Tropical fruits in Malaysia
Malaysia is a tropical country and those countries have typical exotic tropical fruits. Many of those fruits can not be found elsewhere then in the tropics, even exporting some is difficult. The reasons can vary. It is sometimes difficult to keep the fruit fresh. Fruits like rambutan and mangosteen are little known in some western countries for this reason.
Others exotic tropical fruits people do know, think of coconuts. However, in western Europe there's not really good fresh coconut available. In the stores you find brown dry (and thus old) coconuts. Once you arrive in Asia, like here in Lumut or Pangkor you can taste what a good coconut is like.
So, what do we have here in Malaysia on fruits? Here's a selection.
Asia has plenty of different types of bananas available. They grow on trees which can grow up to 15 meter. The leafs of the banana plant are 4 by 1 meter sized.
Not for nothing those leaves are used for many other things. Before plastic came in the world, everything was packed in banana leaf. Even now, the popular nasi lemak is still packed in banana leaf. And in some Indian shops you can still get your meal on a banana leaf.
There 5 different types of bananas available. Most common here in Malaysia are the apple bananas and baby bananas. Other types are: red banana, fruit banana and baking banana. Bananas are a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamin C.
Cempedak or champedak
Cempedak or champedak is a native kind of Malaysian fruit. The taste of the fruit is similar to the related Jackfruit and Breadfruit with a hint of Durian.
A sweet, mild, and juicy pulp surrounds the peanut-like seeds in a thick layer between the husk and an inedible core. The outer husk of the fruit is slightly sticky. Cempedak can be eaten fresh but you will find it often at stalls selling fried bananas (goreng pisang).
The coconut is probably one of the most well known exotic tropical fruits of the tropics. Even more, it's a symbol the tropics, coconut trees or palm trees is what I imagined when thinking of tropical island.
Coconut trees can be seen all over the tropical countries everywhere in the world. Coconut trees need warm weather and produce green coconuts which are filled with a colorless coconut juice.
If the coconut is fresh, inside is almost all juice and little flesh. Coconut milk is white in color and is extracted from grated coconut.
Coconut juice is a great drink to cool you down. Around Lumut and Pangkor you will plenty of little stalls selling fresh coconuts. A journey to Malaysia will not be complete without tasting fresh coconut.
Green coconuts have the size of a small ball. They have to be opened on top with a machete. You will get the whole coconut in front of you and you drink the coconut milk with a straw. Once you finish you can ask to cut the coconut in pieces and eat the flesh inside.
Dragonfruit's official name is Pitaya. It's a kind of fruit which is very tasteful despite its outside looks. The pink coloured skin is not to be eaten. Cut the fruit in half and use a spoon to eat the greyish flesh. The black seeds can be eaten but they are not digestible.
Duku langsat or Cateyes
This brown, yellowish fruit is a few centimeters big, about the size of grapes. The white flesh contains 5 segments which are very much like the segments of a small grapefruit.
The flesh is sweet and juicy, and tastes much like a very mild, sweet, grapefruit. Some seeds can be quite bitter so it's best not to bite in them.
Durian is one of those tropical fruits you love or hate. I was once told that the smell of durian is the "smell of hell" though I can not comment on this as I have never been to hell!
In some parts in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thai hotels, durian is not even allowed because of the smell. However, durian is a very popular exotic tropical fruit in Malaysia.
Many foreigner coming to Malaysia are reluctant to try the durian because of it's reputation. However, the yellowish white fruit flesh is sweet. Durian taste the best right after the fruit is opened.
Durian is easy to recognize. They are huge green brownish fruits, usually sold at markets and on the roadside. At the markets you can buy prepared durian which is cheap. Forget the smell and the reputation and try for yourself, it's a great tasting fruit.
Not as widespread as the very popular Durian, Jackfruit is still a nice tasting fruit which can grow very big. 90 cm long, 50cm diameter, and 35kg is not rare. You will most likely see jackfruit sold on the roadside when you travel through Malaysia. Do not confuse jackfruit with durian.
The flesh is a bit sticky but sweet. The problem with jackfruit is the smell as an unopened ripe fruit can have a unpleasant smell, something like rotting onions.
