Kenny and I first tried a mangosteen on our last trip to Thailand, on Ko Phi Phi in December 2008. We had heard that the mangosteen was a serious contender for the title of Best Tropical Fruit Ever, and we were eager to understand the hype. Alas, the mangosteen that we tried was a bad sample. It was dried up on the inside and kind of chalky; we knew something was amiss.
We finally got another opportunity to try a mangosteen last week in Laos. Our Luang Prabang guesthouse was just around the corner from a sizable produce market, and one of the sellers had particularly delectable looking fruits. We picked up a bunch of tiny bananas, a mango, some rambutans, and one mangosteen to try. This first one was so good that we went back to the produce market for several more over the following days.
Mangosteens have a thick, coarse, purple-brown skin and are almost perfectly round. The fleshy fruit inside comes in sections and has a soft, almost marshmallow-y texture, like a very ripe mango. The taste is sweet with a touch of tart, and a little creamy, with a fuller flavor than the sugar apple.
On our Vietnam Airlines flight from Hanoi to Nha Trang, we found an article in the in-flight magazine about traditional fruits used for offerings during Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. One of these is the mangosteen, which is popular in the south. According to the article:
These fruits are essential for offering plates. Choosing good mangosteens is not easy, so families feel proud to offer perfect mangosteens to their guests.
Hopefully we’ll find more delicious mangosteens available here in South Vietnam, given their apparent significance.