Many people immediately think about exploring the local food when exploring Thailand – rightly so, there are some stunning dishes to enjoy here once you get past the tourist staples of fried rice and pad Thai! – but just as exciting for the taste buds is the huge array of fruit you’ll come across on your travels. Whilst many Thai fruits do appear in overseas supermarkets these days, they’re often either very expensive or somehow don’t quite have the same taste that they do when enjoying them taking in stunning views or whilst exploring an off-the-beaten track village.
Here are our recommendations for the must try fruits to enjoy on any adventure in Thailand but before we get started lets cover off the ‘simple’ fruits!
Bananas – hardly ‘exotic’ or limited to Thailand but there are over 20 different types of bananas to enjoy here and all seem to have triple the taste of the ‘perfectly’ formed bananas you find in a supermarket overseas. And of course don’t forget the great travellers staple of ‘fried bananas’ – never a bad way to end a meal….
Oranges – again, hardly the most exotic of fruits but you’ll come across them all over the North of the country and they tend to be lovely and sweet. And don’t be fooled by the green and / or bruised skin. The fruit inside is lovely and refreshing.
Now onto the more exotic fruits that should be part of all adventures:
Mangosteen (มังคุด – mankhud)
A slightly strange looking fruit with it’s thick purple skin but open it up and the juicy white flesh is simply brilliant. Sweet, refreshing and well worth the mess you’ll probably make ‘peeling’ them. Thai’s seem to be able to open up mangosteen’s quickly and simply, we’re still trying to wash the purple juice off our fingers – but that’s not going to stop us eating more. Buy by the KG from markets and the side of the road and enjoy a taste sensation.
Jackfruit (ขนุน – khnun)
Encased in a huge spiky shell and weighing in at several KG’s this is one of the world’s more intimidating fruits when you see if hanging from a tree. However, it’s unlikely you’re going to have to cut into the shell yourself and rinse the sticky ‘pith’ away – instead head to a local market and buy a bag of pre-cleaned and ready to eat yellow segments of heaven. We can’t describe the taste (it tastes like jackfruit!) but it’s unique (in a good way), lovely and very addictive.
Longan (ลำไย – lam yai)
Travel anywhere around Chiang Mai and you’ll see literally thousands of longan trees and these wonderful little fruits hanging off in bunches. With a pretty unimpressive thin brown skin they don’t look particularly attractive. But inside is a small, clear (ish) fruit (with a small stone inside) which is sweet and full of flavour. Related to the lychee family but definitely the best in breed. Cheap, easy to peel and eat and with fruit this good we reckon ‘5 a day’ isn’t enough.
Rambutan (เงาะ – ngok)
So strange looking you half expect David Attenborough to be filming them for a new wildlife programme but don’t be putt off. The reddish ball covered in greenish (usually) ‘hair’ contains and lovely gentle fruit inside. Moreish, cheap, easy to eat and a great companion to a long journey. Don’t ignore these hairy little balls – get them peeled and enjoy the wonderful flavour.
Dragon Fruit (แก้วมังกร – kaew mangon)
Possible the most beautiful looking fruit there is, in our opinion anyway, and it almost seems a crime to cut into the wonderful exterior. But do and you’ll be rewarded with a gentle flavour and a real palate clenser. Again, it’s impossible to describe the taste but brilliant to come across a fruit that tastes as good as it looks!
Rose Apples (ชมพู่ – chompoo)
Two main varieties – green and red (our favourite are the reds) – and a wonderfully refreshing fruit on a hot sunny day. A gentle flavour (a bit rose’y as the name would suggest) but full of juice and if only all fruit and veg tasted this good then we’d never have any problems persuading our children to forego the tempting sugary snacks from 7-11
Finally, a mention for the famous (infamous!) Durian (ทุเรียน – turian)
So much has been written about this fruit and so much of it is over the top hyperbole. Yes, it can smell a bit but usually it doesn’t. Yes, the flavour can seem strange to some, but to many millions it’s pure nectar. Yes, it’s expensive – and we’re not going to deny that one…..
It’s well worth getting over your pre-conceptions and what you might have read and giving the durian a go. Forget the ‘weird’ smell, the taste is really interesting and not offensive at all. And the texture is more interesting still. We might be the only ones but it sort of reminds us of a blancmange…..)
So, there you have it. Some of the key fruits to give a go on your next adventure in Thailand. And of course these are only scratching the surface – there are plenty more to discover and enjoy, just get stuck into any local market and give things a go!