HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >

Discussion

Chinatown Fruit Report-2012

Okay here is the annual place to discuss fruit (and related) finds made in Ctown this year (reports of interesting fruits found in other areas are OK too) I'll begin

I'm not really sure if this count's as a fruit report, but it is something I've known about for a few weeks, and might be of interest. It concerns Kam Man, the supermarket on Canal between Mulberry and Mott, for at least the last month or so (probably more, but I've only been visiting that long) the herb section near the counter has had a tub of unshelled walnuts of surprising quality. Not only are they tasty (provided you know how to weigh nuts in your hand to make sure you don't get any withered ones) but a lot of them are HUGE, like ping pong ball sized (and a fair number are even larger, I've picked up ones that are the size of small apricots.) It would probably take a bontanist (like me) to notice this, but quite a few nuts also seem to be from trees that are part (possibly even all) other species (not breeds, actual species) many of which result in nuts with alternate, often delicios variations on a "normal" walnuts flavor (like a walnut that has the sweetness of a pecan while still having a normal walnuts oliyness.)

other than that, the normal stuff, Jackfruits are in as are those itsy bitsy mangoes and apples. Most sellers have mangosteens too by now, though again mostly frozen ones. Only semi odd fruit I've seen have been bunches market as champagne grapes that don't look much like them ones I know. there a bit bigger for one, and for a second theyre green (the ones I know are always purple)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. How to tell which walnut species you are looking at (for buttertart)

    Okay here is a quick thumb guide to what each type of walnut looks like based on the likey other parent (in all cases, the primary parent will be assumed to be the common Englsih or Persian walnut, Juglans regina.

    1. Manchurian walnut, J. mandshurica. Walnuts that are part to all this have a sort of top shape, a lot sharper and more tapered than the shape of a normal walnut. they tend to have a very sharp point to the tip and often have much deeper pits on the sides than a pure english see this link for a pic of purebred manchurians, this will give you an idea of what I am talking about. These are the ones with the sweetish flavor

    http://www.biolib.cz/IMG/GAL/12785.jpg
    half breeds wont be as severe (though I found a few that would cont as spitting images). Incidentally there may be some special signifcance to these, as I recall seeing two manchurian walnuts that had bee shined up sitting in a tray in a Jewelry shop in Flushng. There are also a few that have the inside structure of these, but you probably should hope you DON'T get any of those, as the combenation of the tighter, more woody internal shell structure with the more hevily ridged kernel of the standard nut results in a nut where the kernel is basically completely surrounded by woody shell in each fold, so it cannot be gotten out without smashing the nut to smithereens (and usually destroying the insides in the process)

    2. Iron Walnut, J. regina silligata. Tecnically this is a subsepcies of the common walnut, but it is different enough to warrant idetification. The nuts of these tend to be a bit flattened, and be quite a bit wider across the seam than along it (try looking at the nut from the bottom to see this). In cases of extrmeley high (in this case, possibly pure) silligata, the sides will actually bulge out from from the seam so that, from the end, the nut looks almost rectangular or hourglass shaped. These tase pretty standard though they are a bit plumper and richer than regular and have a higher precentage of nuts that are "light" inside (there is something in the skin of walnut kernels that I sometimes have a problem with, and I have discovered that the lighter the color of the skin, the less of whatever it is is there, and the easier the nuts go down for me)

    3. Black Walnut J, nigra (?) Black walnut is not native to China, but it is exproted so commonly as a nursery tree I can easily believe that some may have gotten to China. They are not common but I have found nuts that have the shape of those (a slightly flattened sphere, little to no ridge on the seam) in the mix, so they may have some in there. It is also possible that these are examples of the Paradox walnut, a hybrid of the English and Hind's Walnut, J. hindsii (native to Northern California) most paradox are sterile (that's why it's so popular for stree plantings, no pollen or nuts to worry about fouling up the street) but there are fertile strains. I have a few pure Hind's I got to plant in my yard, and the resemblence is so uncanny that if the two get mixed up (as has happened a few times) I need to look hard to tell which is which) Havent tasted a lot of these (they are rare, so what I find I have largely put aside to plant) but the 1-2 I did (because they were cracked) had a touch of the darker black walnut/hinds walnut taste

    There are also some that are almost completely smooth (no seam on the ridge, almost no indents in the shell) but what the other parent for those is I have no clue (the only really smooth walnut I know of with that shape is hyper rare, and only grows in South America (somewhere in the Andes, I think)

    Finally, while it has no bearing on taste, the orchard they are getting these from must be pretty old, as I am finding a fair number of nuts with 3-4 seams, rather than the usual 2 (that normally only starts happening after the tree gets to be 100 years old, or more.)

