Jan 7, 2016

RAMBUTAN, Pearl of the Orient

The Birth of Planet Rambutan
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There are many strange looking tropical fruits available in Hawaii, but rambutan has to be one of the strangest, enough to inspire me to create the image above. I get carried away sometimes.

Rambutan is a small red walnut sized fruit, covered with pliable spines. Inside of the leathery, spiny outer skin is an oval shaped, translucent, whitish-pink fruit, with a sweet, mildly acidic flavor very reminiscent of grapes. Inside of the fleshy fruit is a large seed.

The rambutan is part of the Sapindaceae family and is native to Malaysia and Indonesia, however Thailand is now the largest producer in the world. In 1997 Hawaii's top 3 tropical fruits included rambutan.

The name 'rambutan' is derived from the Malay-Indonesian languages word "rambut" or "hair". The fruit is related to a lychee, and grows on a tree that reaches 10-20 feet in height. 

When buying rambutan, look for red shells which often have greenish tips even when they are fully ripe. If the fruit looks dry or with dark splotches, it is old and past its prime. Rambutans don't stay at their peak condition for very long even when refrigerated. They should be consumed righ away. This is because, once picked, rambutans do not ripen any further; they just rot. Once opened, the rambutan should not be excessively juicy. The taste of the flesh should be sweet with no hint of fermented sourness, which is an indication that the fruit is old.

The rambutan is called a super fruit because it has many nutritional benefits containing an excellent source of vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, Potassium, Vitamin A, Zinc, Manganese, Magnesium, Calcium, Iron, Protein, Fiber, and Phosphorus. It's a great addition to a healthy diet. Read more about the health benefits here.
Rambutan Pearl of the Orient
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Rambutans are best eaten fresh out of hand. You can also slice up the flesh and turn it into ice creams, sorbets, or gelatos

You should be able to find rambutan in Asian markets in most areas of the U.S.. Their season seems to vary, depending on where they're grown, however, rambutan trees usually bear fruit twice annually, once in the late fall and early winter. It's January here in Hawaii and I was able to get them at the Moloka'i Saturday Farmer's Market. If you want to try and grow your own rambutan tree from seed, check out this interesting site.

Cocktail Recipe:

This is a must-try martini recipe, no matter what planet you're from.

Ingredients for the rim of two frozen martini glasses:
1 cut lime wedge
4 tablespoons sugar
1 or 2 crystalize ginger pieces, finely minced
1 tablespoon of lime zest

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
8 fresh rambutans
4 to 5-ounces frozen vodka (I'm a big fan of Tito's vodka from Moloka'i Wines & Spirits)
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1 cup ice

Take a lime wedge and run it along the edge of the two martini glasses, to moisten it. Combine the sugar, ginger and lime zest, and put the mixture on a small plate. Dip the rim of each glass into the sugar, ginger and lime mixture, so the rim of each glass is coated. Put the glasses back into the freezer.

Make a simple syrup out of the sugar and water by heating them in the microwave for 30 second or so until the sugar has dissolved, then cool in the freezer. Meanwhile, peel and pit the rambutans with a small knife, discarding the peel and pit. Cut one of the peeled rambutans into quarters and put aside for garnish. Put the rest of the ingredients into a blender, and blend for about half a minute. Strain the rambutini cocktail into the two frozen martini glasses, adding two quarters of the reserved rambutan flesh to the center of each cocktail. That's it! Makes 2 Rambutinis.

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