6 Southeast Asian Fruits to Love

These fruits are eaten raw, or added to sweet and savory dishes and delicacies

Southeast Asia's tropical climate is conducive to growing a large number of fruits. These are some of them.

  • 01 of 06


    Durian, Malaysia's King of Fruits
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    Arguably the most controversial of Southeast Asian fruits, durian is something you hate or love, with no middle ground. Subtle is not a word that finds any application with durian as everything about it is intense. From the odor to the flavor, durian screams to be noticed. Some people find durian revolting but others are enamored with it. 

    Durian has been grown in Southeast Asia since prehistoric times but the West did not make its acquaintance until about 600 years ago. The husk is spiny and inside are five cells with creamy pulp. The flavor is best described by Sir Alfred Russel Wallace, a 19th-century British biologist, and explorer. He described the flavor of durian as "A rich custard highly flavored with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavor that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes."

    The smell of durian is strong even when the husk is still intact that not a few find it offensive.

    The durian's pulp can be eaten fresh. It is also processed to make candy, ice cream, and other sweet delicacies.

  • 02 of 06


    Jackfruit (langka, nangka, chè)
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    Another fruit with a spiny husk is jackfruit, the national fruit of Bangladesh. It is known as nangka in Indonesia and langka in the Philippines.

    The sweet flesh comes in bulbs and inside each bulb is a seed. Ripe jackfruit is sweet and is eaten raw. It can also be preserved as dried candy or with sugar syrup. In the latter form, jackfruit is commonly added to desserts like the Vietnamese ​chè, the Philippines' halo-halo, and the Indonesian es teler.

    The flesh of unripe jackfruit is cooked as a vegetable often with coconut milk.

    The seeds of ripe jackfruit are edible. They may be baked, boiled or roasted. Roasted jackfruit seeds taste similar to chestnuts.

  • 03 of 06


    Shubert Ciencia / Moment Open / Getty Images

    Still another fruit with a spiny husk is the marang. Native to Borneo, it was introduced to Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. Called keiran in Indonesia and terap in Malaysia, marang has a strong odor though not as intense as that of durian. 

    Inside the husk, marang looks similar to jackfruit but the bulbs rounder and more white than yellow.

    Just like the jackfruit, marang seeds are edible and cooked the same way as jackfruit seeds.

  • 04 of 06

    Wax Apple and Rose Apple

    Wax apple (java apple, royal apple, rose apple, makopa)
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    Wax apple is Syzygium samarangense while rose apple is Syzygium malaccense. Both have several common names which are sometimes used to refer to either of the two fruits. 

    Wax apple (in the photo) is bell-shaped and the outer color can be white, light green, pink or crimson. The flesh is crisp and watery.

    Rose apple is oblong with dark pink to red skin. The flesh is white and rather bland. 

    Despite "apple" being appended to many of their common names, these fruits do not taste anything like apple. Both are popular fresh salad ingredients.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06


    Sugar apple (custard apple, atis, aati, ata)
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    Native to the West Indies and tropical Americas, sugar-apple was introduced by the Spaniards to Southeast Asia.

    Sugar-apple has a thick segmented rind. The flesh is segmented as well and arranged in a symmetrical single layer around the core. Most of these segments contain a seed; a single fruit typically contains 20 seeds or more. The ​mouthfeel of the flesh resembles custard although the flesh of sugar-apple is somewhat grainy and very slippery.

    The traditional way to eat sugar apple is to pop a segment into the mouth and spit out the seed. 

  • 06 of 06


    Lorenzo Vecchia / Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

    Soursop is from the same family that sugar-apple belongs to. Its common names include guanábana (Spanish) from which guyabano, its common name in the Philippines is derived. The Indonesian name is ​sirsak.

    Soursop is larger than sugar-apple with the seeds arranged down the middle so it is easier to separate them from the flesh. The flesh, as its name suggests, tastes more sour than sweet with a creamy mouthfeel. We find it ideal for making smoothies and ice cream.