Know your Thai Fruit: A beginner’s guide
- Posted onFebruary 25th, 2016
I was never a big fruit eater when I lived in the West. I’d enjoy an apple and an orange, and much down on a banana when needing a quick energy snack, and look forward to the occasional punnet of strawberries mid-summer, but fruit wasn’t something that ever got my taste buds excited.. Until I moved to Thailand at least.
Thai fruits are amazing, and I can’t imagine there is a country in the world where there are so many rich, colourful, and tasty fruits so easily available all year round, and so cheap at that. Not only is there such a wide variety of exotic and yummy fruit for you to try and indulge in, but it seems like there are fruit stalls and hawkers on almost every street in Thailand!
To help you explore Thailand’s amazing fruit, here’s our guide to our favourite Thai fruits:
Rose Apple (Chompoo)
The Rose Apple is a shiny red/pink (or sometimes green), pear shaped fruit, kind of a cross between an apple and a pear in taste as well as look; it has that apple crunch when you bite into it, followed by a softer, juicy flesh. As with several Thai fruits of this texture, Thais like to enjoy it by dipping pieces into a salt and sugar mix, which most fruit vendors serve it with.
The marmite of fruits, people either seem to obsessively love Durian or passionately hate it. It has an extremely strong aroma which some people find reminds them of rotten food mixed with French cheese, and it’s a smell which can linger for days, even after the fruit is long gone (you’ll notice many Thai buildings and hotels have signs banning Durian). If you can get past the smell you’ll get to experience a very unique taste which is kind of a creamy mix of sweet and savoury which is very difficult to describe.
Dragonfruit (Gao Mung Gorn)
Named for its exotic fiery look, the Dragonfuit is far less fierce in flavour. Once you peel back the flaming skin you’ll discover a very soft, fleshy fruit (usually white in colour, but there is a dark red alternative), which is quite juicy with fairly subtle flavours, not too dissimilar from a melon.
I’m putting bananas on here because Thai bananas are different from the bananas most tourists are used to. There are actually 20 different kinds of banana which are native to Thailand, but the ones you’ll see the most are the small, chubby bananas which look like a dwarf cousin of the typical Western imported banana. The taste isn’t too different, a little stronger if anything, but there are a lot of wonderful banana dessert to be found in Thailand, with my personal favourite being banana in warm coconut cream.
When a foreigner orders some Guava it always seems to get a giggle, as it’s Thai name ‘Farang’ also means foreigner. Originally found in Central America, the Guava is now grown in Thailand and is a popular fruit snack. Similar in texture to an apple, it’s also not far off it in taste, with a bit more or a zesty flavour, though slightly less sweet. Some vendors will have their guava pre peeled and steeped in sweet syrup, giving the fruit a much sweeter taste.
The Lychee is a fruit popular in northern Thailand, known for its rough, red skin, with a sweet, succulanr white flesh within, and an inedible seed at its core. Lychee are more of a seasonal fruit, at their best through the summer months of July to early October.
Thai’s love Papaya, with shredded, unripe Papaya being the main ingredient for one of the most popular national dishes, Som Tam, a spicy, savoury salad which will certainly get your eyes watering. When ripe the Papaya takes on a completely different texture and taste, with a very soft, orange flesh, which is extremely juicy.
The Mangosteen is a fruit you see or hear very little of when outside of Southeast Asia. It’s one of my favourite fruits and I’m guessing the main reason why it’s not so well imported is that the thick skin and large seeds mean that most of it is actually inedible. The white fleshy, edible part, though, is extremely sweet, juicy, and yummy.
If there is a national fruit in Thailand than I’m sure the Mango would pip the Papaya to the crown. Forget Mangoes you’ve tasted elsewhere in the world, a ripe, Thai Mango is surely the sweetest and juiciest in the world. There are actually several types of Mangoes in Thailand, though I’m talking about the common yellow type, traditionally served as a dessert with sticky rice and coconut milk. Most Thais actually like to eat is half ripe, dipped in a sugar and salt mix.
Custard Apple (Noi-Na)
The custard apple can seem a bit unusual to a first timer. They are kind of difficult and messy to eat, with no easy way to peel and slice, most fruit fanatics will simply get stuck in, ripping off areas of skin, pulling away pieces of flesh with their teeth, and spitting out any unwanted black seeds. The taste is very sweet, and as the name gives away, it kind of tastes like Apple flavoured custard.
Not exactly a unique fruit to Thailand, but the Watermelon remains one of the most popular. Such is the quality of the soil, hot weather, and intense rainy seasons, the local Watermelons grow to be extremely juicy and flavoursome. You’ll come across several different types of Melon sold on the streets of Thailand, but the rich ruby red version is most popular.
Another of my favourites, the Pomelo is a kind of sweet and sour cousin of the orange, albeit a much bigger relative in size. Filled with tasty citrus flavours, the Pomelo can be difficult to peel, but fortunately most markets and vendors sell it pre peeled, in delicious juicy slices.