A Guide to Thailand's Exotic Fruits
Tropical Fruits Paradise
If you've heard of Thailand, you've heard of the fruits that grow there. Thailand's hot, humid air, and tropical climate makes it the perfect country to farm and cultivate fresh fruits. Most Thai fruits are not usually recognized by Westerners; and the flavors and textures are often appetizing surprises for unsuspecting foreigners.
Whilst some Thai fruits, such as mangoes and coconuts, are prominent all over the globe, Thailand is home to some of the most distinctive, almost alien-like fruits. Here is a guide to introduce you to some of the tastiest, most unusual fruits in Thailand.
With an almost intimidating, spiky husk and a large brown seed, the Durian is a fruit unique to Southeast Asia. Nicknamed "the king of fruits", it is well-known for having a very pungent, strong smell, and an equally powerful taste. The flesh is a bright yellow with a taste that can be described as anything from "onions" to "vanilla and almonds".
There are many varieties in Thailand, such as Monthong which is the usual variety you see as frozen durian. Other varieties include Chanee, Ganyao and Tong Yib. There is very little difference in taste but Ganyao and Tong Yib are sweeter, Monthong is milder whilst Chanee has a bitter aftertaste. Durian can be found at most Thai fruit markets or floating markets.
For one fruit, prices can range from $4 - $700 (yes!). The higher-end varieties are called "Ganyao", they are found in Nonthaburi. I've only managed to try one last year, and it was significantly sweeter and creamier than the average Durian.
The mangosteen has a fibrous husk that is a dark shade of purple. It is known as "the queen of fruits" in Thailand. The stem is green, and the top has four, green, petal-like parts that are not edible. The flesh is a pale white, with dark seeds in the middle. Unlike the Durian's heating effect, the Mangosteen has a cooling effect. The flesh is a delicious balance between sweet and sour, and has a very juicy texture. Flavors are said to resemble cherries, honey and blueberries but has a unique taste not found in any other fruits.
Mangosteen are also common throughout Thailand, and is available at most floating markets or fruit markets in Thailand. The mangosteens are fresher and cheaper in the street markets, so I recommend purchasing from there. You can also buy them at supermarkets but they may be slightly more expensive at the supermarket.
Price is relatively inexpensive. One kilogram will cost you $1 - $2 depending on where you buy it, the time of year, and the quality of the fruit. It makes a perfect desert for adventurous guests.
Also known as the Pitaya, the Dragon Fruit is a very unique, almost alien-like fruit. The husk is a beautiful shade of bright pink-red, with green "tentacles" extending from the husk. The flesh is like a milky-white kiwi. It is mildly sweet, but no other taste. It makes a traditional desert in Thai cuisine.
It is not hard to find Dragon Fruits in Thailand. Grown throughout the year, they are found at most fruit markets in Thailand. They are sometimes available for purchase at supermarkets and malls, as well.
On rare occasions, you can even get red Dragon Fruits as well! A kilogram is quite cheap, usually $3 - $7. Price varies depending on season, availability and type (the red ones will be at the top end of the range).
What looks like a mutated "red pear" is actually one of Thailand's best fruits. Shaped like a pear, the rose apple has a rosy-red or light-green skin, and the flesh has a white-green tone. The texture is very watery, and always crispy. The crispy texture is very similar to that of a bell pepper.
The taste is rather flavorless, which makes it the perfect snack for unadventurous foreigners. However, it is slightly slight sweet with a mild unique flavor that can be very appealing for some. Rose apples are very common - most supermarkets, shops and street markets carry them. Usually sold in Kilograms, they cost slightly more than regular apples.
Tamarind, or "makam", is a strange looking fruit, and comes in many varieties. It comes in a brown pod which contains sweet and sour bulbs of flesh. The sweet varieties are more commonly eaten, although many actually prefer the sour types. The texture is soft and pulpy, and the taste has a completely unique flavor.
Sweet Tamarinds can be found at the local supermarket, or along one of Thailand's many busy roads. If you want to try the sour kinds, your best bet is to visit a local floating market. They are usually sold in small to large sacks. The sack in the picture costed me about 80 baht, or $2.40. This delicacy can also be enjoyed as an exotic ice-cream flavor or in a warm-baked pie.
Nam Dok Mai Mangoes
All foreigners are familiar with mangoes, but few have experienced the great taste of the Thai varieties. "Nam Dok Mai" which translates literally as "Flower Juice" is a special variety in Thailand. Nam Dok Mai Mangoes look similar as all magoes: oval, light yellow with a thin skin. However, the taste is much sweeter and creamier.
Nam Dok Mai are just one of the many varieties of Mangoes. "Raet", "Khiao sawoey" and "Kaeo" are other varieties are are adored by Thai people and foreigners alike. However, the significant sweetness and creaminess of the Nam Dok Mai makes it the most popular amongst tourists, although other varieties are also loved. Easy to find, you can pick them up from supermarkets or other street markets. It is a must try - they are beyond compare!
Watch a Tourist Eat 10 Mangoes!
If you though oranges are good enough, wait until you meet the Pomelo - the largest citrus in the world! This giant citrus looks just like a grapefruit except the gargantuan size! Green on the husk, the inside is usually a light golden color. However, some varieties are even red or orange!
The flavor is just like an orange, except it is sweeter and less sour. The flesh has an interesting shape, it is made from small, separable strips that tessellate perfectly. The taste is described as nutty and floral, and sweet and juicy.
Since the fruit is difficult to open and cut, they are usually sold in pre-cut flesh. You can buy them from street markets, floating markets and supermarkets. They are usually 40 baht for a packet containing 7-8 pieces (one fruit).
The best time to buy fruit in Thailand is from May to June. This is the peak season for most of the fruits, and all of them will be available for purchase!
Learn more about Thai Fruits!
- Grand World Fruits
This website has lots of information on different kinds of Thai fruits. This great source also includes information about Thai vegetables and frozen products.
- Thai Fruits: List of fruits in Thailand with botanical and Thai names.
This site also has shopping tips about where you should purchase your fruits from.
- Thai Ways Magazine: Thai Fruits
Also another helpful source of information about the many species of Thai fruits.