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Chinatown Fruit Report- 2013

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Hi All,
Sorry It's taken me so long to get around to this annual thread. This year I ended up spending a LOT more weeks on Flushing than I normally do, and my time in Flushing was largely fruit free (though not "fuitless" g>). But I'm finally done and back on Mahnattan so here we go.
It's only the first week of my hunt, So I currenty only have one "hit" to impart. Several of the fruit sellers on East Broadway currently have wong pei/ wampee fruit. In and of itself that is nothing unusual. However one of the stands (the one west of Market street, I think) has bunches containing a new sort of wampee I have not seen previosly. It's a lot larger than the normal ones (about the size of a lychee or longan) Moreover it is also a LOT sweeter than the normal ones. In fact, for the first time I being to understand why people would eat this fruit (I have usually found wong pei a bit underwhelming, at best something to be eaten with little ardor, at worst sometihng I need to drink water to de-acidify my throat from.)

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  1. Do they look like these...

    www.EatingInTranslation.com/2011/06/s...

    ...which I came across just once, two years back?

    2 Replies
    1. re: DaveCook

      Yes and no. I'm familiar with the fact that there are round and oblong wampees; in fact most larger bunches you see have both (I don't think the sellers differentiate). The ones I found last week were round to ovoid. Really no different in shape from the normal round ones just a bit bigger (they tended to be a bit darker brown as well, but as that too is well within normal wampee coloration it's not really a defining characteristc either) Actually it may be a sort of crapshoot no matter what you do, my personal experiance has been the long ones being SOURER than the round ones (then there are the occasional ones with actual pentagonal ridges which are so sour I usually just throw them out).
      Oh almost forgot the stand on EB near allen still has rose apples (lian wu) Though not particualry attractive ones.

      1. re: jumpingmonk

        New week new report.
        Not a lot of interesting stuff this week. Saw Lychees and such but they look like the same sort they have every year (it's not that I dislike those, they just don't excite me much anymore, I get jaded really easily) The big produce stand on Chrystie had some musang durians. They also had some small thai eggplants (both the round white ones and the little greeny oval ones with the stripes) but I'm not an eggplant eater.
        About the only produce I DID buy was a bunch of long beans at a stand on grand (between Bower and Chrystie, closer to the Chrystie side) That stands were getting brisk buisness as the beans were HUGE (first time Ive seen yard long beans that probably actually WERE a yard long) In fact at least one person later in the day stopped me and asked where I had bought beans so big)
        Oh and on non produce thing. Today I decided to sate my hunger leisurely and tried out Golden Sand (the new dim sum hall that opened on East Broadway) Wasn't too impressed with their glutinous rice dumplings, but the make an INCREDIBLE scallion pancake (yes I know scallion pancakes aren't normally part of the standard dim sum offerings, but they decided to serve them, and givne how good they were, I'm glad of it. Plus since a lot of the halls flip over to actual resturaunts for dinner, I imagine you can get them then too.

    2. Not sure if it counts as a CHINATOWN report but today while at Golden Village (a Chinese grocery store in Scarsdale I use for my more bulky items (like the teabags I use daily) I picked up a package of a new sort of lian wu. Much redder, much slimmer much denser and a lot tastier than the pale pink kind I'm used to seeing on the fruit sellers carts. I suppose it is possible they will show up in Mnahattan too in time, but in case they don't at least I have done my duty in reporting; should anyone other Westchesrites be following this

      22 Replies
      1. re: jumpingmonk

        There are lian Wu now in NYC??? Still waiting for them in Cali.

        1. re: FattyDumplin

          Well, I saw some in NYC a few weeks ago (and some in Flushing a few weeks before that) but I have not idea if there are some there currently, all I can say is that the store I was at today (not in NYC) had them.

          1. re: jumpingmonk

            I saw lian wu in Manhattan very early in the season (early May?) with signs saying they were Vietnamese apples ;-) Did not try any because they never look as good as at the source.
            Litchis have been very good this year.
            And I am happy to see this thread, jumpingmonk -- have not been on CH as much and was wondering if it had been revived for 2013.

