Thai fruits range from the familiar to the exotic. Some only make seasonal appearances, but you are sure to see varieties you never dreamed of no matter what time you visit. The country is blessed with tasty Thai fruits and its worth going to a local market and trying new local varieties.
Favourite Thai fruits
Banana: fresh or grilled, which is your favourite? The price is always right and ‘kluay’ are easy enough to find. There are several tasty varieties to eat as a walking around snack, or as something to bring back to your room.
Coconuts: called ‘maphrao,’ coconuts are consumed everywhere in Thailand and in all stages of maturity. Young green coconuts are cracked in streetstalls and in restaurants to provide a refreshing drink. Fully mature ones are also harvested for their milk and rich meat, sometimes eaten straight, or utilised in making coconut cream which is extensively used in cooking.
Dragon Fruit: ‘Kaeow mongkon’ are large red cactus–looking fruits, with a bizarre pink skin, introduced from the Americas. They come with both purple and white flesh dotten with tiny kiwifruit–like seeds, and have a delicate, sweet flavour. Ideal for making smoothies, these Thai fruit are beginning to appear in supermarkets the world over as ever more Asian countries cultivate them.
Chompu: these beloved shiny pear shaped fruits grow in green and red colors. Many varieties have only a mild watery flavour which they remedy by dipping into a mixture of sugar, salt, and crushed red chilies.
Durian: dubbed ‘the king of Thai fruits’, they are well known, though not necessarily loved, by Westerners. Easily recognised by their large khaki green spiked and yellow pod fruit that nestle inside, they posses the unmistakeable aroma of sewers. While many Thais go crazy for the creamy flesh of this Thai fruit, others cannot stand the intense smell which lingers on long after eating. Part of the durian’s lore are the signs posted on many hotel lobbies banning them for fear of upsetting other customers with their odour. Do you dare try it?
Jackfruit: called ‘kanoon’, they are large, green, and bumpy like a durian, but actually very different looking both inside and out. Jackfruit’s small bumps are not dangerous and do not require gloves when handling. Inside the flesh is arranged in firm yellow kernels, each containing a large seed. The fruit is smelly but only in a powerfully sweet way that many tourists rather enjoy. This fruit is not banned in any hotels.
Longan: these small Thai fruits with the leathery brown peels grow abundantly in the north of Thailand, and taste unlike any Western equivalent. Strange at first, many people find themselves returning for more and more helpings of ‘lam yai’ after their first initiation. The fruit is almost translucent with a smooth, brown seed inside. They are easy to peel and a fun Thai fruit.
Mango: are beloved by Thais and visitors alike. Called ‘mamuang,’ they are enjoyed green and unripe with a dash of sugar, salt, and chili, or simply plain when fully ripe. Besides purchasing mangos from street vendors, many tourists enjoy the famous Thai dessert of ‘mango with sticky rice.’ The Thai variety are especially sweet, without the stringiness or bitter aftertaste.
Mangosteen: called ‘mangkut’, these are the ‘queen of Thai fruits’ with their elegant, segmented white–flesh inside a thick large purple peel. They grow in the south and the season lasts just a few months of the year, mainly from May through to September. If you are here at that time be sure to enjoy this delicious and luxurious sweet fruit.
Papaya: known as ‘malakoh’, Thais use the unripe green fruits as a vegetable for ‘som tam’ salad, and as a fruit when orange and ripe. The flesh is delicious and should be sought out as a guaranteed hit for visitors. They grow all over the place, year round.
Rambutans: surely the weirdest looking fruit you’ve ever come across, these bizarre red nairy monsters are essentially a lychee wrapped in thick skin with dozens of hairy tendrils. The flesh doesn’t separate from the nutty layer around the pip making them less popular, but they are widely available in the rainy season.
Pineapple: called ‘saparot’ locally, pineapple are available year round and find themselves in many different Thai foods. Sometimes they are eaten as desserts, sometimes in curries, and often enjoyed fresh.
Pommelo: this oversized grapefruit they call ‘som–oh’ can be found throughout the Kingdom and is prized by everybody. They are more fragrant and sweet than any grapefruit out there, much larger and drier.
Tamarind: a chewy fruit found inside a brown seedpod, it is called ‘makham’ in Thailand. Many who try it with skepticism find they cannot stop from cracking into the next pod. The can be eaten raw or preserved – a sticky tangy alternative.