Pickled Snake Fruit, Salak

South East Asia is rich of strange fruits. We enjoy funny tasting fruit. Snake fruit, mangosteen, sawo and durian to name a few. These are all tropical fruits, that might be found in tropical countries only. You would love them but you can also hate them. If you have these in the country of origins, most probably they would taste like the way they are supposed to. But when they have been shipped thousands of miles away, they might not be their best, or even rotten. And for the unknowing, you might immediately think that is the rotten taste is the real taste. I read in a foodblog how someone bought snake fruit in Europe and, of course, they are pretty rotten. The beautiful fruit then got labelled ‘inedible for human consumption’. That is pretty sad.

Snake fruit is what we call salak. Obviously the skin is just like snake skin, with scales and thorns. When you peel off the skin, starting from the pointy part on top of the oval-ish fruit, you will see a plump (or two or three) creamy color fruit. The plain white ones are usually sweet, but sometimes they could be very tangy too. When you get the reddish color fruit, it would be very tart. The tartness would make you regret you’d ever taken a bite. It is not easy to spot sweet salak. If you buy 10 salak, most of the time you’d only get 2 sweet ones.

Our grandmother used to pickle the tart salak fruits. Using a very simple pickling technique, every each one of the salak fruits can be enjoyed. The fresh fruit is very crunchy, like crunchiness of an apple. When pickled, it is soft and tender.

The fruit is blanched with hot water to soften it and makes it able to absorb seasoning added and pickled by using fruit seasoning salt (bumbu semboi).

The following step by step pictures may come to be a bit strange, but I actually met a lot of people who have never seen nor peel it. So here they come.

Do not wash the fruit. You should peel the fruit with dry hands too. Start peeling from the tip of the fruit using your finger and pull the skin down.

It looks hard and scaly, but it is actually quite thin. Peel them all off. Beware of the thorn.

When you are done with the scaly skin, you would see a group of white fleshed fruit, usually about 2-4 fruits stick together in a single bulb. Some smaller ones might have only one single fruit in them.

Crack them open. The fruit would be dull and not shiny.

Go through the fruit one by one. Brush your finger across the surface of the fruit. You will feel trace of white transparent thin skin.

Rub your thumb against some loose part of the skin and pull it off the fruit slowly.

Get rid of as much as you can. You will end up with a shiny fruit, with no skin at all.

Sometimes you will get red salak. This is super tangy and sour. Perfect for pickling.

At other times you will get the ones with babies on them.

All the fruits are peeled and shiny. If you want to, you can run cold water to wash these. But we never do.

This is the fruit seasoning salt I was talking about. It is available in any Asian grocer, I think.

Boil some water and salt.

Add fruit into boiling water.

Quickly stir for two minutes.

Turn off heat and cover. Wait for 5 minutes.

The salak fruits are starting to get opague and soft at this point.

Drain water off the pot.

Add fruit seasoning salt.

And sugar.

Mix everything well. Serve cold. Or warm is good too.

The fruit refrigerates well up to 3 days. Ours never last that long.


Pickled Salak, Snake Fruit

Makes 5 servings


650 g fresh salak (or snake fruit), peeled
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp fruit seasoning salt
2 litres water


Boil water and salt in a stockpot.
Add salak fruit into boiling water. Let boil for 2 minutes.
Turn off heat and cover, for 5 minutes.
Drain water off.
Combine sugar and seasoning salt into the pot.
Mix well. Serve warm or cold.
Keep up to 3 days in refrigerator.

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18 Responses to “Pickled Snake Fruit, Salak”

  1. 1

    Tine — August 12, 2011 @ 3:26 am

    Waw, cool! Never have seen that fruit!

  2. 2

    Gertrude — August 12, 2011 @ 4:40 pm

    I am salivating just thinking of the taste of buah salak. The first time I tasted it was in 1995 when I went to Medan. It has been a while :)

  3. 3

    kankana — August 12, 2011 @ 10:33 pm

    This is completely new to me and loving it ! The step by step photo really helps to understand more.

  4. 4

    Lisa H — August 13, 2011 @ 1:06 am

    I cannot resist buah salak if I see one… Absolutely beautiful fruit :)

  5. 5

    Charissa — August 13, 2011 @ 5:42 pm

    Wow, I’ve never ever heard of this! How cool!!!!

  6. 6

    Jo@jocooks — August 13, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

    Oh wow, I’ve never seen or even heard of this fruit before! It looks incredible. I doubt I’ll ever find this in Canada. Well I learned something new today. Thanks.

  7. 7

    vivian — August 14, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

    O man. I love that thing when i was a kid. Last year i went to indonesia to find the pickled salak. I am going to make it myself (if i can ever find it in the states…)

  8. 8

    Tuty — August 15, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

    Oh how I miss this fruit… This pickle is somewhat different from the ones I used to have in Jakarta (brined in pickling liquid). I also love the dried ‘manisan salak’.
    The addition of fruit seasoning salt is definitely adding a layer of flavor.
    Thanks for sharing your beautiful step by step pix.

  9. 9

    Pepy@Indonesia Eats — August 22, 2011 @ 12:17 am

    Salak is quite expensive in Winnipeg. Huhh I miss the salak so bad

  10. 10

    mycookinghut — August 23, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

    I don’t think I have ever tasted bush salak! This is really interesting!

  11. 11

    Maryanna — August 30, 2011 @ 8:27 am

    I’ve never heard of a snake fruit before…. interesting!

  12. 12

    Nami | Just One Cookbook — August 30, 2011 @ 11:34 am

    Thanks for introducing this new fruit. There are so many food that I had never had (esp. in other countries) and I appreciate blogging even more when I find post like this. It was a fun read!

  13. 13

    Thuy — January 26, 2012 @ 10:25 pm

    I love snakefruits – the first time I ever had it was in Bali a few years ago. Such a shame we don’t have access to it in Australia. There was an episode on TV a while back showing a person being caught by airport officers for trying to sneak in snakefruits seeds – I understand his motivation.

  14. 14

    Meet the Salak, the Ubiquitous Indonesian Fruit You've Never Heard Of | Food & Think — November 9, 2012 @ 8:21 am

    [...] typical island fare. The odd but ubiquitous morsels can be boiled with sugar into a sweet spread, pickled, vacuum dried and fried into chips or paired with other fruits and nuts, but locals prefer them [...]

  15. 15

    Rosemary — November 25, 2012 @ 3:57 am

    Luv these pickled…and with cinnamon in
    the brine…yumm

  16. 16

    Milana — March 15, 2014 @ 2:13 pm

    Hi! I’m from Russia. Tell me please what is “fruit seasoning salt”???
    Is it brown salt or not???

    • Jun replied: — April 14th, 2014 @ 12:55 am

      It is not brown sugar. You can make your own fruit seasoning salt by combining table salt and a pinch of chili powder and sugar.

  17. 17

    PAUL J. HINTERSTEINER — January 14, 2015 @ 12:23 pm

    I am request permission to use some of your articles in my book the history of food to help this and the next generation to live healthier lives.

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