One of the most fun and interesting things about traveling is trying all of the local food. Even if some items are available at your local Asian food store, the freshness and taste is incomparable to actually experiencing those fruits and vegetables in the country of origination. There are also many different varieties of the same fruit. As an example, the green and red Tommy Atkins mangocommonly found in Central and South America and sold in the states, has a sweet yet sour, cottony after taste and firm fibrous texture where the golden Nam-Dok-Mai Thai mangoes have a creamy sweetness and cut like butter, with a spoon!
Below is a list of fruit, some common and others less familiar, so you can easily navigate the food markets of Southeast Asia. Some fruit is even banned in public places. Continue reading to learn more!
These berries have a distinctive boomerang v-shape, are mildly sweet, sometimes sour, and less juicy than wild North American black berries. This variety was rarely seen, only in parts of northwestern Thailand in the smaller villages outside of Chiang Mai.
This fruit is growing in popularity among food bloggers, displaying either the white or bright pink flesh speckled with tiny black seeds throughout smoothie bowls and protein shakes alike. The fruit tends to be sweeter in Asia, and much more affordable. One can often find the fruit at night markets precut with a wooden skewer for instant eating.
This king of fruits is banned on all forms of public transportation and hotels. I can’t take credit for the comical description that it “tastes like heaven, smells like hell,” but to many the preference is debatable. The texture and taste is one-of-a-kind, like an overly ripe muskmelon, with notes of mushy garlic. I didn’t find it grotesque, but not particularly favorable either, and would only consume it for the health benefits, not taste. Locals will often smell the fruit before purchasing, as the odor should be somewhat pleasant when it is fresh. The longer the fruit sits after cutting, the stronger the stench becomes. Here is a fun article about the actual penalties of consuming durian in banned areas.
Green guava is somewhat sour, sliced like an apple, more similar to a firm pear with tiny rock-hard seeds. It is often served at markets with a dipping powder of sugar, salt, and chili flakes.
This unique fruit has an amazing flavor, best described as an alkaline pineapple with notes of fresh rain and cotton candy. The texture is very chewy and each pod has a large seed within. Interestingly, this fruit is often a vegan substitute for pulled pork when cooked.
Also called dragon eye, this fruit has a thin outer skin, easily removed to reveal a tart white berry surrounding a seed.
It is possible to dislike mangoes in the western hemisphere and love golden mangoes found in Asia. Since they are non-fibrous, very soft and sweet, they have a short shelf life and are mainly found at roadside markets or served in restaurants as dessert such as mango sticky rice.
This queen of fruits has many health benefits, is rich in vitamins, and is often referred to as having a cooling effect. The purple outer shell is mildly tough, can leave a red stain, but reveals a delicate white fruit easily pulled apart in segments. The flavor is fresh, simultaneously sweet and tart, with a somewhat mushy texture.
Ripe papaya is bright orange and quite soft like ripe mangoes. The flavor is rich and sweet with an almost vegetable-esque after taste.
This fruit resembles grapefruit but is more mild and sweet than bitter.
This fruit is similar to the longan but larger and sweeter, with a creamier texture and is simply much more fun to look at.
This prickly avocado-looking fruit tastes like strawberry, banana, and pineapple all wrapped into one. The flesh inside is quite soft, juicy, and scattered with seeds.
This scaly and brown strawberry-looking fruit is also nicknamed snake fruit. Once you remove the skin it looks like a large clove of garlic. This firm fruit is pleasant and tart, but doesn’t provide much fruit due to the large seed.
I hope you enjoy reading about, tasting, and trying all of the interesting fruits of Southeast Asia!