Most travelers who spend some time exploring the mountains, plains, jungles, towns, and cities of Southeast Asia return laden with tales of delightful and delicious exotic fruits that they’ve fallen head over heels in love with. And if you are really lucky, they may even return bearing gifts of dried versions of said exotic fruits.
However, the best way to sample the strange and unusual flavors and textures of this warm, wet part of the world is to go to the source yourself. The markets, shops, farms and gardens of Southeast Asia are falling down with wild and exotic fruits – a bounty so bizarre and tasty that you are sure to fall deeply in love, reeled in by their exotic allure like so many adventurers before you.
Poor old green apples will never be able to tantalize your taste buds properly again. From now on, you’ll be fantasizing about exotic dragon fruit while you go through the motions with your boring old apple on your lunch break.
So without further ado, we present to you our BUCKiTDREAM list of 8 exotic Southeast Asian fruits that you need to try. Don’t blame us when you can’t get excited by apples or pears anymore after you’ve experienced these alluring, alien beauties!
Nibble on the pristine white flesh of the Mangosteen, the ‘Queen of Fruits’ The mangosteen has a deep purple outer shell and a sweet, juicy white meaty center. ‘The Queen of Fruit’ can be found all over Southeast Asia, but is especially common in Thailand. The peak season for mangosteens is from May to September. The Thai people are hopelessly in love with this sumptuous snack.
Worship at the Altar of the (Stinky) Durian, the ‘King of Fruits’ The durian is surely the most divisive fruit on the planet. People either love it or hate it. Durian lovers literally can’t stop waxing lyrical about its unique flavor. Durian haters focus on the pungent odor that the fruit gives off – so pungent in fact that many transport companies in Southeast Asia refuse to carry durians! All this controversy means that you really must sample this one-of-a-kind fruit when you get the chance.
Savor the Sumptuous Flesh of a Longan (or Two, or Three, or Six) A longan is a small unassuming yellow orb. When you remove the dry, yellow skin you are left with a little wet, grayish-white meat balloon of succulent sweet juice. Longans are quite similar to lychees, so any intrepid backpacker that is passing through Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and India should give them a go!
Ask Your Last Longan to Introduce You to Her (Equally Sumptuous) Cousin… Rambutan The rambutan is closely related to the longan, however, its exterior is much more flamboyant. It looks like a bizarre sea creature that one might catch a fleeting glimpse of deep down in the Mariana trench. The grape-like inside will remind you of the longan fruit and its nutty seed can also be eaten, meaning that the peeled fruit creates no waste.
Munch on the Muscular Meat of a Jackfruit The flesh of a jackfruit is fibrous and starchy and it has a delicate flavor not dissimilar to a mixture of apple, pineapple, and mango, but more subtle. Jackfruit is delicious fresh but it also works very well freeze-dried, when it’s flavor becomes more noticeably sweet and intense. It can also be a meal in itself and is becoming a popular vegan option – check out jackfruit tacos for a healthy bite.
Get Jiggy With Some Juicy Mango This tangy fruit is popular in America and Europe, but the mango in Southeast Asia has a more intense flavor and boasts a more succulent, juicy consistency. Southeast Asians like to eat their mango with sugar sprinkled on top, which can be very sweet and can take away from its subtle, true flavor; we recommend that you request the fruit to be served ‘naked’.
Devour a Bitter Kumquat, Skin and All! Kumquats are a bit of an acquired taste. They are like tiny oval oranges that are thrown into the mouth and munched with the skin still on. They have a bitter taste with a subtle flavor of orange peel can be difficult to ignore. They are definite ‘growers’ and after battling through your first few you usually develop quite a taste for their crunchy bitterness, and soon ‘one kumquat is just never enough’!
Go on a Hot Date With a Dragon Fruit Surely the prettiest fruit on Earth, the dragon fruit is much adored in Southeast Asia, although not actually a native of the region. The dragon fruit is originally from Mexico and the exotic mix of Latin American and Southeast Asian genes may well be the reason for its eye-catching appearance. When you finally stop staring at your dragon fruit and start eating it you will find its flavor to be surprisingly mild and dare we say … a little bland. Still, we live in a material world and beauty can often get you very far indeed!
That was our BUCKiTDREAM list of 8 exotic Southeast Asian fruits that you need to try. Whether you are making out with a mangosteen on a baking Vietnamese beach, or telling a gorgeous dragon fruit that you could give it a wonderful life back in America if only it would agree to come home with you, don’t forget to share you exotic Southeast Asian fruit experiences on your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!