    21 Replies
    1. re: jumpingmonk

      This is fascinating, I will definitely be snooping around the walnuts this weekend. The area on the first floor over by the wall that the BBQ meats stand is on, just past the cashiers?

      1. re: buttertart

        That's the place They keep them in a big drum on the corner.

        BTW there are also some that are unusually oval and pointed at both ends, byut you may want to pass on those (they are really hard to open)

          1. re: buttertart

            The weather Sunday led to a change of plans (lunch at Szechuan Gourmet on 39th i/o Chinatown) but will definitely get there this weekend. Nice to see this in the Digest, btw!

      2. re: jumpingmonk

        So here is a question - what's the best way to pick out good/ripe/ready to eat mangosteens? We bought a bag this weekend but I was left underwhelmed... However, I don't really know what I am looking for.
        Same questions for pieces of Jack fruit flesh (I didn't want to buy the whole fruit) - should the pulp be yellow or orange? Both seemed good, although with somewhat different banana/pineapple flavored undertone. Anyone tried roasting the seeds - I know it can be done, but just curious if it is worth the trouble.
        By the way, tons of cherries, lychees, mangoes, rambutans and water apples out there in addition to the two fruit already mentioned.
        Thanks!

        1. re: sergeik

          The best advice I can give with regard to the mangosteens is to try and press them. The more they give, the better they usually are. A redder color is also often a good sign. Also try and avoid any that have lots of splashes of bright yellow sap on them (and toss any that have any inside). That sap at best tastes so terrible it will spoil the fruit, it is possibly extremely poisionous (magosteen is close cousin to the gamboage tree, whose similarly colored sap is used as a pigment. In fact you can actually dye with mangosteen sap, I've done it.)
          I tend to go for orange, but to be honest I've never paid much attention to the color when I buy, I simply assumed that some were brighter than others)
          And no I have never roasted Jackfruit seeds. I prefer to plant them (they make a nice houseplant) I've heard durian seeds can be roasted as well.

          1. re: jumpingmonk

            Thanks! I'll see how this goes next time - perhaps buying mangosteens in US is just hopeless - I am not convinced they travel all that well. I keep hearing how great they are and the flavor of pure mangosteen juice is certainly nice, but the few times I tried buying fresh fruit I've been left unimpressed. At least, I don't think I've seen any orange sap - just very deep purple colored skin.
            Will let you know how the roasting goes - I am not sure I want to see what my cats will do with a house plant, but thanks for the suggestion!

            1. re: sergeik

              jumpingmonk, toxicity of the plant an issue? Wouldn't want any distressing feline consequences.

              1. re: buttertart

                As far as I know, Jackfruit leaves are not toxic. Neither is the sap as far as I can tell by reading, though that is incredbly sticky (In parts of Asia they use it to glue broken china together and mend leaks in things like boats and buckets.

              2. re: sergeik

                I wouldn't worry about that; I have a cat myself, and it never bothered the tree. The only really troublesom thing about them is that the leaves have little hairs on the bottom that stick like velcro, so if they break up while you are cleaning, they can be a bit hard to get off your shirt.
                But I agree about the mangosteens. When I hear the stories about them (that sick people will crawl from thier beds for them, or that if you don't want them when offered them, you basically beyond all hope.) I simply assume that either the fruits lose a LOT in thier freezing or the people of Malaysia need a lot less to get them out of their deathbeds than we do. I don't think even Queen Victoria was able to get a truly good one. and they broght an actuall tree for her and built a greenhouse around it so the fruit could reach peak ripeness and still reach her That is in fact true, the Palm House at Kew Gardens was actually built to allow a mangosteen tree to reach maturity for the queen. as it said, it didn't work well, though the Conquito Palm did, There is a huge one there, and it produces tons of nuts at the right season (I know I got clobbered by several when I was there)

                1. re: jumpingmonk

                  I only ever had one that blew my mind in HK. Lychees are still my favorite fruit, in any case. The "loosies" have had quite a few chicken tongue/rice grain seed ones in them lately.

