Maria Holland

The Top 10 Fruits in China (That You’ve Probably Never Heard Of)

In Uncategorized on August 2, 2011 at 11:50 pm

It’s been over a year since I’ve been back from China.  It was a great year, but there are some things that I miss from China: night trains, the ability to download anything for free, having nothing better to do than go dancing . . . and fruit.

I meant to do this all year, but – finally – here’s a short guide to the Top 10 Fruits in China (That You’ve Probably Never Heard Of):

  1. Pomelo (柚子, yóuzǐ)
    I discovered pomelos when my roommate brought one home and told me it was “delicious” (because she didn’t know what it was called).  And it is delicious.  It tastes like an orange, but with a mellower, less citrusy flavor.  The texture and appearance are like a grapefruit, although the pomelo is even bigger.  Remember to ask the fruit seller to slice it open for you when you buy it, because the skin is quite thick.  It’s spongy and peels off pretty easily once you get it going, then you have to peel the individual segments.  The membrane is more bitter than oranges, but it comes off in big pieces so take the time to get the fruit all the way down to the pulp before eating. 
  2. Lychee (荔枝, lìzhī)

    Lychee taste like nothing else I’ve ever eaten – the texture is like a peeled grape, but they have their own delicious fragrance and taste.  They come like a bunch of grapes on a stem, in a leathery skin.  The peel usually comes off easily by pulling apart with your thumbs at the top near the stem.  Pop the whole thing in your mouth to keep your hands from getting sticky : )  There’s a nut inside – a big, smooth, brown nut.  Once you’ve pulled the flesh off in your mouth, spit the nut out.  [Note: Lychee are similar to rambutan and longan (one of them has a smoother skin and the other appears to have crazy afro hair) but I haven’t personally tried those.]
  3. Kumquats (金桔, jīnjú)

    Kumquats, like the others in the Top 3, were the object of my obsession for several weeks during their season.  Kumquats are like tiny orangey citrus fruits that you eat WHOLE.  That’s right, peel and all!  The peel is thin and quite as delicious as the rest of the fruit, so you just wash them well, remove the tiny stem, and eat the whole thing!  Spit out any seeds you find : )
  4. Mangosteen (山竹, shānzhú)

    I saw this fruit in the market for a long time before figuring out what it was.  It’s called Mangosteen, or “the Queen of Fruit”.  That’s quite a name!  I tried it only once (as it was pretty expensive) and it is super delicious.  The thick purple rind has the texture of rotten wood, but removes easily to reveal perfectly white flesh.  The meat is very soft and almost too sweet.  Definitely worth a try. 
  5. Apple pears (苹果梨, píngguǒlí)

    I fell in love with the apple pear in China’s Northeast, making it the only non-tropical fruit on this list, I believe.  The name says it all – it’s a hybrid between the apple and the pear, retaining what I believe are the best attributes of both.  It’s as sweet as an apple but has the soft texture of a pear.  I don’t like the taste of pears but apples hurt my teeth, so they’re pretty much a Godsend.  Eat it like an apple . . . or a pear!
  6. Wax apples/Bell fruit (莲雾, liánwù)

    I first had a wax apple in Taiwan, when I was perusing a street market with friends and they got me a sampling of local fruit.  The flesh is vaguely pear-like, but the taste is delightfully sweet.  I was instantly infatuated.  I couldn’t figure out the name, so I called it “the Magically Delicious Fruit” until I finally googled “pink taiwan fruit” or something.  I had them a few times in China as well and they were never quite as good, making me believe they have an optimal freshness or something.  You just wash them off and bite in!
  7. Custard apples (番荔枝, fānlìzhī)

    I had a custard apple one time when Katrine decided to try something new at the Baicheng fruit market and picked this one.  I don’t quite remember what it tasted like, but I do remember that we all agreed on its deliciousness.  Unfortunately, it was really expensive (and I think that was Euro-expensive, not yuan-expensive, which means it must have cost a LOT) so I never had it again.  The internets say that it tastes like “a combination of banana, pineapple and strawberry”,  “a bit like the smell of a milky soap”, and “a mesh of pineapples and bananas with a delicious vanilla overtone”.  I don’t know, but I remember it being some kind of delicious. 
  8. Starfruit (杨桃, yángtáo)
    Star fruit
    Starfruit is, in my opinion, more beautiful than tasty, but it’s pretty good.  Depending on the fruit, it has a sweet/sour taste.  It slices into perfect stars, though, making it the darling of fruit platters across the tropics. 
  9. Dragonfruit (火龙果, huǒlóngguǒ)

    Dragonfruit is the most flamboyant food that I’ve ever seen; it’s like a kiwi Drama Queen.  The flesh inside tastes like a kiwi, only milder (I know, right?), and you eat it by slicing it in half and scooping the meat out with a spoon. 
  10. Loquats (枇杷, pípa)

    Loquats were my least favorite of the fruits that I was introduced to last year (hence, #10).  Their skin is slightly fuzzy like a peach, but they’re about the size of limes or smaller.  The flesh is sweet, but the MULTIPLE HUGE SEEDS in the middle were kind of a turn-off for me, I guess. 
  1. wow! totally turned off by “custard apples” and lychees, very impressed by dragon fruit, already knew (slightly) kumquats & loquats (both grow in Houston), have see star fruit here in the stores but never tried, remember you talking about pomelos in your blog,and want to try mangosteen, wax apples, and apple pears!! And BTW are we gonna get Adventuring Towards Stanford blogs!!?? I hope so!

  2. The last ones look like weird apricots …

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