Marked by an ancient saying ‘there are always fish in rivers, and rice in fields,’ Thailand is a kingdom abundant with various exotic tropical fruits. When you’re in Thailand, it’s easy to just go with the most popular ones like mangoes, papayas, coconuts, and ignore other ones that don’t look or sound familiar to you. Guess what? You’re missing out chances to taste these super delicious food out big time! With this guidance, we want to introduce you to the less popular fruits still common on streets of Bangkok. May you get out of your comfort zone and enjoy a fruit tasting adventure in the city.
The only fruit honored to be banned in Bangkok’s air-conditioned public places like skytrain, subway, hotels, and taxis, Durian is undoubtedly notorious for its strong (some people say gross like rotten onions or bad sewage) smell. But why do we Thai still love this thorny fruit? It’s a burst of savory, sweet, and creamy taste in one bite – a unique taste that we can’t find in other fruits. Sulfur gives a garlicky sting to the sugared custard texture. To get to the golden yellow cluster of fruit inside, we split the thorny husk open, certainly not as easy as peeling a banana. The riper the fruit is, the more intense smell and flavor it gives. There are several cultivars but Mon Thong is the most sought for.
AMAZING FACT ABOUT DURIAN?
There are a lot of myths that prevent you from eating Durian but the fruit actually has several health benefits. It gives lots of energy, minerals (manganese, iron, etc.) and vitamins (B and anti-oxidant C), and zero cholesterol. Eating too much Durian will give you unpleasant temporary effects just like any food may do. You may belch the smell, and have problems digesting it. It has lots of natural sugar and calories which would rise your blood sugar level – people with diabetes much watch out. Pairing Durian will alcohol makes your stomach and liver work too hard at once. A healthy person may feel a stomach and body discomfort which is not life-threatening but better to be avoided.
Exotic Thai Fruit #2
Originally from Indonesia, mangosteen is grown across Southeast Asia. It’s nicknamed the Queen of Thai fruits – not surprising, the sepal on top of the fruit looks like a crown on a round face! Even Queen Victoria once wanted it and would reward anyone who brought it back to England. When you prise the husk open, you’ll find white and fluffy segments of sweet, tangy, and juicy flesh. The fruit yields pretty much once a year in May and June. Go for super dark red or deep purple ones – a sign that it’s ripe and ready.
AMAZING FACT ABOUT MANGOSTEEN
A fun game you can play with kids – guess how many segments a fruit has. The answer is the number of the sepal at the bottom of the fruit.
Exotic Thai Fruit #3
Custard Apple (noi-na)
Brought from Central and South America to Thailand, the green grenade-look fruit is a size of a tennis ball with a lumpy skin. The flesh is fragrant and sweet. White through light yellow, the flesh resembles a custard mixed with pear. To get eat, you can prise the skin open or cut it in a half and spoon out the flesh. There are several black seeds in the fruit – not to be eaten.
AMAZING FACT ABOUT CUSTARD APPLE
The fruit is an excellent source of anti-oxidant Vitamin C. It helps remove toxin from the body, and is used to improve skin and hair health. But as it’s very sweet, don’t eat too much of it if you don’t want to gain weight.
Exotic Thai Fruit #4
The immense size of it is somewhat intimidating but at a closer look at or a bite of it, it’s just grapefruit without bitterness. It can be sweet or sweet and sour. Thai pomelo’s flesh is yellow but you sometimes see its cousin with red color. To get to its pulpy flesh, you have to cut through the thick rind and peel of the white layers that separate each slice.
AMAZING FACT ABOUT POMELO
- Pamelo is abundant with vitamin C, beta-carotene and the B vitamins.
- Like tangerines, pomelo contains a lot of fiber. It promotes digestions and soothes stomach problems like diarrhea
- Pomelo is the largest citrus fruit in the world
Exotic Thai Fruit #5
Photo by : damrithp Lodkham
Another fruit that made its way cross the Pacific from Central America to Thailand, sapodilla is super sweet as if its flesh were made out of brown sugar. Mind the hard black seeds. The skin of sapodilla feels like a kiwi but without the fuzziness. The fruit is more rare to find and if you do, you’ll likely find it from November to January.