                  1. re: jumpingmonk

                    our cats are extra fluffy - i think they are more likely to stick to the leaves than me.
                    i think i'll just have to travel to south east asia to see how these taste fresh without the irradiation or whatever is done to them for US consumption - hopefully this will happen before the whole death bed scenario. i am no queen Victoria so I don't see anyone shipping a tree out for me and i seem to be a tad too cramped to have a greenhouse - but it would make for a nice story to tell the kiddos later.
                    lychees were good as always, but a bit too sweet. rambutans were excellent this time.

                    1. re: sergeik

                      I've got the feeling I'll have to do the same thing if I ever want to taste my Keppel.

                      I tend to think the problems in this case isn't irradiation, it's freezing. Most of the mangosteens that enter this country are still frozen at some point, and as a result arent really ripe when they get here (they tend to be picked underripe, as fully ripe ones are too squishy for freezing. I remember reading a bit in the NY times dining section a few years ago to the effect that someone in south america had gotten USDA approval to sell mangosteens legally in the US. Those fruits likey are not ever frozen so they might be better. They might not be irradiated either, which would be great for me cause the seeds would still grow. I's also say that perhaps SE Asia has better strains of mangosteen than we get, but that is imppossible, as all mangosteen trees are the same. In the seeds in the fruit, there are asexual embryos as well as the sexually produced one, and the asexual ones always outgrow and kill the sexual one, so every mangosteen tree on the planet is a clone (this also means that, should a magosteen blight ever come into existance, the tree will likey go extinct since there will be no trees with restance.)

                      1. re: jumpingmonk

                        I have jack fruit seedlings (just planted them a few months ago) and my cat is ignoring them like most of the plants I have. The only one she has occasionally been interested in is my orchid -- the stick after the flower falls off, she uses it to rub her face.

                        Mangoes, persimmon, guava, sapota, pommelo, cactus pear, jack fruit are all growing in various pots on in my apartment. All courtesy of adventures in Chinatown fruiting.

                        1. re: shirlockc

                          White sapota (Casimora edulis) (round green fruit whitish insides) , brown sapote aka sapodilla or nispero (Manilkara zapota) (brown potato like fruit creamy brown, usually rock had flesh with long brownish black seeds) Mamey Sapote (Pouetria sapote (huge brown fruit, reddish insides gigantic brown seeds (nomally already craked and germinating, taste sort of like a watery sweet potato with sugar) or black sapote aka chocolate pudding fruit) (Diospyros digyna, looks like a persimmon with green skin and dark brown flesh) If the second, let me know when it gets big enough and I'll try and dig up a link on how to make chewing gum out of the sap. If the last, please let me know where you found them, I never actually tasted that one (had a chance, but passed and never saw them again).

                          At the moment, most of my trees are citrus or some sort or another, some yuzus some kabosus (maybe) some mango oranges, a lemon and a lot of wong pei both sweet and sour (though as I dropped the seed before planting I have no idea which trees are which)

                        2. re: jumpingmonk

                          This would either imply that the trees are particularly well evolved against pathogens (unlikely as it's always a process of co-evolution) or that in instances of crisis the sexual reproducing plans will be selected for at least in that generation. Although, if truly most plants are clonal then the amount of diversity introduced that way would be minimal unless a very high recombination rate is programmed into the sexual reproduction mechanism of this specific plant... All of this is a guess as I know little about this plant.

                          1. re: sergeik

                            I suppose the second is possible, but they have yet to find a tree that had any gentic divergence from any other so that hypothetical method would, as you noted, not do much to add to the gentic diversity of the species, especially if all of the trees are homozygous (which is usually the case for plants derived from parthenogenic seed). The only method of variation possible becomes somaclonal, and even that relys on that variant being the one that "makes it" which is not really likey (there are a LOT of somatic embryos in each seed, and ony ONE makes it to maturity) Actually, if I was a far better botantanitst, with a much more skilled hand, and a supply of trees, it might be interesting to expose mangosteens to mutagenic compounds and methods to create delibrate variations, then propigate the resultant plantlets via embryo rescue, and see if any of the resultant variations were improved.

