Thursday, July 22, 2010

Exotic Fruits

One of the benefits living in the UAE is the variety of produce available. With the fertile Mediterranean countries not too far away, and the Indian sub-continent and Southeast Asia very accessible, fruits and vegetables from these areas are readily available here. I have had the pleasure to enjoy a lot of fruits and vegetables sold in Abu Dhabi that I grew up eating in the Philippines. I especially like the exotic tropical fruits.

The pictured fruits shown below, balimbing (starfruit) and atis (sugar apple or custard apple), are fruits that I grew up eating.

For two good-sized balimbing, I paid a little bit more than $2. They turned out to be sweet and succulent. They were eaten with a light sprinkle of salt.

The three pieces of atis cost less than $2. They were also sweet. But the fruit is full of black seeds, so there was not really that much of the fruit left to eat.

Mangoes, papayas, and coconuts are also plentiful here. There are many variety of mangoes from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. I prefer the smaller Indian mango that is a bit sour; I eat it with alamang, a Filipino salty shrimp paste. The papaya can be eaten green while still unripe. I usually slice it in smaller pieces then dip in in a vinegar, salt, and pepper sauce. I also use the unripe papaya for cooking tinolang manok, chicken soup with papaya and ginger. A ripened papaya is also a treat. It has a distinctive taste --hard to describe, but otherwise pleasing.

The coconut was purchased whole for less than $1. The vendor cuts the top off and slips a straw inside. The "buko" juice inside the coconut shell was wonderful. The shell is then cut in half to reveal the white coconut "meat". The meat from fresh, as well newer coconuts, are tender and tastier. Otherwise, the meat is quite hard for the older fruits.

When I stayed home for a day two weeks ago because of neck issues, the hotel staff was nice enough to send up a fruit basket for me. Included in the basket were rambutan, the reddish prickly fruit pictured below:

I don't think I have ever eaten this before. Once you remove the scary looking outer skin, a white, juicy flesh is revealed . It is quite tasty.

There are many other exotic, tropical fruits that are available in the UAE such as lanzones, jackfruit, durian, etc. There are still a whole bunch exotic fruits I have yet to try here in the UAE.

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