Food Talk And Fabulous Finds - Tribble fruit? Hedgehog fruit? Kooshball Fruit?

10-02-2010, 02:29 AM
Today I was excited to see fresh Rambutan in a local asian grocery. I've seen pictures of the fruit before, and have seen it cans (I'm not normally a canned fruit fan, so I never buy canned fruit that I haven't at least tried fresh).

The name rambutan is derived from the Malay word for "hair," and it's the rambutan's hair that set it apart from the other lychee-like fruits. The wikipedia article calls the hairs "fleshy pliable spines," which I think describes the texture better than hair.

(to see a photo and a description of the fruit, here's a link to the wikipedia article on Rambutan)

When I saw them, they reminded me of tribbles, those furry little pet/pests from the Star Trek series. When I handled them though, I decided they weren't tribbles so much as kooshballs and similar spiked ball toys Remeber those? (

Rambutan, longan, and lychee are related. They look similar, but taste quite different. They all have leathery skin, that when peeled off yeilds a fruit that resembles a large peeled grape. Inside each fruit is a large pit about the size and shape of an almond (but it's smooth, firm and shiny - almost like an almond-shaped buckeye).

Adorable, and tasty - what more can you ask from a fruit?

Well, a lower price would be nice. I paid about $5 per pound (which includes the weight of the inedible skin and seed). As my husband and I are on a fairly tight budget, these are not going to be a diet staple, not when I can get very good fruit for $1 to $1.50 per pound or less (and I can get apples, oranges, pears, and bananas at the Kwik Trip for 39 cents per pound).

I'm a budget shopper, but I am willing to splurge occasionally on something I really love, or on something that will be an adventure to try.

Rambutan, longan, and lychee all impressed me enough that I will buy them occasionally (except for the variety of longan that I nicknamed "beer-fruit," because it tasted like flat, sweetened beer). None of them will be frequent purchases, but probably at least once per season. Something special to look forward to every year.

I'm already looking forward to cocktail fruit season (the cocktail fruit is a pomello or grapefruit hybrid that looks like a grapefruit, except instead of yellow, it's pale lime green to kelly green (sometimes solid, sometimes splotchy). The flavor is something of a cross between lemonade and pink grapefruit (a little like Squirt or Fresca soda).

10-02-2010, 08:12 AM
A fruit that looks like a kooshball? Hmm, I don't know if I'm that adventurous.
I tried a passionfruit one time, it was like trying to get into a golfball.
But 39cents a pound for my favorite staples? Get one of those Kwik Trips to my neighborhood!

10-02-2010, 09:24 AM
I've never seen rambutan in the States, but lived in Asia for several years and loved it (I didn't live in a tropical city, so only had it when I traveled).

The fruit I miss the most, though, is mangosteen. YUM!!! We could get those occasionally, but someone told me they are very rare in the States because of travel cost vs. demand. That is delicious stuff - I would definitely be willing to pay $5 for those once in while.

10-02-2010, 05:48 PM
YES, agreed, Jen! I lived in Thailand for a while and I still miss mangosteen like crazy.

10-02-2010, 06:23 PM
I buy mangosteen juice occasionally (yummy - tastes a little bit like peach to me, only better), and have always wanted to try the fruit fresh. I had a chance to try it this summer, but missed the opportunity. The oriental grocery store nearest our house got in a shipment of mangosteen this summer, but but they were only selling them in a bag of about 10 fruit for about $20. Which I understand is fairly reasonable, considering how difficult they are to get into the USA (they were illegal for quite a while due to import concerns over the possibility of bringing in non-native fruit flies). I believe they're growing them in florida and mexico now (or at least that's the rumor).

We live on a very tight budget, and there just wasn't enough money in the budget to spend $20 (it was several days 'til payday). We did go back after I got my check, but they were already sold out.

If I had bought them, it would have broken my "record" for money spent on a fruit purchase. Dragonfruit currently holds the record. It's a beautiful fruit, inside and out, and I paid over $6 for one fruit (about the size of a small grapefruit). Beautiful to look at, and it was very sweet, with a nice texture, but the flavor was not exceptional. In fact, it tasted pretty much like sweet nothing - chewable sugar water. Fun to try, but disappointing that a fruit with such a dramatic appearance, could be so bland. It looks sort of like a bright fuchsia fancy goldfish.

10-02-2010, 06:41 PM
A fruit that looks like a kooshball? Hmm, I don't know if I'm that adventurous.
I tried a passionfruit one time, it was like trying to get into a golfball.
But 39cents a pound for my favorite staples? Get one of those Kwik Trips to my neighborhood!