            1. re: buttertart

              Yeah by the time they get to the streets, they tend to look pretty pathetic (I think they are a little too prone to bruising to be capable of getting in in good shape) plus beings so scarce, they tend to leave them out for sale far too long.

              1. re: jumpingmonk

                Very disappointing. What 's really interesting on the streets these days?

                1. re: buttertart

                  Very little at the moment. I been completely unable to find the wrinkly podded long bean I wanted this season (and wouldn't you know this is just after 1, squirrels ate all the seed I saved from the last batch and 2. someone on one of my garden forums has gotten rather INSISTENT about me supplying them with seed for it (if you happen to buy any long beans with fat wrinkle covered pods (and in those that are a little overripe seeds with the black "ring" you normally see on black eyed peas) please let me know where. I have been able to get some of the OTHER kind of long beans I was looking for (the one whose seeds are a sort of ying yang pattern of white and red with pink mottling) but only a little. Oddly the only place that seems to have that one is the little "damaged" vegetable stand that sits on the side of the seafood market on the corner of east Broadway and Catherine (just across from the M9/M15 bus stop. I THOUGHT there were some other places that had it (since there are other veggie vendors offering pale greeny white long beans But those are a different variety (pink seeded) Though from a veggie perspective those themselves are pretty good ; the last time I bought a bunch from the stand on Grand (between Bowery and Chrystie) I actually had a Chinese lady stop me on the street later to ask where I got such huge beans. And the fruit is downright dull.

                  1. re: jumpingmonk

                    I'll keep an eye out.

                    1. re: buttertart

                      For the record the place I saw them last year was at a veggie cart all the way down on Essex or so (in front of Wing Shoon) I went there this year, but they weren't their (both the beans and the cart)

                      1. re: jumpingmonk

                        Weekly update

                        Not a lot. Only new thing seen is that the big fruit and veggie stand on Chrystie has wing beans

                        1. re: jumpingmonk

                          It's really out of date (and by now, probably no longer usable) but I thought I should mention that about a month ago the H-mart in Hartsdale had some egg fruit (aka canistel) in stock, so maybe the Flushing brances had/have it too. They were egregiosly expensive (1.99 per fruit) and not at all to my liking (taste itself was OK, but I have a real bias against any fruit with that putty/pasty like texture) but the fact I had not seen this fruit for sale before (I'd seen it in books, but not in person) made me feel I had to at least mention it.

                          1. re: jumpingmonk

                            Oh good, you're here...can you identify the fruit in this photo? Friends from Guyana and Trinidad call it a cherry, but it has a triple seed and looks a bit tripartite...

                             
                            1. re: buttertart

                              I think that's acerola aka Barbados/Surinam Cherry (Malpighia glabra) this link has a cut up one, and it looks sort of tripartate (http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/mo...).
                              despite the name it's not a cherry at all; it's more closely related to things like myrtle, cloves and lian wu.