                          2. re: jumpingmonk

                            When I was in Thailand, I loved the mangosteens. They were delicious. The best fruit I've ever eaten (and durian is #2 for me; never been a huge fan of lychees or rumbutan). I would definitely crawl from my deathbed for some *fresh* Thai mangosteen. But they are very sensitive and easily-damaged. I've never bought the imported ones here in the U.S. because I figure they can't be worth it. And a few people have told me they're not as good as in Asia. I can see why. Freezing? And picking before properly ripe? No way. Heck, I wouldn't freeze a mangosteen for an hour, much less long enough to ship it to the U.S.

                            How about the durian? Is that as good as in Asia? Do any of these vendors sell small amounts? I'm not sure I want a whole one, although I've heard that durian, totally unlike mangosteen, DOES freeze well, so maybe a large amount is not such a problem -- I can make space in my freezer for THAT. The price seems to have leaped significantly in the past few years, hasn't it? I thought I saw it as cheap as $1.90/lb in the past and now it's $3-$5. So a whole durian runs at least $17, generally. I like durian but I don't know if I $17 like it, you know?

                            1. re: Ike

                              I also had mangosteen in Thailand and fell in love with what they call "queen of all fruits" (where durian is "king"). That was in 2010 and I hadn't had any mangosteen here in NYC until this summer. I had two very different experiences with them so far this summer:

                              I found mangosteen at an outdoor market in Chinatown right under the Manhattan bridge (sorta between Henry and E Broadway). I was so excited to see them I bought three bags without knowing how to really evaluate their ripeness/freshness. I got home with them and had one that was decent and the rest in that first bag were horrible: rotten, hard, ruined, etc. I was really disappointed. Also, not knowing their fragility, I left them out of the fridge overnight and the rest were destroyed. That was maybe three weeks ago.

                              Then last weekend I found some again in Flushing at a market on the corner of Main st and 40th rd. I spoke to the vendor and asked how I'd know they are good and he said what some of you have said above, that, if they are soft, they'll be good. I told him what happened to my last purchase and he told me that they have to be kept in the fridge. And even in the fridge they only last around three days. Outside of a fridge, he said, they'll only last 5 hours. (As a side note, I asked, then, why his were not being refrigerated and he replied, "I have to sell them.") So, this time I bought one bag and took them home. They are all I'd hoped for. Very good, all ripe, very tasty. Just as my wife and I remembered them from our honeymoon in Thailand. So, it can be done.

                      2. re: sergeik

                        Only since 2008 have mangosteens been sold in the states; previously they were suspected of providing a haven for Asian fruit flies. I've had them many times in SE Asia, usually quite sweet with a hint of green grape, but what's your take on them here?

                2. Why have the the early mango been greeny this season?

                  1. Have anyone seen pomelos in Chinatown? I stocked up the last time I was there (in early March), but my stash is low and I think pomelos may be out of season now

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: passthatversace

                      Pomelos are a fall-winter fruit, I think. I'll have a look round.

                      1. re: buttertart

                        I have seen the rounder pummelos in in NY/NJ in the past week. The type that is flatter are out of season. I think the flatter ones are sweeter and have thicker slices

                        1. re: northNJfoodie

                          i was told that pomelos labeled with a star decal are esp good ones. i love pomelos.

                      2. re: passthatversace

                        SE corner of Grand & Eldridge, today, $4.99. Also some very wrinkly mangoes, if you're in the market for very wrinkly mangoes.

                          1. re: passthatversace

                            You're welcome. Anxiously awaiting lychees over here.

