Time to explore some of the myriad Asian Fruits. Fortunately, they fall into two categories as far as most Westerners are concerned: The devils you know and the devils you don’t! That’s not to say that all Asian Fruits are bitter, smelly or hard to eat. But some of them definitely are … different!
We’ll start with the Asian Fruits you’ve probably already heard of, or even tried.
When you cut one across its diameter, you get a slice shaped like a five-pointed star. Beautiful! And it has a lively light green colour when ripe. Lovely! But you bite into it and you may be disappointed that it has only a bland, slightly-sweet flavour. I know I was expecting more the first time I tasted it. Anyway, it’s often used as a garnish and in company with other Fruits with lesser visual charms and more forward flavours.
Known in its native climes as ‘Pitaya’, Dragon Fruit is actually a member of the greater Cactus family. The Cactuses really get around! Dragon Fruit is related, however distantly, to Aloe (which you find in all your beauty creams) and Agave (from which is extracted the nectar we ferment to produce Tequila.).It’s gbelieved they originally came from the new world, but now are grown around the globe in tropical and sub-tropical regions.
This bright red oval fruit has light green or yellow protrusions at random points all over its surface. legend has it that early devotees of this sought-after delicacy thought the adornments looked like dragon scales, or perhaps more romantically, the flames of dragon’s breath. Inside, you may be surprised to find the flesh snow white, dotted throughout with small black seeds. The flavour, like Star Fruit, is somewhat bland and gently sweet. One characteristic that sets Dragon Fruit aside from other Asian Fruits is that it is traditionally cherished as an aid to digestion.
Asian cooks use this versatile, readily-available fruit in more ways than I have room to list here. just Google ‘Dragon Fruit Recipes’…
The flesh of these nubby, red little gems is very sweet and juicy. Everybody loves Lychee – even if it does have a very large seed in the middle which makes it necessary to peel and de-pit a whole bowlful to get a nice amount to cook with. Or just pop in your mouth.
Use Lychee any way you’d use any small, sweet fruit. Puree or use in drinks, dice medium or fine to fold into creamy desserts or ice cream. You can even put them in fancy baked goods like you would Apple Chunks or Raisins. One recipe I saw somewhere suggested baking them like Apples with a generous sprinkling of Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, and a drizzle of Butter. What a great dessert topping!
Like many Asian Fruits, Lychee is a great source of vitamins and minerals.
Taking Breadfruit on board in Tahiti and making it an honoured guest on the Bounty was just one of the mistakes Captain William Bligh made, leading his crew to mutiny. However, that was the official purpose of his voyage! You see, Breadfruit is extremely nutritious and it was the British Government’s plan to introduce it in the West Indies to feed an exploding population of colonial slaves. Really.
Originally a native of South Pacific (Polynesia), every nation where it now grows has its own name for breadfruit. Most of the English-speaking world calls it Breadfruit because early Western discoverers thought the cooked flesh had a texture, colour and armoa similar to Potatoes. Ir freshly-baked Bread!
You can grill it, boil it, toast it or roast it. You can use it in place of starches, such as Rice. You can mash it like Potatoes and use it like that to layer with Spicy Meats or Cheese. In Peurto Rico, they love it boiled with Saly Cod, which they call Bacalau. It’s partnered with Shaved Coconut in both sweet and savoury dishes across Southern China and Southeast Asia. And that’s just the beginning. Think deep-fried Breadfruit Chips or crispy Breadfruit Fritters!
Chew on that…
That’s it for part one of ‘the Asian Fruits you know’… Stay tuned for part two in our next post!
~ Maggie J.