Whilst their European peers may exist on a steady crop of wholesome and safer-to-peel sister fruits, Thais take full advantage of the thorny exteriors of some of their fruits and never appear to be put off by the challenge.
Given their often colourful and spiky appearance, many Thai fruits look more like collectable creatures than edible appetizers. Often under these thorny exteriors lie smooth interiors with subtle, sugary smells. At least that can be said for most. Sadly, the outlawed durian fruit has been demoted to the role of class reject due to its pungent odour.
Upon entry into most hotels in Thailand, you’ll kindly be presented with an illustration showing the felonious item among a list of equally shunned items that are forbidden inside. You could be forgiven for failing to suppress a slight giggle as this unassuming fruit takes its place in the offending object line-up.
Weighing in between 2–6lbs (1-3 kg), and covered in spikes, the durian is not an easy fruit to love. In Singapore, for example, anyone caught eating a durian on the nation’s rail network will receive a telling off. However, Thai people aren’t fair-weather fruit eaters, and despite the fact that the durian originated in South America, the fruit is very much in demand in Thailand.
If you can get past the offensive odour, then you’ll be in for a treat as this “King of Tropical fruits” — as it is known — unfolds into juicy yellow bulbs that are slightly tough but refreshing and rewarding. Durians can be found in vacuum-packed pouches in most Thai supermarkets, and in small bags at train stations, so you can’t fail to uncover this famous forbidden fruit.
Scratch beneath the surface and you’ll discover that Thailand in fact has many more “menacing” fruits on offer. Take for example the rambutan fruit, which resembles an ungodly sea creature, thanks to its abhorrent appearance.
With its hairy exterior and fluorescent pink colour, rambutans are easy to spot, but for most, it’s certainly not love at first sight. Things don’t get much more enticing once you’ve removed the garish skin, as what lies underneath very much resembles a human eye. But perseverance pays off for those who dare to try this fugly fruit as it has a light yet syrupy taste.
Elusory and evocative yellow dragon fruit
Next up on the list of bizarre yet brilliant Thai fruits is the mighty dragon fruit. Here, we’re not just talking about the popular pink-and-white dragon fruit (Hylocereus costaricensis and Hylocereus undatus, if we’re to give them their official titles) but the obscure and evocative yellow dragon fruit (Hylocereus megalanthus) with its fluorescent exterior and spotted interior.
Native to Mexico (but steadily growing in popularity in Asia), the visually stunning yellow dragon fruit is harder to find than its pink-and-white counterpart. According to those who have tried it, its smooth, sacchariferous taste is a real prize for anyone lucky enough to get their hands on it.
So, the next time you’re wandering through a local Thai market, don’t be intimidated. Do as the Thais do, embrace the bizarre and grab those ugly fruits before someone else does!
Header image courtesy Sodanie C.
G Adventures runs a number of departures in Thailand encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater to different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this big blue planet of ours — check out our small group trips here.