Who knew? Not me. Definitely not ready for roasting on an open fire. Interesting, though.
Two new ones, at least for us. First up is called erik – sour green plums. These bad boys are super-crunchy and super-sour, so much so that Chris has eaten exactly one of them. I like them alright, though they don’t have that redeeming aftertaste that sour fruit usually has. In Bursa, there was no seed (or it was young enough to be edible), but later on, I had it with an inedible seed. Either way, they make a cheap, healthy snack.
Loquats are a fruit that I had heard of before – they are grown in Taiwan – but had never tasted. They were all over the place in Kaş, growing on trees in every second yard and available for sale at any market or bus station. To me, they tasted what the love child of a lemon and a mango would taste like – slightly tart, really juicy, and very rich. I ate around a kilo of these in the space of a couple of days, they’re just so good and so easy to eat. They’re not related to kumquats, though both get their English names from their Chinese monikers. If you have the chance to eat some local loquats, be sure to take advantage of it!
This is a kind of fruit here that we saw a lot in Luxor and forgot to try. We have tried the juice, though. I wasn’t a big fan of it – it tasted a bit like brown sugar, but not in a way that I enjoyed. It reminded me of a type of brown sugar milk tea back in Taiwan (that I didn’t like). Chris enjoys brown sugar drinks, so she was a fan of this one. We did see kids eating the fruit, and from the way it appeared, it almost looked inedible – they’d gnaw on it rather than taking bites of it, I’m still not sure how that works. Still, dom.
Alright, it’s the last fruit update from Taiwan. *Sigh* I’m going to miss the fruit here, both the familiar and the strange, as well as the easy access to fruit. Fruit stands on the corner are fantastic, I have to say, not to mention convenient. Well, on to the fruit.
First up, the custard apple ‘family’. Custard apples look like a big green pinecone, at least to me. They are full of delicious custard-like flesh and inedible black seeds that you get at by peeling the green sections off one by one. Eventually you can just scoop the delicious innards out. It’s a slow eat, due to the seeds, but the taste of custard is delicious. It has the consistency of a ripe to overripe banana, or maybe a really squishy, beat-up apple – soft, but with underlying firmness.
There’s also the pineapple-custard apple, a crossbreed which we only saw right before we left Taiwan. I think a friend called them Buddha fruit once. They’re a cross-breed and are close to custard apples (obviously), but with fewer seeds, firmer flesh, and a sweeter taste. I quite enjoyed them and was sad that this was probably a once-in-a-lifetime taste. Oh well, once is better than never!
Staying on a green streak, next up are jujubes. I don’t know the Chinese, or even if this is the ‘proper’ name for this fruit, but that’s what I’ve heard it called in English the whole time I’ve been here, so I’ll stick with it. This fruit is like a small, tart apple – very crisp and juicy, with a pit in the middle. They’re great for traveling around with – no worries about bruising, tasty, and cheap.
Changing over to red, but staying with fruit that was new to me in Taiwan, here we have wax apples. While jujubes might have the consistency of an apple, wax apples, surprisingly, do not. I think the name comes more from their shape and colour, but that’s where the similarities end. Wax apples have the consistency of watermelon – rather porous, but not as juicy. They’re crunchy, but more crunchy like that fresh-cut watermelon, rather than crunchy like an apple. They’re terrific, just as long as you get that idea of apples out of your head. There’s a little twist to the taste, but it’s hard for me to describe. I guess you’ll just have to try it yourself, sorry!
We’ve discovered a couple of different types of melon while here – the red cantaloupe, as it’s called in Chinese, and the meinong gua (meinong melon), which as far as I know has no English name other than the one I just gave it (Meinong is a town outside of Kaohsiung, but I have no idea if the two are connected). The red cantaloupe was quite tasty, definitely looking more reddish than a normal cantaloupe, but tasting pretty much the same.
The meinong melon is yellow on the outside and white on the inside and has a taste closer to a honeydew, but with much firmer flesh – it’s almost crunchy. I quite enjoyed both, but the meinong melon wins out in my estimation here (Chris isn’t a big melon fan in the first place).
Chinese New Year has come and gone. Oranges are a huge symbol for the holiday, representing wealth, I believe. This year, we saw giant oranges for sale and just had to pick one up. They were almost as big as your head and looked especially huge sitting next to the regular oranges and the kumquats. When we peeled it, however, we found that it was mostly peel and the fruit wasn’t terribly great. Go figure. Ah well, it was worth the experience.
Lastly, I have to give a shout-out to candied fruit. You see it all over, anyplace there is a gathering of people. Usually you find candied strawberries and cherry tomatoes, but there’s also a dark fruit (not pictured here) that I haven’t figured out yet. Figs? Sometimes they stuff it in the tomatoes as well. It’s all covered with a delicious red candied topping – no candied apples here, but candied strawberries more than make up for that fact for me!
And that’s it for fruit in Taiwan. Goodbye, my tropical sweets!
Time for more fruit! Some of these I’ve tried before and not blogged, some are new to me. Here we go!