Exotic Thai Fruit #6
The texture of guava is similar to apple or pear. The soft flesh is white but you may have seen the pink flesh in Indonesia and Malaysia. It can be sweet or sour depending on how ripe it is. There is no need to peel the green skin but Thai usually cut it into pieces. At street fruit vendors, you may find the fruit with super green skin. These are not fresh. The recipe to preserve the fruit with lots of sugar and plum powder is called farang chae buai. It’s super sweet many Thais make it an afternoon snack but it’s perhaps not what you’re looking for.
AMAZING FACT ABOUT GUAVA
Farang is a fruit but also a term for Caucasian people. The fruit is named after ‘Caucasian people’ perhaps because the Spanish or the Portuguese introduced the fruit to Thailand or the flesh of the fruit is clean white like Caucasian skin.
Exotic Thai Fruit #7
Jackfruit is the biggest fruit in Thailand and usually weighs between 20 and 30 kg. It looks like durian without thorns but the skin is still lumpy. The golden yellow meat, looking waxed and shiny, is sweet with fragrance. Some people describe the texture as bubble gum. Others like vegetarians, use it to substitute red meat because jackfruit’s texture is like chicken or pulled pork. All these descriptions don’t make jackfruit sound like a fruit but the taste is certainly beautiful and delicious!
AMAZING FACT ABOUT JACKFRUIT
Young or raw jackfruit helps fighting diabetes.
Boiled jackfruit seeds are highly nutritious. Similar to nuts, they supply for carbohydrate, protein, iron, phosphorus, and Vitamin Bs. So, don’t throw them away!
Exotic Thai Fruit #8
A fruit looks like a red hairy ball. The spiky hair is a bit hard but pliable. Once cut opened, the inside reveals white sweet flesh whose texture is similar to grapes. Thanks to its refreshing sweet flavor, it makes a perfect ingredient for a fruit salad and a Thai shaved-ice dessert to quench thirst and kill the heat.
Exotic Thai Fruit #9
Rose Apple (chom-pooh)
The fruit can be easily mistaken as a small pear except for its skin looks waxy. A variety comes in pink and green skin. And it can be eaten whole and tastes somewhere between an apple and a watermelon, as is the texture which is crunchy and crispy. It contains a lot of juice so it’s a great fruit to quench thirsts. The fruit supplies for fiber, Vitamin C, A, and Lycopene.
Exotic Thai Fruit #10
The fruit is related to rambutan and the flesh, once peeled off the skin, looks like lychee. However, the flesh is much juicier, super sweet, with a musky flavor almost similar to grapes. Longan juice at a restaurant or street stall will supply sugar for your whole day. So the way to get around it is to add water. Research has found that the fruit helps reduce risks for cancer, relieve stress, and help with digestion. A superfood it is!
Exotic Thai Fruit #11
Longkong looks very similar to longan from the outside but you can tell the difference right away with the taste and texture. It’s sweet, and can be sour depending on how ripe it is. Usually you can rip the skin open with your nails. The sap from the skin may release a bitter taste which is not very pleasant.
Exotic Thai Fruit #12
Nicknamed Snake Fruit, the fruit has a hard brittle and prickly red brown shell. The flesh is double identical lobes that is sweet, acidy, and crispy. Grown in the South and the East of Thailand, it can be found only during the season from June to August, so don’t miss a chance to try a fresh one. Put in syrup and ice cubes, it makes a great dessert called Sala Loi Kaew.
Now that you know what they are. Check out these fruit and vegetable markets in Bangkok where you may find them.
The markets are not only photogenic with burst of colors, but also are great places to experience local ways of life. Some markets are featured on our tours like Best Eats Midnight Food tour during which you’ll get to try these fruits, hear fun fact about them, and even learn a few words to buy them when you’re on your own. On our Offbeat Floating Market tour, you will get a chance to try these exotic Thai fruits as well.