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.
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
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.