The vast spread island of Indonesia brings many varieties of fruits. Some fruit you may find hard due to its seasonal type, while many others are available all year round. If you come from beyond tropical country, I am sure you will find some fruits of Indonesia that are a complete mystery aka. you have never seen it before. But not to worry, if the local eats it, then it is completely fine.
You’ll find several distinct ways that fruits are traditionally used in Indonesia. They can be made to juices, such as the yummy “jus Alpukat” (avocado juice). It seems wholesome, but keep in mind the Indonesians like to add a fair amount of chocolate syrup and condensed milk. It might not be the best selling beverage, but it sure is yummy!
People also like to eat fried fruits. You will always find a popular snack sold on the food stand near the market and written “Gorengan” or it means dumplings that serve banana fried–or “pisang goreng”. And there are several ways to process the fruits such as by making them into sweet candy or “Manisan buah” and fruit chips or “Keripik buah”.
There is one popular dish that fruits are used as fruit salad and combined with spicy palm sugar sauce. They called it “Rujak”. It is an assortment of many fruits, normally consist of watery fruits like cucumber, watermelons, pineapple, and so on. The taste is marvelous, sweet and sour but also spicy and having them in daylight with a glass of cold water or even mixed with ice cream. OMG, I bet that would be a favor you can’t resist.
OK, now back in the game…
This mini-guide will break down the list of Indonesian fruits and their local name so you can hunt them down as well on the local markets.
1. Mangosteen Aka. Manggis
This round shape fruit with deep reddish purple-colored skin is believed to have originated from Southeast Asia. You can find this fruit anywhere in Indonesia as this is an evergreen fruit that lives the entire year.
This fruit has a very delicate flavor inside its soft white segments. When you chew the flesh, it’s like you have a tickling feeling in your tongue. And if you’re lucky enough to get the ripe fruit of mangosteen, the taste is sooo good that it almost makes everybody drolls.
By the way, you can identify the number of the flesh inside just by looking under it. You will see a flower shape at the bottom that sometimes they have five or six leaves. That is the number of fleshes inside the fruit.
2. Snake fruit Aka. Salak
Salak is mainly found in Java and Sumatra. It got the nickname snake fruit because of the outer skin that looks alike scale of a snake. The skin can easily be peeled off by breaking the upper tip, you don’t want to try to open it from below side because it’s just can only hurt your finger.
Salak has the flavor of sweet and sour. After being peeled off from its outer skin, there’s still a thin membrane that covers the white flesh. You may or may not remove the membrane. For me, I just straightly eat it. Locals said that if you consume too many Salak, you may experience constipation, whilst not removing those membranes could help you avoid it.
There is two popular variety of Salak that becomes the favorite among others, which is Salak Pondoh that originally from Yogyakarta. Salak Pondoh has an apple-like texture but very dry and crumbly. While the other two is Salak Bali that typically larger than Salak Pondoh, same texture but add more moist and crunchy.
It doesn’t have a nickname, the word ‘rambut’ means hair in Bahasa Indonesia, hence the name ‘rambutan’ due to the fruit’s hairy outer skin.
Many people describe Rambutan as a marriage between longan and lychee. It is native to Southeast Asia, yet currently grown in tropical climates all over the world. The nutrient ingredients in this exotic fruit contain a high amount of fiber and boast a high amount of iron.
You may find almost in every corner of the street when it comes to its season which is around November through February. Rambutan is best to be consumed fresh after being picked from the tree. To open it, examine the line that crossed in half of the body, pinch with your nail and tear it apart.
The best quality of Rambutan will taste sweet. Not so juicy but sweet and chewy texture. And when you bite the flesh, a chunk of it will easily loosen from the inner seed, while some that taste a bit sour usually still stick to it.
4. Jackfruit Aka. Nangka
This is the giant of Indonesian fruits. It’s so large that usually sold in cut sections. Originating from Southeast Asia, Africa, and Brazil–Nangka has yellow meat and sweet taste. It contains glycemic index and fiber, protein and antioxidants. May promote better blood sugar control and widely used in vegan dishes because of the taste and texture of the meat.
When it ripes, it has a strong smell and flavor. But when it hasn’t ripe, people use it as a vegetable in their meals. You may know the most popular traditional cuisine in Yogyakarta that called ‘Gudeg’, it is cooked from the young jackfruit.
Don’t you know that the inner seed of a Nangka is called ‘beton’ in the Javanese language?. While “beton” in Bahasa Indonesia means ‘concrete’. So, there is humor saying that Javanese people are strong enough that they can eat ‘beton’ (whereas literally implied to concrete). Javanese people can also cook this beton by steaming it and make it as a snack. It tastes like flabby cashews.
Among other exotic tropical fruits in Indonesia that are famous throughout Southeast Asia is Durian.
With its oval-shaped and spikes skin covered in its entire body, this fruit is distinguished for its strong odor. The hard outer skin needs to be pried open using a large knife to reach the yellowish, soft and creamy textured flesh inside.
I personally have experienced to open this fruit by standing onto it and pressing with my feet against the floor, once you crack it–it can be easily opened. But make sure before you do that, wear sturdy boots or at least a shoe with firm outsole. Otherwise, the spikes may penetrate through your shoe.
As much as the people who love it, there are some others that also dislike it. They who don’t like with this fruit are saying for the bad smell or an odd after-taste. Indeed that consuming this unique fruit will leave you with its scents on your hands (if you eat by holding it) or in your mouth.
But no worries, I will give you a hint. Right after you finish eating durians, grab the durian skin and fill with fresh water on the concave bed where the flesh laid before. Use it to wash your hands, or fill another concave bed and use it to gargle and wash your mouth. I guarantee there will be no more bad smell of durian out of you.
Sawo is a medium-sized fruit with the brownish rough-textured on its skin. The skin itself is like a wet paper that can be easily peeled off but strong enough to protect the flesh.
Sawo is commonly used to represent the Javanese people because the brownish color of Sawo is dominantly matched with the skin of native Javanese people. Even there is a phrase in Bahasa Indonesia to describe the skin tone of a person with “sawo matang”, meaning that he/she has a deep brown colored-skin.
The taste of a ripe Sawo is sweet and creamy, and when it wasn’t ripe enough will taste plain and a little bit bitter. You can tell that they already ripe by holding and squeeze it gently if the skin feels soft and you can smell the sweet aroma out of it, then it is ripe.
A little tip when you are about to consume this fruit. Remove all the seeds from the flesh, as their sharp edge can be harmful especially when it accidentally swallowed.
7. Starfruit Aka. Belimbing
Known as Carambola, this is a native fruit of Southeast Asia and can be found across Malaysia, Philippines, India, and Sri Lanka.
Belimbing has a pale yellow flesh with a shape like a star if you cut cross-section of it. The taste of Belimbing is not so sweet but they contain plenty of water.
How to serve Belimbing?. Wash it thoroughly and cut the greenish part of the five edges and then cut cross-section to reveal its star shape. The whole fruit is edible or you can use it to make a juice drink. Belimbing is a perfect companion for ‘Rujak’ party with friends and family.
Carica can be grown and cultivated in many regions all over the world, but only specific in the tropical cold areas. That is why, this exclusive fruits can only be seen in Central Java, to be specific at Dieng Plateau, Wonosobo.
Carica shape is like the fusion between starfruit and papaya. Five edge segments but dulled, and fat like papaya but in a smaller size.
The good quality of Carica will taste sweet and crunchy. The flesh is not so thick and doesn’t produce as much water as starfruit. That is why most people in Wonosobo preserve it with sugar syrup and make it as their main commodity.