One of the most interesting food-related experiences I have had thus far is taste testing the various fruits available in China. Every couple of weeks or so, I come across a fruit that, while I’m sure has been around for 5,000 years here, is brand new to me. So I thought I’d share some of the odd finds I’ve come across thus far. For the most part, fruits are typically only sold in-season here, so I’m sure I will be writing at least 1 or 2 more “fruit find” posts as the seasons progress.
My first fruit find is a popular Chinese favorite that many foreigners know as well: dragon fruit. Call me uncultured, but I had never had it before. I bought the pink variety, although the white kind is the most common. As soon as I tasted it, I knew why it was a Chinese favorite: it’s virtually sugarless! Think melon flavor but without the sweetness and that is what dragon fruit tastes like. Needless to say my American taste buds didn’t find this very appetizing. Secondly, I sampled dongzao or winter jujubes, which apparently are Chinese dates. I find this humorous, both because I bought them in August and because they taste more like dry apples than anything else. I think I need a local to show me the best way to eat it…maybe it’s better cooked? Perhaps a homemade jujube pie is imminent…more to come.
Another fruit I have tried and actually enjoyed is a pomelo. You may see these periodically in the U.S…they look like grapefruits but are the size and shape of footballs. Yes, this one was about the size of the toaster! Pomelos are neither very sweet nor very tart, so their refreshing citrus flavor really shines through.
I’ve also had fun trying fruit that is familiar to me, yet somewhat different here. For example, check out this tangerine. I can’t say I’ve ever seen one that’s green on the outside!
My absolute favorite fruit find thus far has been dragon eyes! While peculiar in both name and appearance, don’t let them fool you…these sweet things are a delight! The milky fruit covers a large black hull, giving the appearance of an eye (hence the name). They definitely have their own unique taste…very sweet and somewhat vanilla in flavor. While we don’t really have a similar fruit in the U.S., the closest thing I can equate them to is a muscadine. I’ve been told you can sometimes find them in the U.S. so if you ever see them, give them a try!