The main fruit season in Thailand runs from April – July. During this time there’s no excuse for not trying something more exotic than a watermelon. The mainland close to Koh Chang, in Trat and Chantaburi provinces is one of the major fruit growing areas in the country. At this time of year the roadsides are lined with bustling go-downs and gas station forecourts become makeshift markets as local farmers sell fruit by the pick up truck load to buyers from Bangkok and elsewhere.
Enjoying eating Thai fruit is always something visitors can take advantage of when on holiday here. But due to the language barrier and also not being sure of what lies in wait beneath the skin of some fruits, often visitors don’t enjoy more than a small sample of the twenty or more fruits that can be found for sale on stalls on Koh Chang. Not only is fresh fruit cheap and nutritious, it’s also a great way to re-hydrate after a day in the sun.
So, here is a rundown of the types of Thai fruit that you can find for sale if you’re visiting Koh Chang in the Low Season. ( During the High Season, you will find some of these, but prices will be higher as they won’t be in season. ) There are fruit shops and stall on all the main beach areas of the island. Klong Prao village has the widest choice. Or head to Klong Son valley where you’ll see a lot of fruit being grown. And if Durian is your thing, from mid April to July , you’ll find a lot being sold out of roadside stalls by local farmers as you head down the east coast of Koh Chang. Especially around Dan Mai village.
What’s the Best Thai Fruit?
There are more fruits than this and you might not be able to spot all of them on holiday. But there’s a lot more out there than just watermelon, banana and pineapple . There isn’t one ‘best fruit’ that everyone will agree with, but my favourite is #8. :-)
1. Pineapple (‘Sapparot’)
Thailand is one of the world’s largest producers of pineapples. You’ll see them growing across the country, especially in sandy soil relatively close to the ocean. There are various types. But look for the ‘Siratcha’ variety if possible. They have a larger, flatter diamond patters and are sweeter and juicier than the more common ‘Phuket’ variety. A year round fruit. You’ll find it also used in some Thai dishes to add sweetness.
2. Watermelon (‘Tengmo’)
Another ubiquitous fruit, found everywhere from roadside stalls to breakfast buffets year round. Look for those with a deeper red flesh, the darker the colour the sweeter and juicier they will be. Look around and you’ll also find watermelons with golden yellow colour. If you need to cool down, you can’t go wrong with a refreshing watermelon shake.
3. Mango (‘Mamuang’)
One of the most well-known fruits in Thailand. But they are usually eaten when still green, rather than yellow and ripe as in Europe. The common Thai way of eating it is when it is just beginning to ripen, so is still hard but has some mango flavour but not the associated stickiness when eating it. The fruit is sliced and served with a little dipping bag of sugar, salt and chili. The most popular Thai dessert is Mango with sticky rice. This is when the mango is eaten ripe. It’s sweetness complimented by a slightly salty coconut cream along with sticky rice. Surprisingly, not often drunk juiced -which is a pity as fresh mango juice is delicious.
4. Papaya (‘Malagor’)
A delicious year-round fruit and another that is more commonly eaten when green in Somtam, a Papaya salad that you’ll find in restaurants across the country, rather than when it is ripe. Don’t eat the small dark seeds in the centre. ( I didn’t know that when i first had one years ago in Sri Lanka. ) This fruit is a good introduction to some of the more exotic ones. The orange/red meat should be soft but not mushy, and full of flavour.
5. Coconut (‘Maprao’)
Everyone knows coconuts. But again, Thais do things differently. For a start, you won’t find the type of coconuts you’re used to having at home here. A coconut with thick dry white meat inside the shell is an old coconut. This meat is used in cooking, but not for eating raw.
Thais prefer young coconuts which have thin, soft flesh that can easily be scooped out of the shell with a spoon. It’s a bit more bitter and not as ‘coconutty’ – but more refreshing. You’ll also see de-husked coconuts for sale. Usually chilled. These will look like a pale brown baseball. They have been on a fire – to remove the husks – and this also imparts a different flavour. Worth trying.
6. Banana (‘Gluay’)
You could also try to work your way through the many varieties of banana that are found here. Skip the large ones that you’ll and try the smaller varieties which have much more flavour. And they aren’t just eaten raw. You’ll find them cooked in a variety of ways – eg boiled in coconut milk; grilled on a BBQ or fried with a coconut milk batter.
7. Durian (‘Turian’)
You either love it or you hate this large spiky delicacy that’s known as ‘The King of Fruits‘. And if you were born outside South-east Asia, you’ll probably hate it. And even if you haven;t already tried it, you’ll have read about it or seen photos of the ‘No Durian’ signs that many hotels and mass transit systems have posted throughout this part of the world. Again, there are various types.
If you want to avoid the ones with a mushy flesh, that smell and taste of decomposing internal organs, try the ‘Montong’ variety. This has a crunchier texture, more akin to an apple and doesn’t have to overpowering smell or taste. It’s actually OK to eat.
