Dragon Fruit actually hails from the Americas, where it is called pitaya but it is incredibly popular in Asia. It’s prevalent in fruit bowls, breakfast buffets, and even in ice cream over there. This exotic fruit is known as a superfood for its variety of health benefits. It’s not a very sweet fruit (many liken it to a mild kiwi) and has tiny black seeds in it.
Rare outside Southeast Asia, the pulasan fruit is typically eaten raw and is sweeter even than the lychee or rambutan. Like the lychee, the outside rind is red and bumpy and encases a sweet, white edible fruit inside. The pulasan tree is also ornamental.
Originating on certain Indonesian islands, the (inedible) purple-colored rind of the fruit of the mangosteen tree encases a sweet, tangy white fibrous fruit that looks a little like citrus fruits. Opened with a knife, the white fruit inside is commonly eaten raw; though it is also canned and dried.
The fruit of a tree in the mulberry and jackfruit family, the name is derived from the texture and taste of the fruit when cooked, which is like baked bread with a potato taste. Originally from New Guinea and Indonesia/Malaysia, the tree’s timber is also commonly used to build ships and houses in the region. Green and slightly spiky/bumpy on the outside and white inside, the fruit is roasted, boiled or fried and then eaten. It is also very popularly eaten in Hawaii,.
Native to the Philippines, the Indian Subcontinent, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, the oblong fruit with a yellow exterior (when ripe) has several irregular, leaf-like ridges extending from it lengthwise. When cut in cross sections, these ridges give the fruit its distinctive, namesake star shape. The fruit is entirely edible raw, even the thin, waxy exterior skin.
Star fruit is also placed in preserves and juice drinks. Star fruit has a tart, sour taste with a texture closest to that of mild grapes. They are a dream for garnishing fruit salads, drinks, desserts and more but difficult to find (at least in San Diego) as fresh and tasty as they usually are in Asia.
Known by many names in addition to Asian pear, including Chinese pear and Japanese pear and Korean pear (as there are many types of Asian pears), the East Asian tree on which this fruit grows is a common symbol of early Spring in the region. Because they have a higher water content and a grainier texture than the type of pear familiar to Americans and Europeans, the Asian pear is commonly eaten raw and not baked into pies or made into jams. Because it’s relatively expensive, Asian pears are typically given as gifts, eaten on special occasions and cushions by foam in grocery stores.
Resembling an orange but much smaller (like a large olive), kumquat is Cantonese for golden orange. Kumquat shrubs are native to South Asia and have been cultivated in the region for many hundreds of years. The oval kumquat fruit is eaten raw in its entirety though some peel the skin of first. In contrast, the fruit of the round kumquat, a similar but different varietal, is mainly used to make marmalades and jellies.
A subtropical tree grown for its red/purple fruit covered with hundreds of pinhead-sized bumps. The interior flesh of this Chinese fruit is a similar color with a sweet and tart taste with a single seed. Commonly eaten raw, the waxberry fruit is also dried, canned and fermented into an alcoholic beverage
From Indonesia and Malaysia, the fruit of the rambutan tree is related to the lychee. The name rambutan is derived from the word for hair in local languages. The unpeeled rambutan fruit skin is red (like a lychee) but the rambutan is also covered in distinct red, spiny hairs. Inside, the fruit has an off-white (or maybe pinkish) color and tastes like grapes. It’s commonly eaten raw.
Native to the American tropics and the West indies, the sugar-apple was brought to Asia by Spanish explorers. The leafy, green exterior of the fruit looks a little like an artichoke. The creamy white interior flesh (encasing black seeds –not eaten) tastes like custard
Native to the tropics of Asia and Australia, many parts of the sacred lotus have been eaten for centuries, including the roots and flowers. Roots are commonly boiled or pickled. The pod at the center of the flower, which resembles a watering can head, has seed-like fruits in each hole that are also edible raw. Rip open the head, pop the seeds out and peel away their green husk to reveal the fruit.
Taiwan is the world’s premier grower of guavas and able to produce the savory exotic fruit with a green exterior and pink interior year-round. These Asian guavas are typically cut into quarters and eaten raw. Other varieties and colors of guavas are grown in other parts of the world, including red guavas in Mexico (which are also much smaller), and eaten in different ways.
From Southeast Asia, pomelo looks like a large, oversized grapefruit and tastes like a sweeter, more mild version of the same. Like other members of the citrus family, it has a thick outside rind that you peel off to get to the fruit. Once you’ve ripped into it though, it’s even easier too peel off in its entirety than an orange (or grapefruit) rind. The labor intensive peeling of pomelo is why many grocery stores sell this Asian citrus fruit perfectly-peeled and in individual slices.
Native to the Malay Peninsula and surrounding islands, wax apples grow on tall trees and grows into a bell shape, with a cotton candy-like nest at the inside center that tastes like a pear. This Asian fruit is put in salads or lightly sautéed, and is also used as a cure for diarrhea. Wax apples are also often called rose apples, water apples, mountain apples, love apples and a handful of other names.