriginals would go and pick out the nuts from the emu droppings. I didn’t get to try the nut, but the fruit itself. It was used as a base for a crème brulee with a few pieces of the fruit on the side.

Personally I thought the quandong fruit was much more like a plum. It was quite tart with a hint of sweetness. It was also a little chewy as if it had been dried a little, but not so much that it resembled a prune. The crème brulee itself was really smooth and the tartness of the quandong worked really well against the sweetness of the dessert.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test  – 8

Rambutan

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I’ve been trying out all kinds of different tropical fruits ever since moving to China, but for some reason I had never gotten round to the Rambutan. It wasn’t until my recent trip to Indonesia, where the rambutan hails from anyway, that I decided to have a go.

Rambutans are in the same family as lychees and longans, but on the outside they look quite different. It is roughly the size of a golf ball and covered in soft red spines that make the fruit look hairy. Inside is a stone covered in soft translucent flesh. I found it so identical to lychee in taste and appearance that I would never be able to tell them apart after they’d been peeled.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Cucamelons

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One thing I like writing about are fruits and vegetables that I had never tried before. Whenever I’m traveling I always swing by the supermarket to see if I can find something unusual. It was in Shanghai, at an import supermarket, that I found a whole array of fruits and vegetables including some tiny looking watermelons. It turns out that they weren’t watermelons at all, but cucamelons.

Cucamelons are much more like cucumbers than watermelons, even though they look like that. They are the size of grapes and inside you’ll find a greenish watery flesh with seeds much like a cucumber. It is no surprise then that they pretty much tasted like that as well, though they were juicier. Now I don’t like cucumbers, but I do like pickles so I decided to pickle some. I served them alongside some homemade gravadlax and cream cheese with some freshly grated wasabi, which all worked very well together.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 5

Passion fruit chocolate

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Dove in China has come up with some interesting flavor combinations in the past such as green tea and lemon. It just got a whole lot more interesting with the addition of a few new flavors including passion fruit. It’s a bar of white chocolate infused with passion fruit flavor and some biscuit crumbs for added crunch. I wasn’t sure if the sourness of the passion fruit would work with the chocolate, but it worked surprisingly well. You could definitely taste that it was passion fruit, and yet it didn’t clash with the chocolate. It worked for me, but there are other combinations that work better.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 7

Snake fruit

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Snake fruit is a type of fruit native to Indonesia where it is known as ‘salak’. It received its nickname of snake fruit because its skin is covered in scales resembling the skin of a snake. It grows on certain palm trees and is cultivated in Southeast Asia, but is a rare sight in other parts of the world. The first I laid eyes on a snake fruit was in Bali, but that was long before this blog ever started. I recently had a second chance to try this fruit at the Goji Kitchen + Bar buffet in Bangkok, which made the number one spot on the Tripadvisor Bangkok listing.

To eat the fruit, first you have to get through the skin. Although the skin is quite thick and tough, almost like tree bark, it does give away quite easily. You are then left with a white, slightly translucent fruit. Inside is a big stone, so there isn’t much in the way of actual fruit. I found it easiest just to take it in whole and spit out the stone. The flesh was slightly sweet with a texture similar to apples. It’s hard to label the flavor with anything, but if I’m forced I would say lychee, though others may not agree.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6 

Durian tart

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In my last blog entry I mentioned my visit to the Erawan Tearoom in Bangkok where I enjoyed an afternoon tea. First came some tiny scones which only made me hungrier, but then a three-tiered plethora of Thai snacks arrived and I was hungry no more.

Among the many sweet and savory bites were crab dumplings, mango and sticky rice and to my horror a durian tart. Durian is one of those things hat my old readers know I hate. It was one of my first blog entries scoring super low on the taste test because it all but made me gag. I can’t fathom why people would enjoy eating something that tastes of rotten onion?

I’d be damned if I let my fears get in the way of polishing of the expensive plates I had already paid for though, so before I was even aware of doing it my hand stretched towards the tart. It actually looked rather appetizing and it didn’t smell that bad either. The taste completely took me by surprise. I could still taste the strong flavors of durian that are oh so familiar to me, and yet it didn’t make me want to gag. It was as if it was as pungent but not as strong like a sweet gorgonzola where you can taste blue cheese but not too strong.

Fear Factor – 4 / Taste Test – 6

Star fruit

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The carambola, commonly known as star fruit, is a fruit I was quite familiar with and yet had never really eaten it. Just like the Cape gooseberry, it’s one of those fruits we know mostly as a garnish in dishes from the 80’s. This is due to its shape more than anything.

The carambola is an oval fruit with deep ridges. It usually has five ridges, though is known to have more. When you cut a section off, the fruit looks like a star, hence the name star fruit. Strangely enough biologists are unsure of its origins. People believe they either come from Sri Lanka or Indonesia, but they have since been cultivated all over Asia, and so I grabbed from my supermarket.

I wanted to try the fruit on its own, and sliced it ready for eating. Inside were a few little pits, but they could easily be discarded. My star fruit had one very deep ridge and didn’t actually look like a star all that much, but this wasn’t about decoration.

The texture of the fruit reminded me of a grape. It had a thin, slightly chewy skin that would pop revealing a soft somewhat crunchy flesh. This carambola was quite acidic and apparently green ones are meant to be sour, while yellow ones tend to be sweeter. It was just too sour for my taste, like biting into a sour apple. I’ll try to spot a yellow one next time.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6

Jicama

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One of he joys of travel for me is getting to know the country through its food. I always make sure to visit a local market and try out some street food to really get to the heart of the country. On such occasions I often come across fruits and vegetables I never got to try before. That’s how I met my arch nemesis the durian, from a street food vendor in Bali. In Mexico, when I ordered a fruit cup with chili, I received a mix of fruits hat included jicama, another first for me.

Jicama is a root vegetable native to Mexico that has spread to Asia and other countries. I’ve seen it at supermarkets here in China, but not back in Holland. The tuber is shaped like a drop of water and can be the size of a fist, or as large as your head. It’s usually eaten raw and has a similar crunchy texture to that of raw potato. It’s supposedly sweet though, and therefore often used more as a fruit, which is how it ended up in my fruit cup.

Having tried it, I can definitely see the comparison to raw potato. The texture was indeed eerily similar. I found, however, that it wasn’t just the texture that was so familiar. The taste itself also reminded me of raw potato, a little watery yet also a little dirty like the ground it grew in. I personally don’t quite enjoy raw potato as much as you might. Therefore this experiment of eating jicama was sadly a fail.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 3

Fruit cup with chili

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We look at fruit as a sweet treat. The natural sugars make it a great snack for dessert. Of course cooking with fruit is not new either. Think of pork with apple duck with cranberries. And yet we still don’t eat a fruit salad covered in salt and pepper. In Mexico, however, a common street food snack is fruit with ‘chamoy’. This basically is chili and lime.

I ordered a cup of my favorite fruits, pineapple and mango. It also had jicama, which I had never tried before. More about that tomorrow. I thought it was a great combination. You’d get a spicy sensation at first, which was then immediately cooled by the sugars in the fruit. The flavors of pineapple and mango lent themselves very well for this dish.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 8