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Posted by on 6 September 2008


When I first came to Malaysia, I was introduced to a plethora of exotic new foods. One of them is the strange-looking fruit called pulasan (scientific name: Nephelium mutabile). From a distance, the fruit’s overall look reminds you of the rambutan but instead of being hairy, it’s kinda spongy and the colour is deeper, more towards maroon-brown versus the rambutan’s bright red colour. It is said to be native to Western Malaysia, cultivated in certain parts of Southeast Asia but rarely found elsewhere.

DH told me that the fruit is a cousin of the rambutan and used to be quite rare, usually found in forests. Nowadays, people plant pulasan trees, thus this curious-looking fruit is not that rare a sight in Malaysian fruit stands and the nearby pasar tani (farmer’s market).

To open the fruit, you need to twist its thick, almost rubbery, skin. They say that’s how it got its name, as pulas means ‘to twist’. As soon as the skin breaks open, it reveals the juicy fruit hidden inside, which, at first glance, also looks very much like the rambutan. Its texture is very different though — whereas the rambutan’s flesh has a solid feel, the pulasan has more juice than fibre. Its taste and texture remind me of the longan and lychee but without the distinctive longan and lychee aromas. And the pulasan is definitely sweeter than the rambutan. Just be careful with all that twisting because some of the maroon sap will stick to your hands and may stain your clothes, just like mangosteen skin would.

Strangely  (at least, for me), the Wikipedia in Bahasa Melayu says that pulasan is also known as bulala in the Philippines, yet I’ve never encountered it in my two-decade stay in the land of my birth.

Note: This pic is an example of how washed out the colours look when one uses the built-in flash of the camera, whether it’s point-and-shoot or DSLR. Sorry for the mediocre pic as I was in a hurry — Lola was waiting for me to finish taking the pic so that she could eat the yummy fruits! ;)

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