Thailand’s temperate climate makes it a fertile land that produces some of the world’s most exotic, flavoursome fruits. We take a closer look at some of the more unusual produce the Kingdom has to offer.
When it comes to adventurous fresh fruits, Thailand offers an array of exquisite offerings
No matter which corner of Thailand you’re exploring, it’s likely that you’ll encounter fruits just as exotic as the location on your travels. Thanks to the warm, temperate climate, an array of exquisite fruits is grown in abundance throughout the Kingdom. Of course, the local fresh produce market is one of the best places to go if you’re keen to see Thailand’s colourful produce all out on display. However, if you want to learn more about the unique textures, flavours and health benefits of each fruit then a cooking lesson at your private villa might be a good idea, too.
Just as you’re probably keen to sample as many Thai curries as possible during your next villa holiday, it’s worth taking the same approach with your fruit consumption. Not only are the offerings diverse, affordable and nutritious, but trying as many new fruits as possible could also inject a sense of adventure with a daily trip to the market. So, apart from the classic tropical choices like pineapple, mango and coconut, what else should you try to sample?
This small fruit packs a powerful punch of flavour
If this is your first trip to Southeast Asia, it’s unlikely that you’ll have encountered mangosteens before. Featuring a deep mauve round shell, this fruit succulent contains a delicate, flavoursome white flesh that is nibbled in segments. The juice is rich in flavour, and the perfect addition to your morning feast. If you’re keen to experiment with cocktails whilst on holiday in a private rental villa, the mangosteen could also provide an unusual, fruity base for your sundowner creations.
As well as being tasty in its own right, the mangosteen is also one source of inspiration for a traditional Thai dessert – luk chub. These candied, glazed mung beans are shaped into an array of tropical foods – including chillies, mangoes and mangosteens.
It’s worth noting that the mangosteen has had a role in traditional Asian medicine for hundreds of years. It was once brought all the way from Asia to England so that Queen Victoria could sample its fantastic flavour. As well as being low in calories and high in Vitamin C, the mangosteen is also packed with useful anti-oxidants, making it the perfect addition to a nutritious holiday diet.
The word ‘rambutan’ comes from the Malay word for ‘hair’
On first encounter, you could almost be forgiven for thinking that this seemingly hairy fruit was actually a living creature rather than an edible item. In fact, the fruit’s name is derived from the Malay word for hair – rambut. However, beneath the spiky exterior of this tropical gem lies a white, translucent flesh, which offers a delightful mid-morning or afternoon snack.
In terms of its health benefits, the high protein and carbohydrate content of the rambutan make it a smart solution if you’re looking for an energy boost. The flesh also boasts high water content, so it’s a fantastic choice if you’re feeling thirsty. The high vitamin C content found in a rambutan will also aid your body in its absorption of minerals, iron and copper.
Thanks to its strong flavour and pungent aroma, many people have a love/hate relationship with this fruit
There is no sitting on the fence when it comes to this fragrant, spiky fruit – you’ll either love it, or hate it. To those in the first category, it’s a sweet, satisfying dessert. To those in the latter group, it’s a strong smelling anomaly to avoid. In fact, the intense aroma of the durian fruit means that it’s actually banned in some public places – including hotels. However, if you consider yourself an adventurous traveller, this is a locally grown delicacy that you simply can’t say no too.
One of the best ways to enjoy durian is to have it served with sticky rice and coconut milk and like many of the fruits on this list; durians are high in fibre, which is great news for your digestive system. According to the principles of traditional Asian medicine, durian is often praised as a tool that can be used to fight aging. Modern science tells us that the durian is high in anti-oxidants, which could be why the fruit has become to widely known as an anti-aging wonder.
Delectable dragon fruit
Pink on the outside and white in the centre, this fruit is a delectable addition to a fruit salad
This magenta cactus-like fruit looks almost alien from the outside. On the inside, the soft white flesh punctuated with small black seeds. Unlike many other tropical Thai fruits, dragon fruit does not have an especially strong flavour. If you slice the fruit in half, it can be eaten like a spoon in the same way you would eat a kiwi. Alternatively, it can form a visually striking addition to a fresh fruit salad. Dragon fruit are also a common ingredient in nam ponlamai ruam ban – Thai mixed fruit smoothies.
However, dragon fruit does more than look pretty sitting in your fruit bowl. Thanks to the high level of vitamin C it contains, dragon fruit offer a strong boost to your immune system, as well as stimulating other anti-oxidants in your body’s system. It’s also rich in plenty of B vitamins, including B1, B2 and B3, which will have a positive effect on everything from your blood pressure to your skin tone.
Once cut open, this melon-sized fruit contains sweet, bite-sized snacks
This enormous, spiky fruit is in season between January and May, so if you’re sampling the culinary delights of Thailand at this time you shouldn’t miss out on the chance to taste it. A similar size to a large melon, this succulent fruit packs a powerful punch of flavour. The flesh is waxy and textured, and usually eaten raw. Some locals will even fry it in batter for a tasty dessert. Jackfruit is also one of the popular flavours used in traditional Thai ice cream. Lighter and less creamy than conventional Western ice cream, this jackfruit version is the perfect refreshing snack on a balmy Thai afternoon.
Like dragon fruit, jackfruit is high in vitamin C, which means it will give your body’s immune system an excellent boost. It’s also high in anti-oxidants that will help to clear toxins from your colon, helping to minimise the chances of developing a complaint in this part of your body.
Did you know?
The durian’s flesh is sweet, sticky and fragrant
While durian is served on many dining tables across Southeast Asia, you’ll find that it’s served differently depending on where you are. In Malaysia, people won’t eat durian until the fruit is completely ripe and has fallen from the tree. At this stage, the fruit has a thick, treacle-like consistency, and is reminiscent of custard. In Thailand, on the other hand, durians are picked before they fall from the branch. That means, when they find their way to the table, they’re less ripe, and the flesh of the fruit is still sweet but much more solid in consistency.
If you’re not in an adventurous mood, Thailand produces plenty of sweet, well-known fruits as well:
- Pineapple is a favourite fruit for those harbouring a guilty sweet tooth. Packed with vitamins and minerals, this tasty fruit will provide the perfect sweet kick to your morning smoothie.
- Mango season is one of our favourite times of year in Thailand. From mouth-watering mango sorbet to irresistible mango and sticky rice, this fruit is a key ingredient in many traditional Thai desserts.
- Watermelon is the perfect choice when you’re feeling thirsty, but in the mood for something slightly more flavoursome than a glass of water. Blend and serve over ice to create a fruity, refreshing beverage.