                              1. re: buttertart

                                Just back from my weekly trip. No sign of lychess, but one of the stands on Mulberry had the first Rambutans in. Didn't buy any though (those brigt pink ones with the green hair always seem a little hard and sour to me, I'll wait for the red ones)
                                Did see pomelos at a few stands along the east side of grand (the bit between Chrystie and Allen) At least I think I did (Since I'm not a big fan of pomelos, I wasn't looking too closely, some of them could have been grapefruit).
                                On I brief non fruit note, I saw to my dismay (as I was on the bus on my way back to Grand Central) the Sun Cafe (on Allen near Houston) was shuttered. I hope that's just temporary, I really like thier glutinous rice dumplings.
                                The one big of good fruit news I have locally is that one of the markets near me got in a load of old type satsumas (the little kind)

                                1. re: jumpingmonk

                                  Wow! Who knew thee was so much neat info about walnuts, one of my favorites! Thanks SO MUCH.

                                  1. re: jsemkow

                                    One more tip I finally figured out, after studying all of my empty shells (I tend to simply split nuts along the seam with a knife when eating them, so the two shell halves are usually intact when I am done). The "rock nuts" (the ones with the super tight insides, which make the nuts almost impossible to extract tend to be oval, on the small size (abt 3cm, according to my tape measure) and have reduced "wings" (the ridge along the seam). So you probably want to not buy any that look like that.
                                    One last thing. In some Chinese marekts you will see bags (I haven't yet seen them loose, though if I did it would not suprise me), of round hazelnut sized nuts marked as "small walnut" (you can also sometimes find them already shelled) these are actually seeds of the Chinese Hickory, (Carya cathayensis) which actually makes them close cousin to the pecan. However I REALLY don't reccomend these unless you are fond of hickory nuts (and I don't mean pecans, they are atypical). They have a strong flavor that can only be described as "woody" all the time. The fact that they are invariably pre roasted, cracked (not shelled but cracked) and salted doesn't help matters (the cracking means the nuts have air getting in and are often rancid by the time you get them).

                        1. re: passthatversace

                          In the grocery store on Mott just south of Elizabeth (?). It's on the east side and sort of new-ish. Had pomelos for $2.99 each. They were pretty big.

                        2. I don't have much to contribute now, but I wanted to say this is one of the threads I missed the most while I'd been away from Chowhound the past few months, and I'm so grateful for all the regular posters' contributions to this thread. Basically, I love this thread and everyone in it.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: uwsister

                            It is one of the best, thanks in large part to the incredible breadth and depth of knowledge jumpingmonk so kindly shares.

                          2. The fruit stand outside Tu Quynh Pharmacy, 230 Grand St. (at the Bowery), today offered not only their usual Thai mon thong durians, at $3.50 per pound, but also the lesser-seen Malaysian musang king, $7.50 per pound.

                            Tu Quynh, and at least one Grand St. sidewalk vendor, also had wong pei, at $10 per pound, though only the rounder and sourer of these two varieties:
                            http://www.eatingintranslation.com/20...

                            Hai Sein, 249-253 Grand St. (at Chrystie St.) had several plump soursops, at $6 per pound.

                            Dave Cook
                            www.EatingInTranslation.com

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: DaveCook

                              For reasons I'n not 100% clear on, a lot of the dealers in Chinatown don't seem to differentiate between the two kinds of wampee; it is pretty common to see rounds and longs bound together in the same bunches. I do not defintively know if you can ask for one or the other (the one time I bought wampee, I was confused about the etiquette of purchase and assumed you had to buy the fruit by the whole rubber banded bunch (that was one expensive trip to the fruit stall) but they probably will, in whichy case, it's simply a matter of keeping your eyes peeled and grabbing longs as they show up.

                              1. re: jumpingmonk

                                Was just in the area today. FYI the Asian Mart on Mulberry (next the park, maybe one store further towards Canal) also had the King durians (they've actyually had them for months, but as I am not a huge durian fan, I was not paying attention and just though their durians looked unusually small and oddly formed). And they only want $7 per pound.
                                I took a look at the wampees at Tu Quynh as well, You are mostly right that they are primarily the round, sour ones, but a few of the bunches had a stem or two of the sweet oval ones, often on the side touching the display (where they were hidden).. I did not buy (I find even the sweet ones too sour for me, and the pot of seedlings from the first batch I tried is already too full) but they are there.

                                1. re: jumpingmonk

                                  Still no litchis, huh? I was sick last weekend and didn't get to the city.