                              Oh and I should have mentioned one other odd find from a while back (it didn't occur to me because it was basically a one off). about four weeks ago, when I was in Ctown Manhattan and finishing up my days errands there, I was on Bowery between grand and Hester and I noticed the fruit stand there (outside of the little store) had a pile of soursops. In and of itself this was not all that odd (despite th statements some people on this site have made, I see soursops in Chinatown often enough that they no longer particularly surprise me. However I could not help noticing that one of them was an odd color (a much paler green than soursops normally are, basically near white) so I picked it up to see if the seed was odd. When I got home I found it has squished a little (it was incredibly ripe) so I decied I had to eat it them. The taste was quite a surpised. Normally I'm used to soursops being well.......sour, sour enough that they need a dash of sugar or a sweeter fruit to make them palatable (like the difference between drinking lemon juice and lemonade) this one however was quite sweet, sweet enough to eat as a dessert fruit as is. It's still very clearly a soursop (i.e. it isn't some unusually large custard apple that got mixed in by mistake) but one suitable for eating out of hand. Techically I still have some of it (it was way too big to finish full as I was, and since I know soursop flesh browns quite rapidly in air expescially when bruised, I mushed up the rest, ran it through a sieve and froze it, as a start should I feel like a batido some day down the road. And of course, i saved the seeds (though as a downside, this superlative soursop had an unusually high number of aborted seeds so the count was a bit low).
                              Oh and about two weeks ago, I wound up with something I haven't seen in years, a yuzu that actually had a functioning inside! Ever since most of the Japanese markets I frequent started switching from whatever yuzu cultivar they used to carry ( a small, smooth skinned one (actually it looked so much like a kabosu that if I got the pile mixed up it was hard to tell the difference), that was difficult to peel to the one they currently carry (bigger, often a bit more rugose and baggy, very easy to peel) I have been getting a lot of yuzus that; while they have peels that are perfectly satisfactory have insides that look like they've been attacked by a fruit vampire, all fibers and seeds, no juice. I know that, with yuzu's it is the peel that is usually considered the valuable part. with any juice merely thrown in as a bonus. but I really LIKE the taste of the juice (fresh sqeezed yuzu juice is a delight in chilled sweetened jade oolong.) I planted the seed from that too (suprisingly given how seedy yuzus generally are, there was only one in the fruit) and am trying to figure out how, when I go back to the store I got it at next Wed. I can skew my chances of getting more. Fresh Yuzu's are genrally sold pre shrink wrapped so touching them in advance isn't an option (my best idea is to look at the weight and pick heavy ones (yuzu's tend to be pretty close to each other in size but if neccecary I'll work out approximate volume and actually pick the densest ones g>)

                              1. re: jumpingmonk

                                Thanks re the acerola...and very interesting indeed about the soursop.
                                WHERE do I get my hands on fresh yuzu? I am mad about the juice and the peel.

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  Well, I usually simply find them in some of the small Japanese grocery shops as part as thier stock in trade. Bear in mind though that 1. most places pre wrap so you won't be able to handle the fruit in advance and 2. they are expensive (2.50 per fruit seems common) And that is for peel. If you are after juice I don't know what to say. I popped into Daido (a fairly large Japanese supermarket in White Plains) and discovered that ALL of their yuzu's were quite obviosly dry inside (unlike most places Daido DOESN'T pre wrap thier yuzu's so you can handle them) as soon as I picked each up it felt like I was picking up a semi deflated rubber ball (in a few cases my fingers almost were able to meet when I pinched the thing from opposite sides, that's how hollow they were). I wound up picking up a half dozen sudochi's (probably one of the few citrus that are even MORE expensive than yuzu's Daido asks $3 apiece)at least I think they were (sudochi are supposed to be round and green, these were bright yellow and almost as saggy as the yuzu's, so they may have been terminally overripe) in hopes it would subsitute. It didn't. The peel tasted alright (it's currenty sitting pureed in my fridge under 160 proof vodka converting into extract (which lasts a hell of a lot longer than trying to keep the actual fuit peels around.) but the juice was hopeless. I was plentiful but so bitter I ended up spitting the segment I bit literally across the room and into the folding door.
                                  Going back to the Yuzu's the place I found the juicy one I mentioned earlier was in the small Japanese market on 47th between Lexington and 3rd. Bear in mind though, I am myself planning to be there tomorrow (I'm planning to lunch at the ramen shop next door) and am planning to pick up as many juice likely ones as I can, so you may need to wait a week or so for them to refresh supplies before you have a reasonable chance. To be honest; long term I'm thinking that the quickest way to secure a regular supply of juicy yuzu's is to find one, get a big pot of soil, plant any pits and hope for the best (yuzu's will fruit at houseplant sizes quite readily.)

