Fruits in Bali come in a wide variety and are a feast for your eyes and taste buds, with striking and sometimes unusual textures, colours, shapes and sizes. Although several types share much resemblance with those that you find in other places across Southeast Asia, there are some varieties that can only be found here in Bali. This small island eight degrees south of the equator features different terrains that serve as favourable growing places for such fruits.
The fruit most locals love and most foreigners hate. But like the majority of unusual things, it’s an acquired taste. The powerful aroma has led to the fruit being banned from hotels and airplanes, and locals know that driving some home from a market or roadside stall will have their car reeking of durian for a week! Opening up one of these heavily spiked melon-sized fruits requires much care and experience. The texture and taste: creamy and sweet, means that there is a good reason for durian-flavoured ice cream. The notorious smell: to some, invigorating, sweet, or even okay… and for many others, putrid, rotten, or simply ‘the toilet is broken’! Lovers of blue cheese can try an exchange with the local villagers and get pretty much a very similar response.
Pleasant to all, the round, apple-sized and deep purple fruit is easily cracked opened by pressing between both palms, and caution is to be taken as the rind exudes a reddish sap that can stain clothes. The reddish stains on your palms resemble blood at a glance, hence its nickname the ‘blood fruit’. While the white inner flesh is the prize, a recent trend has surfaced in drying up the rinds and making them into health teas, due to its claimed high antioxidant content. Mangosteen is also known in local traditional medicine as a remedy for skin and digestive problems. The juicy flesh sections contain slightly fibrous and inedible seeds, and most will agree that one is never enough.
SNAKE FRUIT – SALAK
Texture and taste: sweet and slightly starchy consistency, a cross flavour between pineapple and Royal Gala apples. One type of Bali’s salak has recently been made into wine by farming cooperatives in Karangasem, East Bali. You’ll come across the fruit in almost all traditional markets and supermarkets.
Green and yellow when young and a bright red when ripe, they reveal a soft and cloudy white flesh with oval seeds. Over a dozen types of salak are available, from long-haired types with very juicy flesh, to dry-looking short-haired ones that are smaller, rounder and with a lesser moist content. You’ll know you are enjoying top-quality rambutan whenever the skin is easily opened; the flesh is sweet and succulent and easily separates from the seed
The ‘sour’ in its name is there for clear reason. Soursop is widely grown alongside papayas and bananas in villagers’ backyards, and is a delightful treat during the hot days of summer – often blended with sugar syrup as refreshing drinks. When eaten as it is, its sourness is obvious. Locals look for the fruit whenever they suffer from mouth ulcers. Very soft when ripe, the green skin is easily pinched and peeled away by hand, or sliced with a knife to reveal its aromatic, pulpy and juicy flesh. Enjoying soursop with your hands can be a messy undertaking, best slice open and dig in with a knife and fork, while discarding the small and oval black seeds.