Rambutan – Thailand’s (the world’s?) Best Fruit!
It is June, and one of my favorite times of the year is happening right now in Thailand.
It’s time for the RAMBUTANS to become RIPE! I’m a rambutan lush, I have to admit. I eat more of these things than a man has a right to!
What in the world are rambutans? You might be asking yourself…
Rambutans are probably the most exotic fruit you’ve ever seen in your life. Maybe you’ve never seen them. They are grown the best in the south of Thailand. In fact, the best place I’ve ever had them from is from an area called, Ban Na San… a very small village along a river south of Surat Thani town about 30 km. Every year they have a huge week-long RAMBUTAN FESTIVAL there to celebrate since most of the residents make their living growing rambutans on their farms.
Rambutans when they’re best, are just bigger than golf balls and a lot more oblong (oval) than a round golf ball. They are bursting with flavor though there is nothing I could compare the taste of a rambutan to unless you are familiar with another exotic fruit called the “longan” or “lumyai”. The texture too is something quite unlike fruits I’ve had in America. Amost like a hard, fleshy grape. There is not a lot of juice in rambutans – loose juice that is, because the juice is locked up in the almost clear fruity flesh.
A rambutan is best had in mid-season – somewhere around June-August as they seem to be most sweet, and large by then. The color ranges from a yellowish to an intense pink or red color. The color doesn’t matter much with regards to taste, as long ast the fruit is bigger than a golf ball you can almost be assured it is more sweet than sour. When it’s ripe the flesh separates easily from the seed. When not quite ripe the flesh sticks to the rambutan seed and the taste is a little sour overall, still not a bad taste though!
There are over 100 (I stopped counting at 100) green grass-like hairs a half inch to 3/4 inches long with slightly curled ends protruding from every rambutan. This is normal, do not be afraid.
Upon first inspection you might think it inedible, or, that it resembles poisonous caterpillars that even when touched bring great burning pain through your skin. Nothing could be further from the truth, though you may find some black ants in your batch you purchase. There is one crawling on my rambutan I brought out of the bag!
How to eat a rambutan?
There are a couple theories on this but I take the quickest route which doesn’t require a knife. Takign the rambutan in front of me in both hands I grip it like I’m wringing washed wet socks dry and twist the skin of the fruit in opposite directions with each hand. Invariably the skin tears and an incredible bulbous clear fleshy rambutan is waiting for me to suck it out with suction or bite and pull it from the other half of the skin.
When chewing a rambutan you’ll eventually come up with a good system to let you avoid biting directly into the seed in the middle that is about the same size, shape and color as a big almond nut. I usually put the whole rambutan in the side of my mouth and chew almost halfway through it longways and maneuver it around using my tongue until I’ve pulled off 95% of the flesh. Then I either spit out the seed or pull the seed out with my fingers and polish off the remaining fruit.
There is an exo-seed type peel that is loose and surrounds the hard seed – it’s fine to eat, but may take some getting used to. I didn’t like it at all for the first few months I ate the fruit, but gradually it made no difference to me to eat it along with the rest of the flesh.
Be careful if you eat a lot of rambutan at one time not to handle the fleshy part with your fingers before you eat it as pesticides are usually used on the outside of the fruit to keep it safe from pests eating it. It’s delicious to them too.
Rambutans here in Thailand are at the usual rate of 15-25 baht per kilogram (2.2lbs). 25 baht is roughly equivalent to 80cents USD.
Rambutan taste is something you’ll quickly become accustomed to and addicted to. I am completely addicted and when each season comes I eat kilogram after kilogram of the fruit!
Short rambutan video here >
More Thai food videos at Joy’s Thai Food YouTube Channel >
There are two kinds of rambutans in Thailand: Rong Rien (grade school) like those seen here, and one with pink hairs instead of green & yellow called the “Si Chompoo” (pink).