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 

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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

Mamey fruit

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Mamey is a fruit that originates from Latin America. As such I had never seen it, neither in Europe nor in Asia , before my trip to Mexico. It’s a funny looking fruit with a thick skin that reminded me of wood. Cut into it and you’ll reveal an orange flesh that kind of resembles papaya. When I tried it, it tasted almost exactly like carrot to me. It even had the texture of a cooked carrot. I like my fruits a little sweeter, so I don’t think the mamey is for me.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6

Tamarillo

 

imageDuring my trip to Mexico I visited the San Juan market in the historic city center. I had already eaten, so I didn’t feel like ordering any of the insect or meat dishes at the stalls, but I did end up trying some fruit I had never seen or heard of before.

The keeper of the fruit stall offered me a small egg-shaped red fruit which he called a “tomate de arbol”. He told me not to eat the skin, and just eat the pulpy inside. I later learned that in English this fruit is called a tamarillo and is native to South America. It reminded me a lot of passion fruit, in both taste and texture. It was just a bit too sour for my liking.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6

Tamarind snack

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In the dry fruit section of the supermarket I spotted a bag of tamarind snacks. I assumed it would be dried tamarind. Tamarind is a bean-like fruit that originates in Africa, but is used all over the world, most famously as an ingredient in pad thai. The pod contains sticky pulp that is said to be quite sour.

These snacks were pretty much just tamarind cut into smaller portions, leaving you with s chunk of said sticky pulp with a few pips here and there. Because the flesh is so soft, it was easy enough to simply eat it and spit out the pips. The fruit was very sour indeed. It was a little like eating sour candy. Your face puckers up, but you still want to keep on eating.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 8

Apple flavored chips

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On a recent visit to the local import store I spotted a bag of apple chips. At first I thought they were slices of dehydrated apple, but when I look closer I realized they were in fact apple flavored potato chips. That my friends is something I find highly unusual. Of course I had to buy a bag.

The first bite did indeed have a strong apple flavor, albeit a synthetic children’s toothpaste apple flavor. It wasn’t exactly bad, but it was definitely a weird combination. After a few bites the taste of apple went away. Although I didn’t exactly love it, I did manage to finish the entire bag.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 5

Custard apple

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The custard apple, also known as sugar apple, has made it’s way from Latin America to many countries around the world, especially in Asia. In the western countries it is not that common, however, and it wasn’t until I moved to China that I came across one. The name of custard apple is deceiving as it doesn’t resemble an apple at all. It’s more like a mini durian with lots of lumps and bumps.

The custard part is more accurate, with the flesh being, equally like a durian, very creamy. Almost custard-like if you will. I found it very hard to eat, as the skin if very tough, and then there are some big seeds inside. I was left with only a few spoonful’s of the actual flesh. That was enough for me to realize that it was indeed sweet enough to inherit the name of sugar apple, but I also found a savory undertone that reminded me of pine needles. It wasn’t a bad-tasting fruit at all, but I just can’t be bothered to go through all that trouble again.

Fear Factor 0 / Taste Test – 5