May 14, 2013

POMELO... The Granddaddy of Grapefruit!

Pomelos on sale at Chinatown, Singapore
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The pomelo is the largest of the citrus fruits, earning the name "Citrus Grandis". It's sort of like a grapefruit on steroids. They are huge, ranging from cantaloupe-size to as large as a 25-pound watermelon. The pomelo is similar in color and taste to a grapefruit, but it is actually much older than the grapefruit, introduced in China around 100 B.C. It has been described as the grapefruit for people who don’t like grapefruit, because the taste is less tart. The other difference is that they have a very thick rind with a cotton-textured pith. The rind can be as thick as 5 inches. 

Its pulpy segmented flesh ranges in color tones from pale to rich rosé pink to translucent yellow. The fragrant flesh can be juicy or dry depending on variety and age. Pomelos are semi-acidic, giving them their sweet tart flavor, and are loaded with vitamin C. Most pomelo varieties contain only a few seeds, though if cross-pollinated with another variety, the fruit will bear multiple seeds. To get to the flesh of a pomelo, take a chef’s knife, slice through the rind at the top and slice in segments until you can pull the two sides apart. Then just pull away the pith and white skin surrounding the flesh.
Hawaii grown cut pamelo
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Yam som-o
A Thai salad made with pamelo, chillies, deep-fried anchovies,
dried shrimp, roasted peanuts, fish sauce and tamarind juice
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The pomelo is mostly grown in eastern countries including China, Japan, Southern India, Fiji, Malaysia, Indonesia, New Guinea, Thailand, and Tahiti. Perhaps the pomelo was first brought to Hawaii by the Polynesian settlers, I'm not sure. It is also now grown in the Caribbean and in the United States, in California, Florida, Arizona, Texas and here in Hawaii. Pomelos are usually grafted onto other citrus rootstocks, but can be grown from seed, provided the seeds are not allowed to dry out before planting. The seedlings take about eight years to start blooming and yielding fruit. Pomelos are harvested November through June. Unlike most other citrus, it thrives in tropical lowlands and brackish water conditions. Another interesting fact about this fruit is that the tangelo is a hybrid between the pomelo and the tangerine, and the grapefruit itself is a hybrid between pomelo and the sweet orange.

The pomelo is sometimes called a "Chinese grapefruit". The Chinese believe that the pomelo is a sign of prosperity and good fortune - good things will happen if they eat it. They also use pomelo leaves in a ritual bath, which they believe helps to cleanse a person and repel evil. The peel is used in Chinese cooking or candied. It is also a staple fruit in Vietnamese food culture and cuisine. One very popular dish using pomelo is a Vietnamese Pomelo Salad. A combination of meaty citrus, crunchy carrots, salty cucumber, and sweet caramelized shallots with mint leaves and chopped peanuts, and finished off with the aromatic sweet-sour-salty-sweet sauce. Jumbo shrimp, chicken breast meat or pork are sometimes added to this recipe for more protein. The next time you visit Hawaii, look for the pomelo, "The Granddaddy of Grapefruit".

Vietnamese Pomelo Salad
Adapted from Viet World Kitchen

1 medium pomelo
1 cucumber, cut into matchsticks
2 to 3 teaspoons salt
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup chopped, roasted peanuts

Dressing Ingredients:
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce

With a large knife slice through the rind and go around with the knife until you can pull the two sides apart. With your fingers, peel the pith away from the white-covered flesh. Then, peel away the white skin away from the flesh (use scissors or a small knife is skin is too hard.) Separate the flesh into bite-size pieces and set aside.

In a large bowl, toss cucumber strips with salt. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the salt to draw out excess water.

Mix together the ingredients for the sauce. Set aside.

In a wok or sauté pan, cook the shallots and garlic until shallots are caramelized, about 3 minutes. Allow the shallots and garlic to cool for a few minutes, then toss with the carrots. After the cucumber has been sitting for 20 minutes, drain away excess water and add cucumbers to carrots. Add the mint, chopped peanuts, and dressing and toss well. Transfer to a plate or large bowl and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Thai Pomelo & Watermelon Salad
Ingredients for the salad:
6 small pink (Thai) shallots, halved and finely sliced
2 tablespoons groundnut oil
2 tablespoons cashew nuts
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut shreds
1 pomelo
1/4 large watermelon, skinned and sliced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut into matchsticks
thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely shredded
small handful of mint leaves
small handful of cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Ingredients for the dressing:
2 red bird's-eye chillis, deseeded and very finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon palm sugar or soft light-brown sugar
crisp green lettuce leaves to serve (optional)

Slowly fry two thirds of the shallots in the groundnut oil, stirring often and increasing the heat only when they have reduced in size. When crisp and golden, drain on paper kitchen towel.

Using a dry frying-pan, separately toast the nuts and coconut, shaking often, until golden and toasted but not burnt. The coconut can char very quickly, so take care. Crush or chop the nuts.

To cut the pomelo, cut off the top, then deeply score into wedges from top to bottom. Peel away the skin and thick layer of pith, then wrench the segments apart. Using a small knife to help, tear the membrane and pith away from each segment and discard.

Combine all the dressing ingredients, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Just before serving, mix all the salad ingredients together – including the reserved raw shallots – add the dressing and sprinkle with the toasted coconut and crushed cashews. Serve as is, or cupped in crisp green lettuce leaves. Makes 4 servings.

Candied Pomelo Peel
1 large pomelo
1 1/4 cups sugar

Using a pairing knife carefully remove peel from pomelo. To do this, cut both the top and bottom off of the fruit, leaving a flat surface to sit the pomelo. Follow the shape of the pomelo from top to bottom, in about 1/2″-1″ slices. Remove as much of the white pith as you can.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, blanch the peels for about 1 minute. Plunge into an ice bath, rinse off and repeat. You can do this 2-3 times to remove some of the bitterness.

Bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar to a simmer in a medium pot. Add your rinsed peels, turn the heat to low, cover and let cook for 1 hour.

Remove rinds to a drying rack. Let cool then toss with remaining sugar. (Some people like to dip one end in chocolate) Place back on the rack and let dry for an additional 3 hours or so. Store in an air tight container.

Pomelo Margarita
6 ounces pumelo juice
2 ounces lime juice
3 ounces tequila
2 ounces orange liqueur
salt, for rim (optional)
simple syrup, to taste (optional)

Stir together all ingredients in a small pitcher. Run one of the lime halves around the outside of two glasses. Twist the glasses in salt, fill with crushed ice, and fill with margarita. Makes 2 cocktails.

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