For those who have been to Thailand, you have to admit the tropical fruits are delicious. Even something as common as a mango tastes so much better.
Ever proud of their harvest, the Thai people incorporate local fruits into their cooking like no other. They put in in sweet desserts, they eat it with rice, they even add chilli to their fruits to create a savoury salad. The next time you’re in Thailand, hunt down some of these delicious Thai fruit dishes:
1. Custard Apple in Coconut Milk – Noi Nah Ka Ti
When eaten on its on, custard apple / น้อยหน่า is intensely soft and sweet. You can find them in season during June to September at the local stalls. The flesh is soft, pulpy, and silky to the touch of the tongue. The Thais like to boil it with coconut milk and pandan leaves in a sweet dessert called Noi Nah Ka Ti.
2. Spicy Pomelo Salad – Yum Som-O
Reminiscence of grapefruits, pomelo or Som-O / ส้มโอ in Thai, has a citrusy zing and juicy, pop-ping texture that makes it a fresh addition to salads. Yum Som-O is a very popular Thai salad that is a staple appetiser at most restaurants. The fruit is the main star of the dish and tossed with prawns, lime juice, chilli, and fish sauce. The mixture combines sweet, sour, spicy and salty elements for a dish that is bursting with flavours.
3. Green Papaya Salad – Som Tam
Som Tam / ส้มตำ is similar to Yum Som-O, but instead of pomelo, it features shredded unripe papaya. This is another staple dish you cannot leave Thailand before trying. Green papaya is added into a mortar and pounded together with lime, chili, fish sauce, and palm sugar. On top of that, brined crabs, shrimps, tomatoes, eggplant, and beans are added in as well. The green papaya adds a tangy flavour and a crunch to the savoury dish.
4. Mango Sticky Rice – Khao Neeo Mamuang
Mango sticky rice / ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง can sometimes confuse the palate; the sweet mango makes it a dessert yet the heavy glutinous rice flavoured with salty coconut cream makes it the main meal. You wouldn’t expect fruit and rice to go together, but in the case of mango stick rice, it is a heavenly marriage. Dinner or dessert, this dish is authentically Thai. You could try replicating this at home with the mango from your country, but it will not taste the same.
5. Tangerine Juice – Som Kiew-Waan
Green on the outside and orange on the inside, Thai tangerines / ส้มเขียวหวาน are extremely fragrant and sweet. They may be tiny, but they are potently juicy and rich in vitamin C. Thai tangerines are best had as juice. You’ll see hardworking stall vendors manually juicing and bottling them on the spot to be sold. Sometimes, they’ll also add a pinch of salt or sugar to enhance the taste. A cold bottle of tangerine juice is the perfect pick me up after a long day in the heat.
6. Banana Fritters – Kluay Kaek
Thai bananas are cooked in many ways, but one of the most popular banana snacks is the deep fried sweet bananas / กล้วยแขก. Banana fritters are a fun street snack to munch on while on the road. The secret ingredient that makes it uniquely Thai is the shredded coconut and sesame seeds that are added to the batter.
7. Young Jackfruit Curry – Kaeng Khanun-on
Travel to the north of the country and you will find Kaeng Khanun-on / แกงขนุน, a curry cooked with young jackfruit. The fruit gives the sweet and sour curry a dash of exotic fruit flavour. When boiled with stewed pork and cherry tomatoes, it becomes the best appetiser for the feast ahead of you.
8. Durian Sticky Rice – Kao Neaw Toorien
If you’re looking to upgrade from Mango sticky rice, look no further. Durian, the king of fruits, is both loved and hated as the world’s stinkiest fruit. Khao neow toorien / ข้าวเหนียวทุเรียน in Thai, the smell of the fruit alone can be overbearing for some, but when paired with coconut milk and glutinous rice, a new merger of flavours is born. The custardy durian flesh adds a smooth texture to the otherwise chewy and sticky rice, while the coconut milk softens the durian’s powerful smell and creates a new fragrance. This is not a dish for everyone, but don’t discount it until you try it.
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