Some well-known, and others less so, but all delicious – this is what we think are the top 15 fruits of Thailand!
Thailand has such an abundance of fruit that you might thing the entire country is one enormous orchard. Fruit is to be found everywhere, and often people have so much of it that they give it away to friends and neighbours. The country’s hot climate and fertile soils, along with its cooler regions in the north make the country ideal for fruit of many kinds. The supply’s always constant, with many popular fruits growing all year round.
If you’re here in Thailand for the first time, many fruits may look decidedly strange and some you may never have even seen before, let alone tasted. But if you experiment you’re sure to find a good few that you really like. Fruit is very cheap in Thailand and the same goes for Samui too. You’ll find it in abundance at any local market. It’s of course healthy too, as well as incredibly tasty. Chances are that you’ll soon be won over by Thailand’s wonderful fruit, too.
We’ve put together a very brief guide to the main fruits that are to be found in Thailand:
Bananas in Thailand come in an amazing variety. With over 20 to choose from, in many different sizes. In Thai, each has a different name and there are many different ways to savour them. The Thais eat them raw, dried, boiled, fried or served as a dessert in coconut milk.
Custard Apple (Noina)
The fruit doesn’t look much like an apple but you can recognize it thanks to its knobbly exterior and light green appearance. It’s tennis-ball sized and is usually eaten with a spoon. And, yes, it really does taste like custard. It’s sweet and very satisfying.
Dragon Fruit (Gao Mung Gorn)
It gets its name due to its exterior, which looks a lot like the scales of a dragon. The interior has soft flesh which is filled with tiny black seeds. Scoop out and eat the flesh and seeds with a spoon the way the Thais do.
The world’s most infamous fruit, it’s banned in many places in South-East Asia, and universally unwelcome in hotels, lifts and airplanes. With more spikes than a punk’s hair-do, durian stinks and puts most people off ever trying it. But the taste turns out to be a surprise; it’s sublime. It’s very expensive compared to other Thai fruits but is very versatile; it can be eaten raw, or as dried chips and is even enjoyed as ice-cream.
This fruit originally travelled to the tropics from its native Central America and the West Indies, and is now a definite Thai favourite. It’s appreciated for its exotic taste. People enjoy it year round and it’s often eaten before ripening along with chilli, sugar and salt. It can also be eaten ripe, and is extremely refreshing. You’ll find guava jams and jellies in supermarkets, and it also appears in the form of ice-cream and drinks. Its Thai name, ‘farang’, is also confusingly a synonym for ‘foreigner’.
With its succulent taste, jackfruit is always popular but is only to be found on sale between January and May. It’s a very large fruit that’s equivalent in size to a melon. The interior consists of many sections, each with delicious flesh that is covered in seeds. It’s most often eaten raw, although you can also find it battered and fried.
This fruit actually comes from Thailand, and is incredibly popular. It’s only to be found between July and October. It’s small and round, and is usually eaten raw. You’ll need to persevere to pull off its skin but the reward is worth it. Inside you’ll find succulent flesh that has a slightly sour taste.
This well-known fruit is popular everywhere and has a wonderfully delicate taste. It’s protected by a rough, reddish rind which can quite easily be removed, revealing the translucent white flesh inside. You’ll also have to remove the single seed inside, as this is inedible. The lychee is available from July to October only. It’s eaten raw but you’ll also find it in desserts and drinks.
The mango is one of Thailand’s most consumed fruits, and there are many varieties to be found. Always refreshing, when it’s ripe it can be eaten raw, by simply halving it and eating with a spoon. It’s part of various desserts and very popular along with sticky rice and coconut milk. When it’s still not ripe, it can be eaten dipped in sugar.
Very popular, this fruit is found all year round in Thailand though is best between March and June. Unripened, it forms the base for the tangy salad, known as somtam, which is eaten throughout Thailand. Papaya is a longish fruit that is best halved lengthways so that the line of seeds in its centre can be easily removed. Then it’s cut into slices. The flesh is orange-coloured and deliciously succulent and soft when ripe.
Highly popular in Thailand yet barely known outside, this odd-looking fruit has amazingly tasty white flesh that conveniently comes in sections. The number of sections actually matches the number of each fruit’s petals, which are to be found on its base. The fruit is small and a deep purple colour and you’ll find it piled high at markets. It’s eaten raw but is equally wonderful as a refreshing juice.
You’ll find pineapples in abundance on Samui as they grow best in sandy soil close to the sea. Thailand is a world producer of the fruit. Pineapples are always to be found in abundance at markets as they grow all year round. The flesh is eaten raw, but is also often to be found in desserts, sweet and sour dishes, and drinks.
This is the Thai equivalent to the grapefruit and looks and tastes almost the same, with a flavour half way between sweet and sour. You’ll find it at the markets throughout the year, with many variations in skin colour that range from yellow to red.
Its name in English comes from the Malay word for hair, ‘rambut’, which pretty much sums up the appearance of this fruit – it looks like it’s sprouting very thick hair. The skin beneath is quite firm and is yellow and red. Inside you’ll find pearly white flesh, which you will need to peel away from the seed inside. Sweet and delicious, it’s extremely popular with the Thais.
Rose Apple (Chom-Poo)
You’ll often find this fruit eaten Thai-style with pinches of sugar and salt which bring out its crisp, refreshing taste. It looks very like a pear and it has a shiny skin which can be either green or pink.