A Beginner's Guide to Balinese Fruit

Fruit is amazing, isn't it? The amount of variety, differences in texture and flavor, and endless ways to consume (smoothies anyone?) make fruit the food group that is the most fun to eat. And Balinese fruit? Amazing!



Who drinks a pineapple with a straw? Maybe if I'd put some booze in.... oh. I get it.

But what if you are in a foreign land and don't want to look the fool by not knowing how to eat the exotic fruit you've never seen?

Well, fear not, helpless traveler! We, the Normal Nomads are here to make fools of ourselves on your behalf!


This is our banana hat. There are many like it, but this is ours.

Before we get into photographs of strange and exotic fruits, lets take a moment and get to know each other (creepy wink).

The Balinese love to barter. This is fun, if you are odd and are one of those people who actually love to barter, but this is also bad, if you are us. If you are like us (thus not odd), then buying fruit in Bali just became a way more stressful concept, didn't it?

Tips and workarounds for buying fruit!


Bananarama
Know how much you should be spending! Before you head off to the market to spend all of your money on a banana, take a trip to a supermarket with a pen and paper and make a note of how much all the fruit costs. This number will become your baseline and let you know if that mango should have cost six bucks (nope).

 

Friends
Develop a relationship with a seller! Not (necessarily...) a romantic one, but a "hey, how's it going" one. Find a friendly seller and speak Indonesian and have them correct you and thank them and laugh and laugh together forever and buy a banana. The next day, do it again but don't buy anything (tricky!). The next day, do it again, but ask them to find a specific fruit for you to come back and buy tomorrow. See? Now, you're friends. And friends don't overcharge each other for fruit.


Jerk
Don't be a jerk! Balinese fruit selling is not a million dollar racket. 
These people wake up hours before sunrise to get to larger markets or farms and buy fruit, and then bring it back to their stall (all before you've awoken), and then sit all day in the hot Balinese sun waiting for you to show up and chat with them in Indonesian. 
They do this everyday, and almost all do it wearing a smile so big it should make you feel petty for ever having used the excuse, "I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed." And then! Then they still run the risk of not selling any fruit that day! 
My point? So what if they charge you a little more than they do the locals? You were going to probably spend that extra money on Bintang anyway, so you might as well use it to help a family eat! 


Still with me?

Then on to the fruit!!! 



Snakefruit (or Salak) is covered in snakeskin, looks like garlic on the inside and tastes like a coconut-pineapple.
I know, I know... that can't be true, right?

Well, it isn't actually covered in snakeskin, just a hard exterior that sort of looks like snakeskin, but the rest of the description is on point.

Be careful of these babies! The plant they grow on is covered in horrifying spikes, and the fruits themselves are spiky on the outside!

They are the size of a large head of garlic or a small onion.

You can just peel (with a bit of difficulty, knife required) and eat, or throw them in a smoothie. Beware, there's a seed in them, so don't just go chomping through.







 



Rambutan wins our "who knew something so odd could be so good" award.


Inside each one these bizarre little hairy fruits is a white, delicious interior that tastes equal parts sunrise-over-a-deserted-beach and that first tiki-bar that made tiki-bars a 'thing.'

For our first few rambutans, we ran into problems getting around the large internal seed. But eventually, we came up with a solutions: put the peeled fruit in your mouth in entirety, then mush around until there is only the seed remaining, and then spit out the seed.

They say these are related to lychee, but to my mind, they are infinitely superior.

One problem: The seeds are super poisonous, so don't eat them. And maybe don't give this fruit to small kids.



pitaya

Dragonfruit (or Pitaya), looks beautifully alien! The ones in Bali may be a different species than you're used to.

I worked as a cook for many years, and a popular refrain in that occupation is, "A person eats with their eyes before they eat with their mouth."

Dragonfruit is certainly a feast for the eyes! That stunning interior, if blended up, will turn just about anything a vivid purple color.

"Vivid purple," you're thinking to yourself, "is the exact color I want my food to be!"

Well, sorry to disappoint you, but as far as flavor goes, dragonfruit is a bit underwhelming. After our smoothie we were left looking at each other despondently, feeling a little bit lied to.

Now, when I see a pile of dragonfruit in the market, I scoff, "so what, do you think you're Elvis or something? Whatever."
 
 
 


Tiny bananas or pisang are AMAZING and much better than big stupid bananas from the U.S.

 These ain't your grandma's bananas, unless your grandma is from Indonesia. They're sweeter, thinner-skinned, and quite small. As you can see, four hands of these babies are "smaller than a breadbox".

You can generally get two types of bananas here, namely big'uns and small'uns. One type is for cooking, the other is for eating. I'm not sure which is which so we eat them all but prefer the sweeter, small'uns.


The other fruits here are delicious, but are more common globally, so I'll assume you can figure these out on your own: papaya, mango, mandarin, pineapple, apple, "apple" (Asian pears), coconut, etc. Try them all!
 
Not an apple.

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