Friday, September 15, 2006

5 EXOTIC FOODS TO TRY BEFORE YOU DIE

I was tagged by primaryconsumer for a meme that's going around (it started over at The Traveler's Lunchbox- you can see the original post here). You have to pick 5 things you think everyone should eat before they die.

My first thought was tropical fruits. I grew up in a tropical island for 17 years eating a large variety of fruits that I was disappointed with the Western Hemisphere's choices of fruits. The fruits that I grew up with are so unusual to North Americans, I don't even know their English names for some of them. I really miss them and can't get all of them here in the US. I tried to get descriptions of the fruits (with pictures) I grew up with from the Internet as much as I could but some of them couldn't even be found. These are the fruits: salak (snakefruit), rambutan, jambu (wax apple or jawa apple), duku, sawo (sapodilla), sirsat (annonaceae), mangostene, blimbing (star fruit or carambola), durian, lengkeng (longan or dragon eye), mangga (mango), nangka (jackfruit), degan (young coconut) and papaya. Some of them, such as longan, rambutan, young coconut, star fruit, mango, papaya, and durian can be bought in Asian markets in my area. Although, not all varieties of fruits of the same kind are available here. For example, there are different types of mangoes and bananas in Indonesia and I only can get 1 or 2 kinds of mangoes and bananas here. They are imported from South America who doesn't have all of the varieties Indonesia has.

Another thought was Indonesian desserts or dishes flavored with screwpine leaves (pandan) and palm sugar (gula jawa). I missed the smell and flavor of fresh screwpine leaves. What I can find here are the frozen ones and they are not as strong as the fresh leaves. Like vanilla, it is the best smelling essence for desserts made with a mixture of coconut milk and palm sugar.

Here is my list of 5 foods people should try before they die

  1. The King of Fruits: Durian. I don't know why it is called the king of fruits. I think because it is the smelliest fruit in the world that it is banned from airlines, hotel, and all kinds of public places in Asian countries. People describe this fruit as 'smell like hell but taste like heaven' which is a perfect description for it. If you don't grow up with it you will need to acquire the taste, get used to the smell, and learn how to love this fruit. But once you love it, you will be missing it. You can search the Internet for 'durian' and find all kinds of stories how people describe their first encounter experiences with this fruit. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
  2. The Queen of Fruits: Mangostene. I can't find this fruit in the US, haven't had it for 26 years, and missed it. It is considered to be a medicinal fruit and has a delicious unique flavor. The mangostene juice is sold in the Internet for its healthy qualities. I didn't even know about the healthy characteristics until I read about it in the Internet. I just know that it tastes so good.
  3. Fresh Young Coconut. Hhmmm.... the taste of coconut juice(not coconut milk) and young coconut meat is so good. It is now available in my area and is sold in Asian markets. The raw foodists have made this fruit popular recently. Here is an interesting picture and movie how to open a young coconut(skills acquired to open this fruit): how to open a young coconut. Lately, I found out that Whole Foods in my area carry it. I don't know about WF in other locations though. The Indonesians usually add shaved ice and rose flavored syrup on top of a mixture of young coconut meat and juice. I usually eat them straight from the fruit.
  4. Desserts or dishes flavored by screwpine leaves (pandan). Indonesian desserts usually are flavored with pandan instead of vanilla extract. Indonesians use coconut milk and palm sugar (gula jawa) to make the desserts rich, tasty, and decadent. The original recipes of the desserts usually do not contain eggs and butter; mostly, they are vegan. But due to Western influences, new recipes with eggs and butter came out in the last decades. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Pictured is an Indonesian Pandan and Coffee Flavored Jello/Agar-agar Mold dessert. Fresh pandan leaves are great for flavoring rice and curries too.
  5. Tempeh. Just like tofu, tempeh has become popular lately in vegan and vegetarian world. This is one that either you love it or you hate it. I grew up with tempeh so of course I love it. The key to try tempeh for the first time is to eat a fresh tempeh. If you try tempeh that has been frozen for months, you more than likely will hate it. Frozen tempeh can be bitter and dry. The fresh tempeh is absolutely wonderful.

P.S.:
I am adding a site that has pictures of
Javanese Fruits (this is the url:http://www.geocities.com/omimachifuri/fruits.htm ). This is quite an interesting site. Not only fruits were displayed in this site but also Javanese vegetables and snacks. I just kept clicking Next, page after page. These are the fruits, vegetables, and snacks I grew up with. There are clear pictures of exotic fruits in this site. Hhmmm...seeing them made me missed them more and I only can see the pictures. :-(

11 comments:

thesundaybaker said...

I'm sorry you can't find mangosteens we can get them here in Vancouver, BC Canada. Because of the price, I usually don't buy them although they are yummy.

My mom is orginally from Hong Kong. When she came here many of the foods she like wasn't available. Mom served regular pears underiped to me and my sister. For years, I thought everyone ate pears that way.
Later, when Asian pears became available I realize Mom missed the crisp texture of asian pears. That's why she served the above underripe. If she couldn't duplicate the taste she could at least duplicate the texture.

If you ever come up this way check out Chinatown or the Asian markets in Vancouver, Canada. Now, there is huge variety because of our large mixed Asian population. I think some stores even carry fresh pandan.

kleo2 said...

Super picks, every one of them. Needless to say, i only know No. 3 and No. 5 personally! I'm so sheltered... great stuff there.

primaryconsumer said...

Great top 5! I'm like Kleo, so sheltered about all these (to me) exotic fruits. I think I would be intimidated if I came across some of the stuff on your list, lol.

Spice Island Vegan said...

Vancouver, B.C. Really? Wow! I haven't been to chinatown Vancouver but have heard that it is pretty extensive in terms of ethnic food. I only 've been at the Vancouver airport on my way to Denman Island.

I want to visit this city someday.

SIV

edgeofnormal said...

Oh, you are a brave woman with the durian. I tried, and even held my nose...yikes!

I'd add the dragon fruit. ;-)

Johanna3 said...

wow great top 5!
your blog is very nice!

Spice Island Vegan said...

Edgeofnormal,

I think it depends on if you grow up with it or not. When I grew up, no one in my family worried about the smell of durian at all. We just ate it like other fruit and no discussion about the smell. Although, we know that we won't put it in the car for too long. Then, when I came to the US that I realized how exotic this fruit will be to people here.

Now, Indonesia doesn't have dragon fruits. I have never seen it before until I saw it in the market and it looks strange...ha ha...

SIV

P.S. Thanks Johanna3, kleo2 and primaryconsumer

Harmonia said...

WOW! What a delightful post! I learned a lot...but then again...I usually do learn a lot from your posts! Thank you!

Katie said...

I think I've tried all the fruits you mentioned! I love them all! Unfortunately it is so difficult and expensive to find them in the US!

Anonymous said...

Hello SIV! I am thrilled to find your website! I have eaten mangosteen that is canned and was impressed by it...I am so grateful for you to reveal the true essence of Pandan, (Pandavan leaves). I have eaten essence of screwpine that was artificial in Indian puddings such as kheer. I now understand how to get the essence from the true leaf...

I am looking forward to attempting the coffee flan...but I need to find Agar Agar that doesn't already have sugar in it....right?
Thanks so much for your wonder website!

Anonymous said...

Javanese name: SIRSAT | Indonesian name: sirsak |
Other name: annonaceae

Sirsak is almost never eaten as it is. It's sticky, has the feel of fibers all over it, and sweet-sour. It's usually made into drinks (fresh) and syrups and bottled juice.

The name of this fruit in Puerto Rico is guanabana, it is delicious.