Thursday, March 29, 2007

Take A Fruit Stand

How do you work this thing?[Nate sez]: What's sweet, succulent, beautiful, a little prickly, and beloved by all? well...yours truly of course - But the more widely available, and much cheaper, Thai Fruit is a more apt answer to the above query. On practically every damn corner of Bangkok, on every island paradise, in every alley, nook, and cranny is a fruit stand selling whole or prepared fruit.

People take their produce very seriously here. Once you get used to this insane abundance of 30 cent servings of juicy, crunchy pineapple, bizarre but addictive sweet soaked green guava, watermelon, cantaloupe, green mango, asian pear, strawberries, mangosteen....

Let's rap shall we.

The all encompassing, ever popular, Mangosteen.

IMG_5533No other fruit carries such a large following these days in gourmet circles as the mangosteen, with it's hard, green stemmy top and eggplantian body, one cuts the top off to reveal the delicate white flesh segments inside. It has been touted as the single greatest fruit you'll ever eat.

Let me tell you something. We bought a bucket of these, tore into it like ravenous wolves, and when we emerged, we looked at each other - confused - because there was something seriously awry. It's called hype. Now maybe we didn't eat the shining example, perhaps we managed to dig out all of the wrong mangosteens (including the ones the Thai ladies picked out for us), but we've eaten them in central and south Thailand (and Cambodia), and it still tasted like a cross between sweet lime and cherry with a wonderful, soft, juicy texture that was (look, I'll admit) fantastic.

Queen of the fruits? No. Worth the god-knows-fucking what they're going to charge you at your local Chez le Trend d'Semaine for a well plated piece of fruit? Not this one guys.

The Daily Fix

The mangoes (as discussed previously) are the undisputed king of all fruits around here. May his reign be supreme. Nothing has beaten the face contorting deliciousness with which a Thai mango will annihilate you. There is also the much more prevalent IMG_5274(and cheaper) pineapple. They are so sweet, sooo juicy, sooo overflowing with pineapply love that no matter how mundane it may seem, it's just really fucking good everyday. Ben has issues without the stuff. I personally branch out into watermelons, asian pears, and green sugar soaked guavas.

[Ben sez]: Seriously, between the 10 baht pineapple (put it in my veins!) and the ripest mangoes you've ever seen I've though about hiring one of the fruit cart vendors to just follow me around and hack up pineapple all day long to supply my fix. When I get tired of that there are countless mango-ladies on the street to peel and cut up mangoes in all of their groan-inducing goodness. The combination of these two delicious yellow fruits is like having god shove a fistful of sunshine down your throat.

Rose Apples (pictured right) are also one of the more interesting (and consequently completely unavailable in the states) fruits. They are really crisp, actually bordering on styrofoam (like the ones discussed from Taiwan), and have a slightly grape-apple flavor that is really refreshing. In Thailand they're much juicier and sweeter than their Taiwanese counterparts, and this makes a regular appearance on my daily fruit consumption list.

What's that smell?

Durians - Jackfruit
[Ben sez]: We finally bit the bullet (and the fruit) and picked up these members of the spiky-fruit-of-doom family IMG_5263(a.k.a the Bombacaceae family). Jackfruit is actually good, a little bit of that Thai fruit funk, but also tangy and banana-y, not something requiring multiple daily indulgences , but not something to be avoided. Nate compares it to the flavor of JuicyFruit gum, I'm not sure if I agree, but I definitely see where he's coming from.

Durian, the stuff of legends, myths, epic poems, and more than one "No Durian Allowed" signs in hotels. On our last day in Bangkok it seemed like it was time to see if all the hype was right. According to various sources this is a stinky, custardy, caramelly fruit - I don't really agree. We got our massive lobe of Durian (in Ben's hands on right) in its plastic bag, and already there was a palpable funk that I couldn't quite place. Definitely soft and custard-like in texture, it barely required a knife to break apart before going into our apprehensive mouths. After some deep sensory evaluation, accessing the depths of our taste memories - it has hints of banana and pineapple, the ubiquitous Thai-fruit-funk taken to a whole new level, but primarily it tastes like steamed/sweated white onions. Maybe a little celery. Somehow this fruit has managed to be a perversion of unsalted mirepoix flavors.

Definitely not what I'm looking for in my fruit - and it tastes even worse when the Durian-flavored burps set in. I think Nate's solution for stinky tofu burps (swilling whiskey) might be required next time I eat durian.
[Nate sez]: And to put this into perspective everyone - we're being ridiculously concise. There are more fruits (RAMBUTANS!), more delicacies, more fascinating and mysterious fruit products that we could actually write a book about. So until we either have the luxury of a financier, or become independently flush, we'll stick with concise.


Anonymous said...

i can't handle it. i cannot. it's not fair. here i sit, at the fucking red cross writing grants!! getting fatter just reading!!

i'm thinking of opening a cupcake and pie shop. that will make me not want to go to bangkok right?

Unknown said...

sarah and i went to the oak st cinema to see the fearless filmakers event and little did we know your whole effing family would be in "the man who couldnt stop eating cake"

very funny, the finished product is hilarrious@!

oh yeah, and FKG killed it last night at the AQ.

Anonymous said...

I finally cracked that Durian paste-custard thing which has been sitting on my desk since August.

The smell wasn't too bad, but it had the funk.

The taste wasn't too bad, it definately had some funk, onion, sweat sock notes.

I couldn't swallow it, it somehow triggered the gag portion of my brain. Maybe it was past it's prime eating date. Maybe it just isn't that good to begin with.

Anyway. Yeah, durian. The pineapple sounds better.

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