8. Jackfruit (‘Khanoon’)
The largest fruit you’ll find in Thailand. These often weigh in at 20 – 30 Kilos. They are similar to Durian but larger and without the sharp spines on the skin. The fruit is hacked open to reveal multiple sections, each of which contains a waxy, yellow textured meat which covers a large seed. It’s priced per 100 grams. Look for golden yellow meat – rather than pale yellow. The flavour is hard to describe – it’s a bit of everything. The nearest thing is Juicyfruit chewing gum flavour . :-)
9. Mangosteen (‘Mangkut’)
Originally from Indonesia but now found across this region, it’s called the Queen of Fruits. There’s story that Queen Victoria heard about how good it was and offered a large reward to anyone who could bring ripe Mangosteens back to England for her. No-one could. They aren’t fruits that can be picked early, so have a limited shelf life.
It’s an odd looking fruit with white segments of flesh encased in a thick, dark purple skin that is prised apart by hand. If you want to impress someone bet them that you know how many segments will be inside the fruit before you open it. Look at the green petals at the bottom of the shell – the number of these matches the number of segments inside. :-)
10. Guava (‘Farang’)
An imported fruit bought to Thailand by traders from central America hundreds of years ago. It’s available year round and usually eaten when green and crunchy along with a salt, sugar and chili dip. If you are buying from a fruit cart on the street, you’ll notice that Guavas often look unnaturally bright green. They have been soaked in a sugary dye solution. Don’t buy these. Buy from a fruit shop. They’re called ‘Farang’ in Thai – the same name that foreigners are called.
11. Pomelo (‘Som-O’)
A kind of cross between a grapefruit an an orange. It’s a similar size to a to grapefruit, but with a sweeter, less acidic taste . The skin is a couple of centimetres thing, and the fruit is in segments, but without the messy juice of most citrus fruits. So it’s easy to eat with your hands. Most are yellow but you also get blood red pomelos.
12. Rambutan (‘Ngo’)
The red skin with centimetre long, soft pale green spikes hides a firm, white, translucent flesh covering a single stone at it’s centre. Another very sweet fruit with great texture. It’s reminiscent of the texture of a large grape.
13. Rose Apple (‘Chompoo’)
Shaped like a small pear. Rose apples are often pink ( hence the name ) or light green. They have a crispy, crunchy texture and are hollow inside. Very refreshing on a hot day.
14. Dragonfruit (‘Gao Mungorn’)
Another fruit originally from central America. These are baseball sized fruit from a cactus tree. The exterior rind is a bright pink / purple with a handful of pale green scales protruding from it. Inside is a white flesh dotted with hundreds of small black seeds. Similar to that of a Kiwi fruit. The best way to eat it is to put it in the fridge for a couple of hours to chill it. Then take it out. Cut it in half and scoop out everything inside with a spoon. No strong flavour but the flesh is very nutritious.
15. Custard Apple (‘Noina’)
A tennis ball sized, pale green fruit with a unique, knobbly skin. It’s a bit mushy inside and you’ll find it has a lot of black seeds, which aren’t to be eaten. Not a favourite for many people. But worth trying.
16. Sapodilla (‘Lamut’)
This small fruit with a dull, pale brown skin, doesn’t look very attractive. However, it is one of the sweetest that you’ll find. The Sapodilla is another fruit that’s made it’s way across the Pacific from central America to Thailand.
It’s not as widely found as many of the others listed here. So you might have to look hard for it. But definitely worth trying for it’s soft, slightly gritty flesh that tastes like treacle. To east it, simply peel away the thin skin with a knife and take a bite.
17. Lychee (‘Linjee’)
Similar to the Rambutan only with a more distinct flavour and knobbly reddish pink skin. Ping pong ball sized Lychees are a commoin site later in the main fruit season from July to October. Don’t eat the single nut-like seed.
18. Longan (‘Lamyai’)
A lesser known relative of of the lychee and rambutan, the longan has a sweet, delicate flavour and is smaller in size. These are mainly grown in the north of the country. Just peel away the thin pale yellow/brown skin to reveal a translucent white meat covering one large seed.
19. Langsat (‘Langsard’)
A native Thai fruit that looks and tastes very similar to the Longan. Easy to confuse the two unless you see them side by side on the fruit stall. The main different being it has five small segments inside. Each segment having it’s own seed. Most will be soft and you can eat them. Just spit out any harder seeds.
20. Snake Fruit (‘Sala’)
Snake Fruit (Sala) The name comes from pattern of the hard, brittle red-brown shell. Use a thumbnail to crack it open and reveal white lobes of flesh that deliver sweet and sour flavours with a lot of acidity. The small seeds are inedible but can easily be eaten around. This is grown a lot on the mainland in Trat and is one of the things that the province is well known for.
21. Starfruit (‘Mafeuang’)
So called because of their distinctive five pointed cross section. This fruit is also widely known as Carambola. A ripe one should be firm to the touch and yellow with tinges of pale green. They are fairly sour, with a low natural sugar content, so only have around 30 Calories per fruit and are packed with antioxidants and flavonoids. You’ll often see them used as garnishes as their unique shape makes them very visually appealing.
22. Jujube or Putsa Apple (‘Rien Tong’)
Sometimes referred to as a Thai apple. They look similar to crab-apples and are often mistaken for them by visitors. They also taste similar but slightly sourer and more tart. Not commonly eaten fresh, their main use is when dried to make an infusion to drink or as an ingredient in various herbal medicines.