It seems like every day something wonderful happens for me. Well, when nothing horrible is happening, anyway.
The other morning, I finally told my landlady (who is out of town) that I’m injured. Actually, the cleaning lady ratted me out. That night at 6pm the landlady’s husband knocked on my door and handed me a bag full of something warm that smelled yummy. Fresh hot food! I’ve been living on mostly noodles for a week. I was so touched and grateful.
In the bag was a takeout bundle of nasi goreng, fried rice, wrapped in brown paper and newsprint (a much more ecological option than our styrofoam boxes, no?) and a bag of my favorite thing: Mystery Produce! There’s nothing I love more than an encounter with some new food.
I googled the fruit while I ate the rice. I found a few possible matches for the little round brown things he’d brought me, but I still wasn’t certain what they were. I examined one closely. It was hard, like a big acorn without a cap, but it gave a little when I pressed on it. When I finished my rice, I got out my cutting board and knife.
Although the shells are hard they cut easily. (In fact, after the first one I discovered I could pinch them and the shell would split in half). Inside was a translucent, gelatinous fruit with a large dark seed in the middle. I recognized it from my googling — Dragon Eye, or Longan. No question about it, I’ve never seen anything that looked more like a dragon eye — or maybe the Eye of Sauron.
I popped out the seed and ate the eyeball bit. I have a little bit of an issue about eyeballs, so I couldn’t really think of it that way while I was chewing. It was very much like a big peeled grape, maybe a little firmer and less sweet, but delicious!
I made it to the store the next day, so I picked up a few more goodies.
When I first encountered this lumpy green vegetable with a wonky seam down the middle I didn’t know what to make of it. I posted it on Facebook and a Scottish friend dubbed it buttfruit. Before all the warm-climate types came along to tell us it’s really called Chayote the name had stuck (at least for me and my inner 12-year-old boy). Chayote is a crispy vegetable with a texture like an apple or pear but a very mild flavor (think celery). Delicious in salads, boiled with lime juice, or sauteed.
Next up is the Tamarillo. I didn’t recognize it at first, but when I took it home I realized I’d this in South America, where it’s commonly called a tree tomato. Texture is like a mango, but with edible seeds. Flavor is on the sour/tart side. These are peeled and used in salads, or made into a sauce for meat or fish, usually.
And that brings us to the tamarind. If you’ve bought tamarind in the US, you were probably making pad thai and you probably bought it in a jar and thought it resembled the inside of a Fig Newton. Here in Indonesia, you have the pleasure of enjoying the tamarind whole.
Surely once you peel away the shell it won’t look so…disturbing, right?
Well. There you go. It’s a sticky, pasty brown tube-shaped fruit. It has seeds inside, so the easiest way to eat it is to pop it in your mouth, enjoy the sticky brown goo, then spit out the seed.
The important thing is, my kitchen is well-stocked now, and my need for new experiences is sated for the day. More importantly, my heart is full of how kind and loving people can be. Charlotte is more than a landlady, she’s quickly becoming a friend. Remind me to tell you how she came with me to the airport and argued my case with immigration officials for half an hour when they wouldn’t let me fly out of the country!
Oh, hey, do me a favor before you go. Please stop by my Indietravel.guru site and play a quick game of How Much Is It. Takes just a second to enter, and you could win a cool prize or Amazon gift certificate!