Yes, that's one hairy looking little creature. Sitting coyly in a wooden bin at a large supermarket, I brought two of these unusual and crazy Rambutan fruits home to taste test. What to do next?
I searched online for information on how to open these strange little buggers. Seems the people in Southeast Asia who live in the actual areas where Rambutans grow, are able to twist them open easily. Perhaps after all, they are eating them fresh from the tree, or from a recent harvest that the spiky casing is not hard. Then I found out that the really fresh Rambutan actually are red or yellow, (just look at the photo below) not brownish black like the ones from the local supermarket that I purchased recently. Darn!
To open the tough skin of what we bought, I scored around the hairy outer shell to pop it open and reveal the inner fruit. The soft insides are much like a large translucent grape. Many say it is reminiscent of a lychee. Tastes like a mild grape to me. Since we do not get fresh Rambutan here where we live, I doubt I will be getting this tiny fruit again unless they are brightly colored and there is a greater quantity. A bunch of grapes would be less work and more abundant in taste opportunity. I admit that since our fruit was not very fresh it probably lost much of the flavor. If I vacation in a tropical area then that would be a more suitable situation to eat Rambutan. Still I try to be Ms.Adventurous and sample the exotic fruits when available at the market. Makes food fun!
The name Ranbutan is Indonesian/Malaysian, and means 'hairy, or messy hair.' Makes sense. Although I would name mine 'creepy hair.' As I opened the Rambutan, the glistening white fruit inside had me imagining painting the pupil and iris of an eyeball on the flesh, and then partially closing the outer shell down. You could scare the bejeezers out of someone in the dark on Halloween! Just sayin'! This could be really creeeeeepy! Am I the only one thinking this? Per chance I was pranked at a party as a young girl, and while blindfolded, was doused in a bucket of room temperature plain slimy pasta. Told it was worms.
Considering our Rambutan's were not fresh is perhaps why they looked so menacing to me. The red and yellow Rambutans are actually pretty, even though they have quite a bizarre rubbery hair-raising texture.
Inside the grape like interior there is also a seed. Most people do not eat this seed, although it is said that you could do so without harm. It is recommended you buy Ranbutan with the branch still attached as that protects the fruit from rot and damage from pests. I would recommend they actually have some color too!
The lesson in this post is to buy much fresher Rambutan than I did, or visit a tropical area where you can have access to these fruits in a more abundant manner to make it worthwhile to enjoy this strange sweet fruit. Otherwise you may get an outrageous looking Halloween prop like I experienced! Could be cool!
Here are is a video showing how to eat a Rambutan.
Credits: Some photos in this post use creative commons photos available from Wikipedia.