                                  1. re: jumpingmonk

                                    Update:

                                    Bad news, I went back to the Market in NYC I mentioned, and the yuzu's they had left were empty ones, so it looks like trying to find juicy ones is simply luck of the draw with this type, and the odds are agaisnt

                                    Good news, I DID find an alternate source, at least for the moment. I popped into another Japanese grocery yesterday (the branch of Ninjya in Hartsdale) and ALL of thier yuzu's where dense and heavy, It appears that Ninjiya sources it's yuzu's from a different grower, and that grower still grows the "old" style yuzu, the rounder one with the skin that is very tight and hard to peel (actually now that I think of it, the problem may be that the growers are actively selecting for hollow fruits; the empty space may make it easier to get the peel off and into a flat form for maximum zesting (citrus zesters are usually flat, so I imagine that, if you peel the citrus first and turn the peel from a sphere to a plane, you miss a lot less of the outside. at least that's how it works for me). I cleaned that branch out (they only had 5 fruits) and have no idea if the next batch they get in wll be right (I have seen the "wrong type" yuzu's there as well, so for all I know it could be a seasonal thing and I simply crapped out by going after yuzu's at a time where the type in season wasn't the one I was after, and the seasons have just changed) But since I seem to recall Ninjya has other branches (inculding I think some more in the greater NYC area) they may have gotten similar shipments.

                                    1. re: jumpingmonk

                                      Thanks. I'll have a look around, and on line.

                                      1. re: buttertart

                                        Update

                                        Don't bother. I just processed the yuzus from that trip, and they are even worse than the "bad" ones. Out of 5 fruits I got about 1/3 the juice of the last two "empties". Turns out all of that extra weight was SEEDS, 30-40 giant ones per fruit. So I don't know where that leaves us. With things as they are these old ones are actually worse choices than the new type (not only becasue of the juice, but because the old kind really don't peel well. I don't know what to advise now.

                                        1. re: jumpingmonk

                                          Another odd fruit discovery courtesy of my local (Scarsdale) H-Mart. Black Sapote (aka Chocolate Pudding Fruit aka Caca-poule) Not a lot, but they still have some. One thing you may have to wait a bit to actually eat them, most of the ones they have seem really really hard.

                                          1. re: jumpingmonk

                                            New update
                                            Went back today and there were a lot of surprises. I managed to find two "news" that were quite heavy. But the real suprise was next to these where they now have a seperate row for "organic" yuzus. and these look like NOTHING I have ever seen before. I have NEVER seen yuzu's this small (if they weren't yellow, and slightly flattened, I'd think I was looking at caldomins.
                                            Unfortunately I doubt you'll see any of these yourself. It's not that I bought them all. In fact I only got 3 out of the dozen they had. it's that the reason I only got three is that is pretty much all I could find of them that did not have MASSIVE rotten spots (and in most cases, big blue mold spots) besides my three, I think only one made it back on the shelf as looking intact, and even that one is probably rotten on the bottom (two of the ones I bought turned out to have bad spots when I got home so the odds are than one did as well.
                                            Of those I did get, they seem to be pretty nice examples of the fruit (though at 3.50 apiece, they are even more expensive than the already exobitant large ones) peel is fairly free peeling and unusually smooth and stiff. They are fairly juicy, though the tiny size makes getting much of it hard.
                                            Besides these, there were two more one larger and rounder (possibly an old type one) and a dark green one (whether this is simply a very unripe example of the old kind, or a type of it's own I'll have to determine later.

                                            1. re: jumpingmonk

                                              Very interesting. I saw my first in the flesh at Sunrise Mart. They looked fine but had to be very dry inside, they weighed maybe an ounce or so for a fruit between an average tangerine and a Satsuma in size.

                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                Yeah, at that size if they weigh that little, they have to be almost hollow.

                                                1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                  Just opened the two big (non-organic) heavy ones from the lot. Both washouts (all the excess weight was seeds again)

        2. I found myself CRAVING exotic fruits these days. Would anyone please kindly let me know when would Durian and Jackfruit be available in Chinatown? I have only been fruit hunting there during summer time last year.