Snake fruit is a big of a strange one. We saw this last time in Indonesia, while we were exploring Sumatra. They really do look like a snake’s skin on the outside, and the fruit inside is a pale golden colour. I’m not a big fan of this fruit, as it always tastes like it’s started fermenting. It’s quite firm, almost crunchy, a little bit like an Asian pear, but not quite so apple-like. I probably won’t try this again.
The tiny oranges here taste more or less like real oranges (though quite sweet), but they’re just so small and cute that I had to post them. Really easy to peel, we went through a bag of these for breakfast one morning. The pieces were half the size of your pinky. Wonderful.
Mangosteens are possibly my favourite fruit. I’ve been entranced by them since I first saw them on a fruit poster in my classroom when I first came to Taiwan. Purple fruit does that to me: that shade in fruit always means tasty to me (saskatoonberries and blueberries spring to mind). I can’t remember if we tried this before when we were traveling in SE Asia, but if so, I fell in love again. The purple skin is a bit of a lie – the fruit inside is a very pure white. The texture is really soft and….stringy, I guess, but not in a bad way. Fibrous, maybe, but not too much to make it unpleasant to eat, more just that it’s a very cohesive fruit. The taste is sweet, rather like nectar, but not sickly-sweet, just in a natural, fruity kind of way. Yes, I do believe it’s my new favourite.
Lastly, the tiny bananas. They’re local – all the supermarkets have larger bananas grown in China, of all places – and quite sweet again (yay Malaysia and its sweet fruit!). I ate of bunch of these at breakfast one bad (don’t worry, no stomach problems for me!) and even Chris had a few.
I wish I could stay here longer – Malaysia’s spread of tropical fruit is even better than Taiwan’s! Long live delicious fruit, that’s my new battle cry.
I haven’t talked about fruit for a while, so here’s an update on that front. First, we’ll talk about the more pleasant of the fruits today, longyen. These grow on trees and come into season in the late summer and fall. There are orchards of longyen out in the country with trees as far as you can see – a friend told me about going out to a student’s grandparents’ farm and being given a bag and told to pick as much as they wanted to take home. When they’re in season, they’re not only found in stores, but people have truckfuls of them – they just park on the side of the road somewhere, open up their truck, put up a sign, and start selling longyen.
The ‘shell’ is peeled off in little bits, as it’s usually a little hard, but the flesh inside is sweet and delicate and light. It doesn’t have a strong flavour, but it’s very refreshing in the late summer heat. There’s a pit in the middle which is tossed afterwards, making for a fair amount of effort for a little fruit. It’s worth it, though.
Durian is one of the most polemic fruits ever. Most people end up on the ‘hate it’ side of this debate. The durian, unlike the longyen, has a very strong taste and smell. Many people compare the smell to that of rotting flesh. It certainly is strong and has that same tang, but I wouldn’t say it smells like something dead. In fact, once I got used to it, it smelled to me like the spices used in turkey stuffing – rosemary, sage, marjoram, those kinds of smells. Like a spicy-sweet smell. It does expand to fill the space, however – when I bought some to try it out, we had to keep it in a bag in a plastic container so the smell didn’t fill the fridge and smack us in the face when we opened it. Even so, when I opened the container in the kitchen, Christine complained about it from the living room.
Biting into a durian is usually the limit for those who overcome the smell. It’s what turned me off the first time I tried it years ago in Thailand – I said then that if it had just been the smell or the texture, I could take it, but both at the same time was too much. The first bite was close, but after that it was almost a perverse kind of pleasure. It has a custard-like feeling to it, like pudding that has been sitting out and developed a skin on the top. It’s a bit like a mushy banana, but not quite the same. The taste is also kind of custard-like, though it’s hard to pull a taste out independently, with that smell wafting up the entire time. I felt both an enjoyable feeling and a repulsed feeling eating this – pleasure and putrid. It’s difficult to describe the feeling of both at the same time, having something in your mouth that is both sublime and that makes you feel like you might be sick. I ate most of one piece and that was about my limit.
I think I’d try durian again, but I don’t think I could make it a regular thing. First, I’d be kicked out of the house (there’s a reason that there’s a fine in Singapore for even bringing one on the bus), and second, it seems too much of everything for me to comfortably enjoy – too much smell, too much texture, too much taste. Still, I’m glad I gave it a second chance.
It’s almost the end of the strawberry season and I’m only getting around to posting this now. Ha! Well, at least we’ve been enjoying the strawberries while they’ve been around. It’s too hot for strawberries to grow for more than half of the year here and atrociously expensive to import them (which is why they virtually disappear in the off months). However, from late November until mid-March, strawberries are everywhere.
Strawberry juice, strawberry milk, strawberry milk tea, strawberry pop, strawberry desserts, strawberries on a stick covered in syrup – virtually any way you can have strawberries, they do it here. Mom fell in love with strawberry milk while she was here. I still love it and order that and pretty much only that from juice stands for four months. Someone at a seed shop even convinced our manager that because we were in the middle of strawberry season, it was fine to buy seeds and plant them. Little did she realize how much time and work strawberries require. Oh well, the kids forgot about them a couple of weeks later.
That’s all. Just wanted to update you on the wonderfulness of strawberries. I’m preparing myself for the two months of neither strawberries nor mangoes. I’m sure I’ll find a way to get through it…