6 Popular Asian Fruits You Can Find in North America
By Madalina Hubert
Did you know that mango originates from South Asia, and that kiwi was first grown in China?
Some of the most popular fruits we enjoy today originated in Asia, although they are now grown on other continents as well. In recent years, there are even more Asian fruits that are beginning to grow in popularity in North America.
In this article, we will explore some of the most popular ones.
Citrus Asian Fruits
1. Mandarin Orange
When you think Asian fruits, the first one that probably comes to mind is the mandarin orange, simply known as the ‘mandarin.’ It is a small citrus fruit originating in southeast Asia and is commonly eaten on its own or in salads. It’s closely related to oranges and tangerines, but did you know that both are actually a type of mandarin hybrid?
The most distinctive feature of this Asian citrus fruit is its thin peel. Dubbed “kid-glove” oranges, mandarins are great snacks for youngsters.
Not only is the sweet fleshy inside good for you, but the peel is also beneficial. In traditional Chinese medicine, the dried peel of the fruit is made into a tea which helps regulate the body’s energy and enhances digestion.
Originating in southeast Asia, pomelo is the largest citrus in the world, weighing between 2-4 pounds (1-2 kilograms). The ancestor of the grapefruit, it has been cultivated for over 2,000 years and is now one of the more popular Asian fruits in North America.
The pomelo is round or oval and its rind ranges from yellow to green. The flesh (which varies in colour according to its variety) is covered by a thick membrane, which unlike for other citrus fruits, needs to be peeled off before eating.
Pomelo has a milder, sweeter taste than the grapefruit. You can enjoy the fruit raw but also tossed in salads, marinades, desserts and other dishes. One tip when cooking with pomelo is to add it at the end of the cooking process to avoid bitterness.
Like other citrus fruits, pomelo is high in vitamin C, which is important for boosting immunity and fighting infection. The fruit also includes plenty of fibre, antioxidants, and minerals.
Here is a delicious Mango Pomelo Sago Dessert Recipe you can make at home:
Asian Berry Fruits
With a sweet aromatic taste, lychee is one of the most popular Asian fruits. Part of the soapberry family, it originates in southern China, but it also grows in countries with tropical climates, such as India and Thailand. You can enjoy lychee raw, but it is also a favourite for desserts, including ice cream, sherbet, and jelly. It is also used as an ingredient in beverages, such as juices, sodas, and wine. The fruit is relatively small in size, has a hard pink-red rind, and white flesh. With a taste that is both sweet and tart, lychee is very refreshing.
Lychee is also rich in vitamin C. That is one way in which lychee works to protect the immune system. It also has minerals and antioxidants among other benefits.
Here is a Chinese Lychee Chicken Recipe you can cook at home:
Another member of the soapberry family, this fruit has a light-brown shell and white flesh. With its black seed in the middle, the fruit resembles an eyeball once the shell is removed. In fact, the name ‘longan‘ means ‘dragon’s eye’ in Cantonese. The longan taste is sweet and tart.
Longan has high doses of Vitamin C and is used as a sleep aid in traditional Chinese medicine. You can enjoy the fruits raw, but as with lychee, they also work well in savoury dishes, desserts, and beverages.
You can also prepare longan as a tea.
Unique Asian Fruits
What makes this fruit unique is its appearance. The name ‘rambutan’ comes from the Malay word for ‘hair’ because of the fruit’s hairy red and green shell. Roughly the size of a golf ball, once you break the shell, inside you will find white flesh. The rambutan has a sweet creamy taste.
Here is a recipe for marinated rambutans.
Like longan, rambutan is also packed with vitamin C and it’s also a surprising source of copper!
This fruit derives from the Malay word for ‘spike’ because its hard shell is covered with spikes. It is one of the heaviest Asian fruits, weighing up to 7 pounds (3 kilograms). Interestingly, the durian has a strong smell that many people find off-putting. In fact, the durian is banned in several public places in Asian countries, such as Singapore and Thailand because of this.
In spite of that, many people love durian and use it in candy, milkshakes, ice creams, cappuccinos and desserts. Its fans claim it has a pleasantly sweet aroma, while its detractors say it has an overpoweringly unpleasant odour.
Among its health benefits, durian is high in nutrients, fights infection, lowers blood sugar, and works to prevent heart disease.
Here are some tips on how to eat durian, including a couple of recipes.
Of course, there are many other Asian fruits that are not on this list. Take the opportunity to visit an Asian supermarket and see what else you can discover. And if you’re brave enough, you could even try a durian!
In the meantime, you can get started by checking out the recipes below:
Madalina Hubert is a Toronto-based writer specializing in art, culture, travel, and culinary explorations.