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Sep 23, 2009 10:29 AM

Chinatown fruit report [Old]

Last weekend saw the following notable "exotic" fruits on the stands: guava, rambutan, longan, tiny clementines, and the most exciting - carambolas (shijia in Pinyin). They look somewhat like pinecones (of the greenish color of ancient Chinese patinated bronzes) and taste somewhat like a cross between banana and pineapple. Pounce! (I particularly like the vendor on the east side of Mulberry at Canal. A nice lady and her stuff is always top quality.)

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  1. I believe you may be confusing the names of the fruits. Carambolas are actually star-fruit, which I've seen on Canal Street at one of the stands near Mulberry. However, I've been curious about the fresh pinecone-like fruit you described. All I know about them is that the signs refer to them as "sugar-apples." I'm glad to read that they're good.

    Buttertart, how does one determine if the fruit is ripe, and how does one go about eating a sugar-apple? Is the whole thing edible, or do you have to peel it first? What should the texture be like? Thanks in advance and thanks for posting (I've been meaning to ask about the fruit).

    5 Replies
    1. re: BklynBlaise

      Shoot, yes, a type of CHERIMOYAS is what I meant, was rushing as usual, and they are the sugar-apples. They are a bit yielding when ripe (like a medium-ripe avocado). You break them apart to eat them (could cut them I suppose) - each of the little points on the outside represents a seed on the inside which is not to be eaten. The texture is similar to banana.

      1. re: buttertart

        Custard-apples? One of my favorite fruits.
        They are wonderful in milkshakes. I wish I were in Bombay having one right now!

        1. re: racer x

          whoa they have those here? racerx - the last time i had one of those was in a milkshake in bombay in 2002 and it was so damn good, i got one like everyday

          1. re: Lau

            They were all over Chinatown in the late summer and early autumn last year.

      2. re: BklynBlaise

        Vietnamese word for them is "na", pronounced exactly as written. There are several kinds, the ones we get in NYC are of the softer, sweeter type. They are soft to the touch and have nice fragrant when ripe. If you happen to buy green ones, put them in a bowl and cover with uncooked rice, they'll ripen up really fast. Peel the outer skin then break them into chunks, whichever order you like.
        Fun note: I used to wash the black seeds and play mancala with them.

        1. re: newportt2004

          Yes, but the small ones, about the size of an average avocado or smaller. And greenish-blackish on the outside. I remember eating ones exactly like these when I lived in Taipei - in fact they were the first unusual - to me - fruits we bought when we were first there. The ones in these photos are enormous, I never saw any that size. (PS the fruit stand sign calligraphy makes me nostalgic for the precious island.)

        2. I'm glad you had a good one. The one I bought was truly unappetizing even after ripening, and turned my mouth into pucker.

          I miss the ones in Taiwan and Brazil.

          1. Further to the above, there were also a couple of varieties of Asian pears and I think I saw pomelos which should be everywhere given the approach of Zhongqiujie (10/3 this year). I will keep these reports up at least biweekly since we're in Chinatown at least that often.

            1 Reply
            1. re: buttertart

              Update: status quo - nothing much new or out of the ordinary - still rambutans, longyan, and 1 vendor with shijia /custard apples for $8.00 the pound, lots of pomelos, several types of Asian pears, nice-looking guavas.

            2. Saw the following today: lots of persimmons (the flat ones), pomelos, guavas, several types of Asian pears, longyan (wish the lychee season were longer than the longyan one), papayas, dragon fruit, durian, small bananas. In the less exotic category, several different kinds of grapes, small watermelons, mandarin oranges, and very nice raspberries (at $2.00 the box, at Bayard and Mulberry).