                                  1. re: buttertart

                                    No, plenty of rambutans, but no lychees.

                                  2. re: jumpingmonk

                                    Yes, I'd noted the appearance of the musang king (a.k.a. cat mountain king) at Asia Market in February, but I'd thought it was a one-off. Thanks for staying alert on your regular rounds!

                                    Dave Cook
                                    www.EatingInTranslation.com

                                    1. re: DaveCook

                                      My pleasure. Incidentally, if you see any durians that look REALLY weird, please let me know. I have heard vague rumors that some of the Indoneasian countries are thinking of trying some of the other eight known edible species on the interantional market. In particualr keep your eyes out for red durian D. Dulcis, pulu D. Kutujensis (more popular in some parts of Borneo than the standard zibethius, plus that one is already being cultivated in Australia. and D. Testudinarium. Don't have a lot of info on that last one, but based on what I have it's probably quite small, maybe no larger than an orange (it may be even smaller, to the point where it can pass for a rambutan) so a bite size durian. (the other interesting thing about it is where it grows, unlike the normal kind, which grow on the branches of the tree, D.testudinarium bears its flowers and fruits on the trunk, more or less at ground level.)

                                    2. re: jumpingmonk

                                      Update, 6/13/12

                                      1. Today I actually bought some wong pei, and based on my tasting (I made a point to find a bunch that had both) It looks like the advice on the website Dave found may be inaccurate (long are sweet round are sour) I ate a few of each on the train back home. To me the round were the sweeter of the two. they were sour, but not unpleasantly so. Whereas the long one I popped in my mouth almost made the choke; it was literally so acidic it burned my throat going down. there seems to be a lot of variation from stem to stem, so sweet sour may be a crapshoot. I did note however that rounds tend to taste more resinous than longs do, and that longs tend to peel easier. For what that is worth.

                                      Most of the Jambus appear to be gone, the season must be winding down. The stand in front of Tin Duc still has some, but they are beginning to look a lot worse for wear (though the price has dropped, they are now $3 a pound)

                                      1. re: jumpingmonk

                                        After making my wong pei purchases last year, I turned as usual to Julia Morton's Fruits of Warm Climates ( www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/wa... ), but my impressions of flavor were based on my own tastings. Also on the word of a vendor, who cautioned me before I tried a round one that it was "suan" -- sour. Observing my expression afterward, he, and a lady who might have been his wife, both got a smile out of that.

                                        I seem to recall that these wong pei were grown in Florida. Speculation: Commercial harvests have been sought only in recent years, and to raise yields of easily-bruised fruit, cultivars with various characteristics have been cross-pollinated, or not strictly segregated. Or, as jumpingmonk concisely puts it, "sweet sour may be a crapshoot."

                                        Dave Cook
                                        www.EatingInTranslation.com

                                        1. re: DaveCook

                                          That actually makes a lot of sense. It would also explain those fruits that are sort of "in the middle", not really long but not truly round either. I imagine the one that burned me was a "Suan Tsao"; maybe they keep a few of those as pollinators (if wampee are anything like some of thier distant citrus cousins, sour fruit often goes with larger numbers or greater hardiness of pollen) For what It's worth I also noticed that those fruits that have very obvios "struts" (those five ridges on the skin that come out of the blossom end on some fruits) tend to be sourer than ones that are completely smooth. The darker skinned ones also seem sweeter than the paler, but that could just be a ripeness thing.

                                  3. re: DaveCook

                                    The fruit stand outside Tu Quynh still has jambu, to use jumpingmonk's name. These are smaller, more slender, and colored a deeper, more promising red than the specimens seen near Canal and Mulberry. Sadly, the flavor was not much more intense, and still suggested jumpingmonk's "hothouse strawberries."

                                    Dave Cook
                                    www.EatingInTranslation.com

                                    1. re: DaveCook

                                      I'll have to take your word on it; yesterday (as last week) the stand in front of Tu Quynh was empty (maybe he takes Wendsdays off now) Next week, I am planning to go in on Thursday, not Wendsday ( I have NO desire to try and deal with the crowds that will be milling around NYC waiting for a spot to see the fireworks) so maybe I'll bump into him then.