I’m not talking about gay guys. I’m talking about a different fruit. The sweet kind! Oh, that was a great double entendre! Thailand should be known as the land of fruit, for many reasons, but mostly because of the amazing fruit that available everywhere. They have so many different kinds, it is absolutely wondrous.
Thai vendors push around carts with fresh fruit they will cut up and hand to you for less than 35 cents. They have the common fruits that most people are familiar with. Watermelon is always available year round. They have every possible mango, with a preference for sour green mangos that they dip in a hot chilli sauce. Papaya is another common fruit as well. They will even have regular apples on occasion (not from Washington state, alas).
What really makes Thai fruit so amazing is the variety. The push cart vendors have a wide variety, but if you visit a market you will be amazed and overwhelmed by what is available. Some of them I have never seen or heard of before, and many I had trouble finding out what their English names where. Here are 10 common fruits in Thailand (that I happen to love) that you have probably never had or even heard of before.
Noi Na (Sugar Apple or Custard Apple)
Noi na is a very, very sweet fruit. It has a lumpy green skin that is easily picked off, with a white pulpy flesh inside (there is another version where the skin doesn’t come off so easily). I had one for the first time very recently. After eating just one fruit I felt like I had scarfed down a giant piece of cake, it was that sweet. Though my friend insists this is not the case, I have heard that the Thai will mix the fruit with coconut mix and make an ice cream from it. I can believe it–it certainly is sweet enough.
Lam Yai (Longan)
Lam yai is similar to lychee. The outside is brown or tan, and slightly tough, yet flexible. The flesh is sweet and moist with a big seed in the center. I tend to eat them by breaking the skin with my teeth (it can actually make a little snapping noise sometimes) and slurping out the goodness. They are usually sold by the bunch at fruit stands everywhere, and especially at the markets.
Rambutan is a “hairy” fruit that you break open and eat. The inside is similar to a lychee also, and just as sweet. There is a big seed in the middle that you have to spit out. Really ripe ngoh are very sweet and juicy. I’ve never seen them anywhere in Thailand, but there is a sour version that I actually like a little better—it tastes like sour patch kids. I ate that right from the tree every day when I was at Mulu National Park in Borneo.
Kaeo Mangkon (Dragon Fruit)
Dragon fruit, or to translate the Thai, dragon crystal, is a somewhat tasteless fruit in my opinion. It’s slightly sweet and loaded with little black seeds. It comes is a crazy fluorescent pink and a plain white. Dragon fruit is nice to eat, but I think people like it more for the way it looks than the way it tastes. Though it is quite common in Thailand, so I could be wrong.
Mankoot, or the mangosteen, is everywhere in SE Asia. They have started popping up in the US a specialty super markets, but are still rather uncommon and expensive there. In Thailand they are inexpensive and tasty. You simply break open the deep purple skin and eat the white fleshy fruit inside. Yummy!
Chompoo (Rose Apple)
Chompoo, or the Rose Apple, is one of my favorites. It is actually similar in texture to a regular apple—crispy and dripping when you bite into it. However, chompoo are not very sweet. That is why I like them. Most SE Asian fruit can be rather sweet almost to point of being overwhelmed, so the Rose Apple is a nice break from that. Besides, they are rather beautiful color with a shiny skins, and have an interesting deep curve in the bottom. Many people say they look like bells.
Maprang (Plum Mango)
The first time I ate a plum mango, they ladies that were offering them to me kept saying maprang. I had no idea what that meant and even though they tasted great, I was a little worried about eating a fruit that I had no idea about. Turns out they are rather common and they grow everywhere. They are actually related to the mango and taste just a good.
Lamut is not actually Thai. It’s originally from Mexico and was brought to the Philippines by the Spanish and from there it spread. The Thai seem mixed on this fruit. Some like it and others not really, but it is readily available and is even on the push carts when it is in season. Lamut tastes just like caramel so I love it.
Salak (Snake Fruit)
I first has snake fruit in Indonesia. The Thai version is just as good. The skin literally looks like snake’s skin, brown and shiny with what appear to be almost scales. The similarity is striking, but it ends there. Once you peel the thin skin away and get at the sweet white flesh there is no confusing salak for a snake.
Everyone in SE Asia loves Durian. And I mean LOVES it. People outside of SE Asia, if they even know about it, think this fruit is awful. Durian smells bad. There is not getting around it. I think the best way to describe the smell is a combination of rotting fruit and dirty socks, times 10. If you can get past the smell, the taste is actually really good. The yellow flesh you nibble off of large seeds reminds me of custard.
If you are ever in Thailand, trying the fruit is a must. Some of looks rather strange and you might not know how to eat it, but its worth trying it and figuring it out. Most of it is really good and, fortunately, easily available and ready to eat from the fruit carts.