Fruits of Liberia: Rambutan or Monkey Apple

Part of the fun of living in different countries is getting to try the different foods, and seeing what fruits and vegetables grow there.

These are rambutans:

Handful of Rambutans

Liberians usually call it monkey apple, sometimes bush apple. It’s a relative of the lychee, with a bright yellow, yellow-green (neon!), or red skin that has soft spikes all over. OK, not really spikes, but hair gives sort of the wrong idea.

The skin is easy to split, which lets you get at the fruit inside. The fruit itself is pale or white, oval, and about the size of a large grape. There’s a seed inside the white fruit, which is supposed to be edible (at least from what I’ve seen on the internet), but doesn’t seem to have much flavor. I usually spit it out.

Peeled Rambutan

To eat, you pop the peeled fruit into your mouth and spit out the seed. The flesh sticks to the seed, and is pretty juicy, so I’ve had a hard time trying to seed them with a knife (more experimentation needed…maybe a serrated knife will work).

The rambutan sort of tastes like a sweet grape, without the tannic astringency. Or you could describe it as floral, with a sweet and mildly sour taste. It’s very refreshing to eat, and a handful like this make a nice little afternoon snack.

I think it would make a very nice sorbet. Dairy would likely overwhelm the flavor, so I probably wouldn’t use it as an ice cream flavor.

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