Mangosteen flesh almost out of it’s hard shell
It wasn’t until I saw my friends from Texas tear into a bag of mangosteens with utter rabidity that I understood the old cliche of life being renewed through the eyes of a child. Those somewhat annoying rants of new parents about the renewed importance of things like Christmas? I totally understood the sentiment when I watched my friend Justin spit out a pit and enthusiastically proclaim that the fruit is so hot on the Food Network right now*.
I should probably clarify, my friends are adults, all aged 26. The full analogy goes something like this:
- Children experiencing christmas : new parents :: friends experiencing Thailand : me.
- You’re welcome for winning the SATs for you.
Anyway, I recently had the extraordinary pleasure of guiding three friends around my newly-adopted home base for a couple weeks. All of the little pieces of life in Thailand that I had begun to internalize as part of daily life delighted or annoyed them with the gusto of a first-timer, and I relished every one of their observations. The songthaew took us to the wrong supermarket! How annoying! A multi-course dinner for 5 costs the equivalent of $10! I know, it’s rad! Whoa, the internet is really slow when it rains! That sucks, right?! Mangosteens are delicious! Totally, let’s eat more!
Mangosteen and carnage.
Prior to 2007, the US banned imports of the “queen of fruits” in an effort to keep out the Asian fruit fly. To sample a piece of the fruit, you would have to book a flight to Southeast Asia, pick a fruit off one of the greenhouse trial trees in a university or fledgling grove in the Carribean, or eat some fancy botanical beauty product that costs more than your rent. Despite the ban being lifted, mangosteens are still hard to find at a time when we expect all kinds of fresh produce year-round. Just look at the Chowhound threads devoted to it! The super exotic status of the fruit in the states (and it’s taste, which I’ll get to later), have a bit of a lofty reputation in gourmet circles.
The fruit lives up to the food snob hype, and after seeing my friends get all animal over a bag, I decided to relish every piece of tropical fruit I eat in my remaining time in Thailand. Previously, my laziness and complacency with life had made me more likely to opt for some pre-cut pineapple or sweet, tiny bananas, whose deliciousness and ease of access trumped splendid tropical tastes that require ever so much more work.
Mangosteen revealed, but bruised from the process.
Mangosteens come in their very own protective case that you have to pry off with a knife, and then your fingers. To open the shell, it’s best to hold it by the cartoony stem and cut a line all the way around it’s equator, taking care not to dig so deep that you’ll bruise the precious content inside, as I did in the photo above. Then, you can dig your knife under the top shell and pop it off, revealing the milky flesh inside. You can also tear into with your fingers, but the dark purple shell bleeds red, and your hands will surely stain. It can be a bit messy even with a knife, but I would recommend avoiding the gory-looking result of eating the mangosteens 100% manually.
Its best to choose fruits with the most “petals” on the base opposite the stem, as they match the number of fleshy pieces inside. More petals means your seed to fruit ratio will be lower, which is preferable. Each fruit has a couple segments that contain a small hard pit. It’s certainly okay to eat the flesh around the pit and spit it out, but the all-flesh pieces are sweeter and easier to eat.
It is a bit of work to pry off the shells and get to the fruit inside. Your hands get dirty, cuticles stain red, but the payoff is worth it. The fruit inside has a taste so beautiful in it’s strong aroma and flavor that it’s hard to imagine it came from nature. It’s taste is like a wholesome, balanced version of artificially-flavored blue raspberry fruit snacks with a texture reminiscent of peaches, or maybe juicy plums. Mangosteen is one of those evolutionary marvels; sometimes I just cannot believe that something like this just grows in dirt.
Already, the ‘steens are hard to find in the markets. I know that the next time I find a pile, I will be buying several kilograms and treating myself to a serious gorge session.
- Mangosteens on Perdue’s Horticultural Website
- 10 Fruits to Try Before You Die from Maggie at Mighty Girl
From Splendor in the Lemongrass:
*It’s possible Justin did not use these exact words because he is not Paris Hilton.
Hi! I'm Susan, and this is my travel journal. You can read more about me here.
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