          9 Replies
          1. re: SeekingBeauty

            As far as I know, Durian is now there pretty much all year round.It's all frozen but it is there. I think I saw some today as I wandered around Flushing. Though I am not sure (I really don't like durian much, so it's presence or absence does not register most of the time).
            With Jackfruit, it isn't so much when you look as WHERE, at least in Manhattan. Fresh Jackfruit usually only shows up in two places; one of the fruitstands on Mulberry, and the big one on Chrystie between Grand and Hester. Again, never really noticed if there is a specific season.
            Not a lot of fruit to report from today of note. Saw some mangosteens (again almost certainly frozen) and it looks like some of the plums are coming in.
            Most exotic fruit I think I saw was in Patel Brothers (the big Indian supermarket on Main Street, near Holly) They had some mombins (at least I think that's what they are called, those green sour things with the thorns all over the pits). But again not a fruit I am fond of, so I didn't buy any.

            1. re: SeekingBeauty

              I wasn't specifically looking for those, but a few days ago in chinatown the vendors had these pomelos the size of my head! I didn't want to lug it around all day and passed, also noticed dragon fruit, and tons of other citrus. The groceries always have canned jackfruit but i didn't notice any fresh.
              The thai market on the north west corner of grand and bowery always has durian.

              1. re: Ttrockwood

                I think I can beat you on the pomelos; I saw one today that was the size of a small PUMPKIN (good two to three feet across). I'm actually beginning to wonder how big they have to keep the trees to support fruit this size. Didn't buy it for the same reason, carrying too much already (plus not a huge pomelo fan)

                1. re: jumpingmonk

                  I was just at my local branch of H-Mart (the one in Hartsdale) today, and I happened to notice they had both Durian's (whole) and Jackfruit (pre wrapped chunks) Granted I'd prefer my jackfruit fresh cut, but at least that shows is is currently available. And I have to assume that, if my H-mart has it, the others (I know there are at least two in Flushing) have them too. Didn't pick any up though.
                  What I DID however pick up is below. This has got to be the biggest Cherymoya I have ever Frickin' SEEN. I just weighed it and it's almost 3 pounds. Plus I got it cheaper than I should of (the clerk got confused and assumed that the price was per fruit, not per pound). I was not there, so no guilt on me. Not quite ripe yet, but when it is, I'll get back to you on taste. (and yes that is my cellphone case in the pic for size comparison)

                   
                  1. re: jumpingmonk

                    Thank you so much for your reply. I do very much prefer fresh than previously frozen ones. I guess this means I need to make a trip to flushing. Worth it. :-)

                    1. re: SeekingBeauty

                      Well, I imagine the durian is frozen, I honestly don't think any fresh makes it to this country. The jackfruit is probably fresh though. I know the Chinatown vendors is, it passed the truest test of being never frozen, the pits germinated when planted.

                      1. re: jumpingmonk

                        There have been huge cherimoyas around for several weeks now. How do you know when ripe? Ripe avocado-soft?

                        1. re: buttertart

                          That sounds about right, consistency-wise. Cherymoya skin is a lot softer than that of the sugar apples that come in at another point in the year; so they don't do that "scales break apart" thing they do.

              2. re: SeekingBeauty

                Durian is definitely available right now in Chinatown... I know that for a fact because I almost got whacked in the knees with one held by a little old lady who didn't expect me rounding the corner at HK Supermarket this past weekend. I sidestepped, but yikes it was close!

              3. jumpingmonk...not Chinatown-related, but a friend is in Guatemala and is sending me photos of exotic fruits she's eating there...can you help ID these? One is called caimito and looks like a cherimoya relative to me..."Another fruit to eat with a spoon right out of the shell, preferably chilled. There’s a hint of bitterness to it when overripe and a slightly sticky texture that some don’t care for. I like the sweetness (almost date-like) and custardy texture when it’s spot-on ripe, but the pulp/seed ratio is not in favor of the pulp.".
                The other is a chico or mamey zapote, "One of my newest, favorite fruits. Very soft and sweet, tasting of honey and pear. And how convenient that it comes in its own container; just cut in half, and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. The pulp is often made into jam and sherbet. I just put half the chico into the freezer to see if I can make sherbet right in the shell"

                 
                 
                7 Replies
                1. re: buttertart

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysoph...
                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mamey_sa...

