All the label said was “Pulasan”.
They were dark purple and about the size of an egg, with strong short spikes all over them. What was this weird sea-urchin-like mystery fruit?
Having wandered the Singapore supermarket aisles for nearly 4 years now, we have tried most of the local produce… but this was something new.
We hunted around on the Internet and discovered that the ‘pulasan’ is indeed a local fruit – coming mainly from Malaysia. The name comes from the Malaysian word Pulas which means twist. This is a clue to removing that spiky skin! You hold it in two hands and twist it to reveal the white semi-translucent flesh. The flesh comes out really easily but there is a seed inside (which apparently is edible and tastes like almonds, but we didn’t try it). The flesh is very sweet and soft with a tropical grape-y flavour. Very tasty!
The pulasan tree thrives only in the very tropical regions of south-east Asia. Apparently it bears the most fruit after a long dry spell which might explain why we have seen them here in the Singapore fruit market. (We had a record breaking drought at the beginning of the year.)
How about the rambutan? – Another very strange looking but more easily available south-east Asian fruit! We discovered that the pulasan is very closely related to the rambutan. The rambutan also has a Malay name Rambut meaning hairy. You can definitely see why!In comparison? We found the rambutan easier to peel – you don’t need to twist – you just squeeze them and the flesh and seed pop out of the skin. They also have a seed, but unlike the pulasan you cannot eat them. The flesh of the two fruit tastes similar but the Pulasan was extra sweet with a delicate flavour, and the rambutan was a little more tart. The seed of the rambutan was also a little more difficult to separate from the flesh. We’d be hard pressed to pick a favourite.
With the satisfying juiciness of the Pulasan, and the big size of the fruit, it is easy to see why this is a popular backyard tree in Malaysia. We feel lucky to have tasted this supermarket rarity!