As a service to our readers, I have taken it upon myself, in a never-ending quest to unravel the secrets of Asian culture, to seek out and uncover, at some personal risk to myself, the mysteries of Asia’s forbidden fruits.
That’s right – I’m here to tell you about all the weird fruit they have on sale at my local Asian supermarket.
Now, it’s fortunate that I’ve been able to travel to Asia frequently and I’ve seen the variety of fruit available over there. There’s nothing in the Asian markets here that I haven’t seen for sale over there. Still, I can imagine the initial shock of anyone walking through the produce section of an Asian supermarket for the first time.
Let’s take the pomelo, for example. A pomelo is the largest fruit in the citrus family. The term “large” is an understatement.
How big is it?
A typical pomelo is roughly the same size as a full-grown golden retriever. I once saw a pomelo fall off a fruit stand and roll down a grocery aisle forcing women and children to flee in horror from the marauding citrus boulder rolling towards them. A family of four could live off of one pomelo for a week and a half. In some countries when you file your taxes you can claim your pomelo as a dependent.
It’s that BIG.
Rambutan is a fruit from Southeast Asia that has a very pleasant taste and is shaped similarly to lychee, except that the outside shell is round and covered with soft, crimson red tentacles. I don’t know how else to describe the look of rambutan except to say that it seems oddly perverted. When holding rambutan in your hand at a local Asian supermarket, I have a tendency to look over my shoulder to see if anyone’s looking in my direction as if I’m doing something seedy.
The few times I’ve purchased rambutan at the market I’ve discreetly asked the bagger to stuff them into a plain, brown paper bag.
Then there’s the durian. A durian is about the size and shape of a football covered with sharp, spiny, green thorns on the outside, looking a lot like a grenade on steroids. Cutting a durian in half, you see two sacs, each filled with a grayish yellow gelatinous mass that looks a lot like the forensics scene from the movie Aliens.
Let’s not forget about the famous durian smell. Encyclopedia Britannica describes the durian smell as a “pungent foul odor.” How would I describe it? Take one pair of dirty gym socks, stuff them with some moldy cheese, drive them to your nearest dairy farm during the warmest time of the day, and voilà! Pungent foul odor.
Despite the fact that the actual taste of a durian is sweet and creamy, what puzzles me is that some point at the beginning of time, one of our ancestors came upon this ominous looking fruit for the first time with all it’s spiny thorns, alien-like innards, and locker room smell, and was still curious enough (or desperate enough) to wonder, “Sure – it’s scary looking and smells like my feet, but I wonder what it tastes like?”
Maybe he was so famished and exhausted from lugging around the pomelo he found that he was ready to eat anything.