                  Both are memembers of the Sapotacae family. I don't think star apples are sold in this country but Mamey's are.(try H-Mart, the seem to get pretty much EVERY fruit it in it's season) Unfortunately I do not share your friends enthusiasm for them, To me they taste like a watery oversugared sweet potato.

                  The star apples I have no idea about, though understand that, on to of the seed thing, they can have a sap like latex.

                  1. re: jumpingmonk

                    Thanks! I had a mamey once a long time ago (in California).

                    1. re: buttertart

                      Two pieces of news

                      1. The Lian Wu have started showing up again in Chinatown (so far only the large fat kind, the skinnier, reddeer sweeter ones I found last year are still elusive). Ok now that I have a way of consuming them I like Since I find the flavor of the big ones a little weak, I've decided they are better drunk than eaten, and have begun juicing them and mixing them with other odds and ends of fruit, including whatever you call the red goop you find around the seeds of overripe bitter melons (yes, that goop is edible, and quite sweet. Actually, it's probably pretty similar to Gac pulp). Also unusually fertile crop this year. I only bought 2-3 pounds of fruit, and their were seeds chunks in at least 6 of them, and very large ones (lian wu doesn't have normal seeds as we know them, with one plantlet inside. The seeds, when they are there are these sort of tissue lumps that may have one, two, or many embryos in them (bigger ones usually have more) I suspect they are produced parthenogenically (without fertilization) which would be good (if they are, that means they are clones of the mother tree and so would yield fruit that was more or less the same). So my current tree may be getting company.
                      The other note is that, based on what I saw yesterday, it is currently fresh ume/mei plum season. Actually I got a surprise there as well. The ones I got at H-mart were in the normal unripe state (as they are supposed to be for pickling or making those drinks) However later that day I popped into Ninjya looking for some other thing. They also had some ume's but because they are smaller and have to sometimes take less exacting produce, a few of the ones in thier basket were actually tree RIPE. This allowed me to answer a question I had always wondered about; do ripe ume plums taste good raw as ordinary fruit. The downside is that the answer is a big "no" (they're a little sweeter than raw ones and a lot softer, but are still too sour and bitter to be really pleasant. The upside is that as they were ripe, I can at least hope the pits are mature (as I have mentioned before, because ume are picked so young, the kernels inside the pits are more often than not not developed enough to be viable for those of fresh ones (and preserved ones are usually cooked or filled with salt during preservation, which is a guaranteed seed killer). I know plums don't come true to seed, but as ume's are all flowering plums, if I can get a tree to set, I may at least get some nice blossoms (I just got a sweet pit apricot started, an ume plum is a nice next challenge.)

                      1. re: jumpingmonk

                        Very interesting. I didn't see anything special in Chinatown (Manhattan) yesterday -- lots of cherries, papaya, teeny mangoes, etc. No litchis yet...maybe because of the bad weather this winter? Usually there are some in May, aren't there??? (I did see some what I believe were gineps.)
                        PS should we have a 2014 thread?

                        1. re: buttertart

                          Probably. When I post my next message, I'll start one.

                          Not sure I've ever seen gineps in Chinaotown; they tend to show up more in places where there is a big Latin American population. Then again, almost every other fruit shows up in Chinatown envetually, why not?
                          BTW, the lian wu seller was on Canal, somewhere between Mulberry and Centre.

                        2. re: jumpingmonk

                          wait,you guys are getting Lian Wu's in NYC now? I was just in taiwan and gorged on the Black Pearl ones when I was down south. Amazing... I can only hope we get them soon in the bay area.

                          1. re: FattyDumplin

                            link to the new thread

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/975730