Local fruits are not only delicious but packed with nutrients as well. We bring you the goodness of 5 types of tropical fruits easily found on Malaysia’s culinary landscape.
Papaya contains papain, a protein-digesting enzyme that aids digestion.
Visit any supermarket, grocery store or pasar malam (outdoor night market) in Malaysia and you’ll be rewarded with a wonderful sight: a plethora of fresh fruits, especially those that are grown locally.
There are many advantages to buying local fruits for consumption as opposed to imported ones. Firstly, most homegrown fruits are always readily available, thanks to Malaysia’s tropical weather which is suited to planting a range of succulent and tasty fruits practically all year round. Apart from that, imported fruits lose some vital nutrients and undergo a change in their composition upon packing and long hours of shipping — a situation that is less prevalent with regard to local fruits.
Besides this, buying local fruits gives valuable support to small, local farms and aids Malaysian farmers or growers to boost their business.
The following are 5 popular local fruits that you can enjoy for their delectable flavours and nutritional values:
Papaya or betik in Malay is an imperfectly oval fruit with orange hues upon ripening. It is rich in vitamins A, C and E, which are important for a healthy immune system. Minerals and fibre present in the fruit help promote a healthy cardiovascular system.
Papaya contains papain, a protein-digesting enzyme that aids digestion, and is often used in meat tenderizers. It can also be found in dietary supplements to treat indigestion, chronic diarrhoea and constipation.
Did you know that papaya seeds are edible? Usually discarded, they are bitter with a hint of horseradish aftertaste and sometimes used as a seasoning ingredient. The seeds also contain powerful anti-parasitic and anti-amoebic properties, making them a cheap remedy against intestinal parasites in tropical countries.
Rambutans have curved soft spines which give the fruit a hairy appearance.
Deriving its name from the Malay word for ‘hair’, the rambutan is an oval-shaped fruit covered with numerous curved soft spines which give the fruit a hairy appearance. The skin is either red or yellow when ripe and the fruit comprises a white, juicy gelatinous pulp covering a large seed. The translucent pulp can be sweet or slightly acidic. Its unusual appearance and delightful taste make rambutan one of the most popular fruits in Malaysia.
The fruit only contains various nutrients in modest amounts but the versatility of the plant makes up for this shortfall. The roots are boiled and used for treating fever while the leaves are effective as poultices for headaches. The unripe fruit can be used to remove intestinal worms, reduce fever, and relieve diarrhoea and dysentery. According to research, the fruit rind — sold in some Chinese medical halls — can inhibit enzymes that cause hyperglycemia.
Ripe mangoes emit a sweet smell.
Native to South Asia, there are roughly 30 species of mangoes being cultivated in tropical and near-tropical countries, including Malaysia. Studies have shown that a single mango fruit can provide a large part of the daily human requirements of Vitamin C, and minerals such as thiamine, niacin, calcium and iron.
The calorific value of mango is mostly derived from the sugars but it also has a high protein content compared to other fruits except the avocado. A ripe mango emits a sweet fragrance and has a distinct and pleasant taste. It is best eaten fresh or blended as a drink. Unripe mangoes are very popular too, eaten with rojak sauce (a spicy and pungent concoction flavoured with shrimp paste), pickled, added to curries or used to make kerabu (Malaysian-style salad).
Pineapples contain B vitamins.
At a glance, its spiny crown and rough skin make it unattractive. However, the pineapple is one of the most important fruit crops in the tropical world. Pineapple is cultivated predominantly for its fruit that is consumed fresh or as canned product and juice. In Malaysia, it is tossed in rojak buah (fruit salad) and used in local cuisines such as pajeri (a dish cooked in a thick, rich and sweet curry sauce), a delicacy of the Northern states.
Pineapple contains B vitamins which help to keep our nerves and blood cells healthy. It also has manganese that is important for formation of bones and connective tissues. Additionally, it is the only source of bromelain, a complex protein-breaking enzyme used as a meat-tenderising agent. So when you feel a prickly sensation in your mouth as you eat fresh pineapple, it is caused by bromelain.
Durian is popular despite its strong odour.
Though it appears last on this list, durian is the most celebrated tropical fruits, for it is unique in every way. About 100 varieties of the fruit exist in Malaysia. The name comes from the Malay word duri (thorn) together with the suffix -an (for building a noun in Malay).
The durian has a thick skin that is covered in hard, green-coloured or yellowish spiky exterior. Apart from its unusual appearance, it emits a pungent odour that is off-putting to some people. The flesh, depending on the variety, ranges from light yellow to red in colour. Those who love the fruit will often praise it for the one-of-a-kind smell and creamy buttery flesh. Its versatility makes it even more in demand, having been used successfully in desserts such as cendol (a sweet treat featuring a coconut milk base) and savoury dishes such as masak tempoyak (a dish cooked with fermented durian puree).
Durian contains mostly carbohydrates with trace amounts of thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamin C and manganese. It is advised that durian be eaten sparingly as it is higher in calories compared to other fruits and can be very heaty in large doses.
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