Kwik Trips are awesome. Potatoes and onions also sell for 39 cents a pound. They also sell milk and orange juice in 2 quart bags for about a $1 (the price varies up and down a few cents). They give away (at least ours do) reuseable pitchers that fit the plastic bags. They also sell eggs for 69 cents a dozen and right now butter (real butter) for $1.69/lb.

They're almost the anti-convenience store/gas stations. Their gas is usually the second-cheapest in town (the cheapest is Sam's Club, but you have to be a member), and grocery staples are the cheapest in town. They also have a lot of cheap hot lunch items (all fast food - like 69 cent corn dogs, 2/1.19 hot dogs, $1 riblet sandwhiches on Wednesdays.....)

As for food adventuring, to some degree it's always been my hobby (though in the past, it was mostly through ethnic restaurants). The transition to healthy food has been easier than I expected, and great for dieting (I can't complain that diet food is boring). The oriental grocery stores especially have so many really good, low-calorie foods, especially fruits and vegetables, but canned soups and seafood too. The curried sardines are one of my favorites (but you have to like sardines). I've always liked sardines, but I never realized they came in so many different flavored sauces. I thought they'd be a one-time try, but they're so yummy they've become a lunch staple. About 300 calories or less and only around 99 cents).

Whenever I see something interesting that I haven't tried, I just ask the owners of the stores what things are and how you prepare/eat them. I do this at the farmers' markets too, and even if the vendors don't speak much english, they'll pantomime how to cook and eat it, or if it's something that can be eaten raw, they'll slice off a piece and offer it to me to try.

My biggest "misadventure" was snails. I like escargot, so when I saw frozen snails (already out of the shell, and cleaned and cut into uniform pieces), I thought I'd sautee them in garlic butter. Big mistake. They were tasty, but as tough as pencil erasers - so I threw the whole batch out. When I told the store owner about it, she said that snails had to be cooked either very quickly or very slowly for a long time. She said that mostly the type of snails I had bought are used in asian soups, and they're "supposed to be" chewy. Shrimp flavored chewing gum just wasn't appealing to me, but I'm still glad I tried them.

10-02-2010, 07:05 PM
Wow I have never heard of those or seen them at any of the grocery stores here in BC (and we sell a lot of ethnic fruit and vegs) I think its time for me to be a bit more adventurous and move beyond strawberries and grapes lol

10-02-2010, 10:03 PM
I had no idea that so much variety was available until I started looking. I didn't know that there were so many ethnic groceries, health food stores, specialty markets, bulk-food stores... in our area. I thought those would only be available in large cities, not in middle-sized semi-rural communities in the midwest.

Also though, I missed a lot of items that were "hidden in plain sight." It's amazing what you don't see, because you're not looking. For example, while the "standard" grocery stores don't carry a lot of exotics, now that I know what I'm looking for it's amazing how much I do find. I had no idea that our local grocery stores all carry green papaya, until I knew what green papaya was. There's a large Hmong community in our area, so it makes sense because it's the main ingredient in a ymmy southeast asian salad, almost like a garlicky, spicy cole slaw. But then I was visiting my parents in central Illinois, and I saw it in their Super Walmart. So it's been there all along, I just didn't notice it, because I wasn't looking for it.

One thing that I find very interesting, is that the more "adventurous" I've gotten with food, the fewer sensitivity to foods I have. I used to be very susceptible to stomach upset, irritable bowel and other ill effects after eating, especially from any food that was "out of the ordinary."

I don't know if it's the variety, or the carb-reduction (because a lot of the books I've read on low-carb and low-grain diets suggest that grains and carbs are major digestive issue triggers).

10-03-2010, 03:26 PM
I like both rambutan and lychee. In the Los Angeles area the Southeast Asian population is large which creates a demand so we have access to lots of the mentioned fruits at decent prices and good quality. My favorite way to eat them is to put them in a big bowl of water with lots of ice, let them get cold, take outside and start popping the shells and feasting on them. Best done with friends. The eating outside part is because they can be quite juicy and squirt. Clear juice though.

10-03-2010, 11:49 PM
Oh, I love rambutan and lychee! I also really like coconut, mango (yellow and green/pink), and kiwi. I also miss Mangosteen! I spent quite a few years in Asia, and I really loved how cheap and tasty the fruit is over there. The pineapple and mango in Thailand is so different and tasty than the fruit you get here. One thing I miss is the fruit stands all over the place in Asia.

I gasp in horror at how expensive the exotic fruits are here. I wait until I see the mangoes on sale before I buy them. I also see you can buy lichees in a can, but it isn't the same as fresh. Lichees are good to cook with, as are mangos. I had a mango/lichee chicken dish before at a Thai restaurant and it was so delicious.