The tropics produce a huge variety of fruits and foods, some would be familiar to you, but many are not well known in other parts of the world.
One fruit which is well known in the region is the Durian (Durio), known as the ‘King of Fruits’. Several species of Durio produce edible fruit, it is generally rugby ball sized, with a green-brown spiky husk. The pulp within the fruit has a very unpleasant smell – it can be so overpowering that it has been banned from public transport and hotels in some regions. Some consider it a great delicacy, describing the taste as a rich custard flavored with almonds, whereas others find it tastes of rotten onions and gym socks.
You’re kitchen is likely to have foods produced in Malaysia, or containing products produced here. Some of these are native to the region, whereas others have been introduced from other tropical regions.
Bananas are native to south east Asia and are one of the oldest cultivated plants – and one of the most useful. The bananas you are familiar with are the ‘Cavendish’ banana – bred for flavor, disease resistance and lack of seeds, bears very little resemblance to its wild relatives, which have relatively little flesh and large seeds. The fruit of many can be eaten, although most cultivars are from two species – Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. The flowers, stems and leaves are also used in cooking – the leaves are often used to wrap food in, imparting a subtle sweetness to the food within.
Palm oil (Elaeis guineenis) is one of the most economically important crops, in the tropics it is widely used as a cooking oil, but you will most likely have seen it as an ingredient in processed foods, as it is a very stable oil. If you look on your spice rack you might come across pepper(Piper nigrum), nutmeg and mace (Myristica), ginger (Zingiber officinale), turmeric (Curcuma domestica)or cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) all are produced in Malaysia.