The mango is the King of the Tropical Fruits, if you ask me. When you come by bus to Lumut and Pangkor you will see almost everywhere on the way small stalls selling mangoes. In the area there are many mango trees, some people have them even in their garden. mangoes come in different taste. There are green and yellow ones. Contrary to what some believe, the green ones can be ripe too. Usually they are juicy sweet and tastier then the yellow ones.
Some of the not ripe mangoes are used by the locals to prepare mango salad. This is a spicy salad with these kind of mangoes and chilies. Believe me, it's very spicy! It is also a great little snack. And to be honest, still my favorite exotic tropical fruit!
Mangosteen (also known as mangis is a typical exotic tropical fruit virtually unknown in western countries until recently. The small brown fruit has about the size of a tennis ball. At the point where the fruit originally hold to the tree is a green rosette. Mangosteen need hot and humid weather.
To eat the mangosteen, you open the shell. Inside there are 4 to 8 triangular segments of white flesh. Inside the flesh there are seeds though sometimes the mangosteen is seedless. The flesh is slightly acid and mild to distinctly acid in flavor and is acclaimed as exquisitely luscious and delicious.
Although mangosteen is more popular in Thailand or Indonesia, it's easy to find in Malaysia. Along the road people sell them fresh from the trees, still hanging on a string. To make sure you have ripe mangosteen, feel the fruit. The peel should be solid and still easy to open. If the peel is too hard, the fruit is not ripe.
Well known in the western world and well known in Malaysia are the oranges. They are loved by everybody. The best oranges here in Malaysia are saved, it seems, for the Chinese New Year period when the shop are full of them. The Chinese population always give friends and family some oranges as it supposed to bring good luck and prosperity.
But oranges can be found the whole year through. At Pulau Pangkor the monkeys love oranges too. And some can do amazing things with them, have a look here:
Another typical tropical fruit which is widely available all over south east Asia. Papaya is less common available as in for example Indonesia but still popular.
Papayas have been known for it's value of vitamins A and C and potassium. Although the fruit can be eaten fresh, in Malaysia and Thailand papaya salad (spicy) is a popular snack.
Papayas are easy to spot on markets, they're yellow (sometimes green), have the shape of a pearl and are usually about 50-70 cm big. The flesh is juicy and silky smooth, with a sweet-tart flavor.
On the mainland near Lumut and Sitiawan there are quite a few pineapple plantations. This means you can buy fresh pineapples on the roadside where the pineapples come directly from the farms (usually they're cheaper too).
Pineapples are a popular tropical fruit in Malaysia. In restaurants you can get fresh pineapples as a desert or excellent pineapple juice.
Pineapples are almost everywhere available. The yellow flesh is great to cool you down.
Another quite unknown tropical fruit in the west is the pomelo (also known as shaddock). The pomelo have the size of a small football, yellow or greenish of color.
According to some of the local people here in Pangkor, the best pomelo's come from Tambun, a little town near Ipoh.
Pomelos are known by the locals for it's cleansing of the kidneys. The peel is quite hard and inside the flesh is covered with a white peel. The easiest way to eat the juicy fruit is to open the white peel and suck the flesh from the peel.
Rambutan is a red (sometimes orange or yellow) typical tropical fruit. The surface of the rambutan is covered with a green kind of hair. That's where the name rambutan comes from. In Malay, "rambut" means hair.
Rambutan have the size of an egg. The skin is leatherish with underneath white soft flesh and a single seed. Rambutan are at their best when the flesh comes easily of the seed. The flesh is juicy and sweetish. You have to cut through the skin to open the rambutan with your nails or bare hands. If the rambutan is fresh, that will never be a problem.
Some of the nicest rambutan you can buy at the road stalls on your way to Lumut and Pangkor. Take a ride (as described on my motor-/bicycling pages), you will most likely find some rambutan selling along the roads. These rambutan come straight from the private trees and are always fresh.
Watermelon is a very popular tropical fruit in Malaysia. It's eaten fresh but also in juice. Especially in hot weather watermelon is a great way to kill your thirst. As a cyclist I eat regular watermelon when I exercise.
In Malaysia you can watermelons in all sizes, from small footballs to 40cm in diameter. And when you finish the watermelon, you can even refresh your skin with the peel. People in Thai villages explained to me they keep their skin in good condition by rubbing the peel of watermelon on their skin. Indeed it does refresh a lot (as I experienced myself when I cycled in Thailand and had only watermelon to refresh myself when I camped out!)