The food is excellent in Malaysia and Singapore. One thing you will probably notice is the abundance of fresh tropical fruit. It’s sold whole and sliced, and as fresh juice. Here is my alphabetical list of fruits in Malaysia and Singapore, and what I do and don’t like (note: no, this is not every fruit available! There are too many.)
Ciku (pronounced like cheekoo) is the Malay word for what is sometimes better known as sapodilla. The fruit grows on an evergreen tree which is native to Latin America. It is a brown oval-shaped fruit that varies in size from the length of your pointer finger to the length of your hand. It’s brown inside with 2 large seeds. Depending on how ripe it is, it can taste a little like brown sugar or it can taste very strongly of brown sugar (and maybe a bit of a rum flavor). I like ciku but it wasn’t one of my favorites.
Dragonfruit, also known as pitaya, is a cactus fruit native to Central and South America. They are usually pink with small green leaf-like things on the outside. The inside can be pink or white depending on variety, and has many small edible seeds much like a kiwifruit. It’s juicy and mildly sweet; it’s not strong but it is refreshing. I absolutely love dragonfruit, and I think the kind that’s pink inside is more delicious. It makes an amazing juice when combined with soursop (below). Just cut it open and cut off the skin and enjoy!
Durian, often called the King of Fruits, is absolutely unmistakable. It’s native to Southeast Asia. It is usually a bit smaller than a soccer ball and is covered in spikes. It also has a very strong smell, and you will learn to recognize it while traveling in Malaysia. Because of this it is occasionally banned from public places, such as Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit and the hostel we stayed at in Penang. The flesh is yellow. It was not durian season while we were there and so we didn’t have any fresh durian. I did try a durian egg crème and I’ve had frozen durian before. The taste is reminiscent of a cantaloupe, but then the smell kicks in and I honestly can’t take it. Sorry folks, no durian fans here.
I mentioned that the honey mango was my favorite fruit in Malaysia. I’m sure you all know mangoes well, but you should also know that you should choose a yellow one if possible. I don’t like the green ones. The skin of the mango as well as the flesh close to it can be very astringent (you don’t eat the skin and sometimes you won’t want to eat the bit around the skin). I highly recommend eating a mango or five in Malaysia.
Jackfruit is a large (it can get up to 80 pounds!) fruit native to India. It does not have a strong smell so if you see something that looks like jackfruit but smells like durian, it is probably cempedak (which we did not get to try). Inside the fruit looks stringy and fibrous. Usually you’ll buy it cut up, since you probably don’t want an entire jackfruit. The flavor is not strong, but it is sweet, though dry. I like it but I don’t think it’s amazing; however you should definitely try it.
Jambu air or water apple is a native Malaysian fruit. It looks like a small bell pepper and can be red or green. As the name suggests the texture is similar to an apple, and it is mostly juicy with a bit of sweetness. The red kind is sweeter than the green kind. You can eat the skin.
Mangosteen is a strong contender for most delicious fruit of the trip. Native to Indonesia, it is a round hard purple fruit with a few leaves usually left at the top. Inside the flesh is white and sectioned. Some sections have large seeds which you shouldn’t eat. It tastes very sweet and really nice. The US apparently lifted its ban on imported mangosteens in 2007 but they are nearly unfindable in basically any form. So go somewhere like Malaysia and eat up!
Papaya is a very familiar fruit to most people and is native to Mexico. You can buy papaya slices throughout Malaysia (if you get a whole one, remove the skin and seeds before eating). I am honestly not a fan of papaya (the flavor is disagreeable to me) but I hear that the papaya in Malaysia is especially good, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Soursop (which is durian belanda in Malay and guanabana in Spanish) is a green, slightly spiky fruit native to Mexico, Central America, and sub-Saharan Africa. The flesh is white and pulpy and has inedible seeds throughout it. I have yet to actually eat whole soursop; the one above was not, in fact, ripe. However it tastes fantastic as juice or made into ice cream. As you can imagine it is pretty tangy but also a bit sweet.
Like I said, this list is not even close to being all-inclusive. It leaves out such things as bananas, pineapple, starfruit, apples, longan, rambutan, and guava, among other things. But I don’t have good pictures of those, or they are coming in an upcoming post about the Penang Tropical Fruit Farm. I do apologize if I left out your favorite.
What’s your favorite tropical fruit?