A Fruit For All Seasons
Despite the tropical climate, fruit in Thailand is highly seasonal. Earlier this year the cost of limes sky-rocketed from the usual one or two Baht a piece (according to size and juiciness) to 60 Baht for a pack of five in the supermarket. This was quite a headache for the restaurant trade since lime juice is very widely used as a souring agent in Thai dishes, balancing the sweetness of added sugar (usually palm sugar), which in turn is there to balance the fieriness of the chillies; the high cost of limes was definitely eating into profits. (The common souring alternative, tamarind, is only used in a relatively small number of dishes, mostly from the South.) Anyway, the rains broke about a month ago and the price of limes is back to normal and I can enjoy a slice with my sundowner gin and tonic once more.
This is probably the best time of year for Thai fruits, with both durian and mangosteen in season. These fruits are known by the Thais as respectively the king and queen of fruit. And rambutan, the spicy, pink and green alien testicles are still around and very cheap (about 25 pence per kilo).
Durian, with its custardy flesh and overpowering smell of rank sewage, is definitely an acquired taste. And the best thing about acquired tastes is that one doesn’t have to acquire them.
Mangosteen is something that I hadn’t got around to trying, until today. The purple skin, which is soft when freshly picked, quickly hardens until it needs to be cut with a knife to reveal the soft white flesh within. To be honest, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the taste. The flesh is soft and a balance of sweet and sour, but without any particularly aromatic notes. Still, until they breed mangosteens which taste like foie gras or belly pork, I guess I’m going to remain unimpressed.