Dragon Fruit, Passion Fruit and Kaffir Limes

I first remember seeing Pitaya´s or Dragon Fruits on a cart being dragged along the (then) dusty roads of Vientiane by an elderly lady.

She would stop every 50 metres or so and ring a small bell, signalling to the Lao housewives that she had fruits to sell. Her long cart would hold wonderful exotic fruits including Mangoes, Magosteens, Longans etc..

By far the prettiest was the Pitaya. They grow on Cactus like trees, and the wonderful name “Dragon Fruit” stems from Chinese origin (fire dragon fruit).

Those that have tasted them before will tell how sweet the flesh is, surrounding the 100´s of small seeds similar to Kiwi seeds, though crunchier.

So you can imagine how surprised and happy I was to see this fruit again, and how eager I was to use it in the kitchen, but another surprise awaited me…

All the Pitaya´s I had eaten and seen Laos and Thailand had white flesh, and when I cut open the ones in our kitchen I was greeted with this vibrant glistening redness.

It wasn’t just a shock to me, neither of the Laocooks had seen the red variety before.

The taste is a little somewhat “heavier” than its white cousin. We used thin slices of the fruit in our “Salat Lao”, which is our modern version of the Lao Salad with Egg Dressing. We couldn’t explain to customers what it was (I raised a few eyebrows by calling it “Fruta de Dragón”), so I decided to let our Service staff show them the whole fruit. :)

Another great fruit that we use is the Passion Fruit.

The fruit looks kind of boring and unassuming until you cut it open to reveal the sweet and tangy treasures inside.

We use these on our Fresh Fruit Plates, which have been a really good seller during the summer months, when Melons, Wild Strawberries, Mangoes and Raspberries are at their best. We also use the pulp in our Passion Fruit Brûlée. :)

This next fruit is more famous for its Leaves than the actual fruit.

Kafffir Limes, or Makgeehoot in Lao.

South East Asian cuisine would not be the same without the use of the fragrant Leaves from the Kaffir Tree. Along with Lemongrass and Galangal, it makes the basis for most “Gaengs” and Curries.

The Lime has a “knobbly” exterior, and the fruit renders very little juice.

The freshly grated zest has a very unique aroma, far different from the everyday limes that we see.

The Kaffir Lime also has many medicinal properties, mixed with rice water it is used in a homemade Shampoo in Laos that is said will help keep the hair strong and black. Perhaps that is the secret to the long flowing hair of our Sao Lao…

;)

10 thoughts on “Dragon Fruit, Passion Fruit and Kaffir Limes

  1. I have never seen that red variety either and they look incredibly fabulous, I wonder how tasty a jam made of dragon fruit would taste with a little of foie gras…

    Whenever I go to Laos, I just cannot stop eating dragon fruits and mangosteens. Luckily, I may return on Christmas :-)

    Cheers.

    Panya

  2. hello.  a friend of mine told me about your website a couple months ago and since then i’ve been visiting your site periodically.  i love to see all the different lao food that you cook.  and i really like it when you use the lao words for certain things.  for example, the kaffir lime leafs.  i know that it’s used a lot in asian cuisine and it’s actually one of my favorite flavors.  i used to always her my mom say “pak geehoot” all the time when she cooks and now i finally know what she’s talking about! it’s funny how the light bulb just pops on unexpectedly.  where is your restaurant located in spain?  have you done a post of “goi paa?” love eating that.

  3. Hola Chad and welcome to Laocook.com and thanks for your kind words.

    We are located in the province of Cádiz, in the southern part of Spain. Our restaurant is based in a 5 Star hotel and golf resort.

    http://www.fairplaygolfhotel.com

    We havent done a post about Goi Paa, but seeing as you have mentioned, we will definately make one in the future.
    ;)

  4. “Dragon fruit” like all cacti comes from “the new world”  Dragonfruit itself is a tropical cactus that does well in humid areas (the first cacti, orgininating in Central America & Mexico about 20 million years ago all started out like that).  French people fell in love with dragon fruit and took it to Vietnam.  From there other South East Asian countries grew to love it.  In this respect it is similar to how tomato came from the new world and became an integral part of many French and Itallian dishes, or sessame came from Africa but became essential in many Asian dishes.

    Perhaps owing to how it is grown and sold, I’ve never actually had a dragonfruit worth eating.  I’ve only had (fresh) the white fleshed variety.  The red fleshed variety is supposed to be a little more flavorful.  The fresh white ones I’ve had have all been almost entirely flavorless- a pretty huge letdown compaired to durian, mangosteen, santol, salak,….  A Thai friend told me he too has never had one with much flavor, a friend in Florida has the actual cactus and says his are decent (but he probably lets them fully ripen).  Both red and white dragonfruit are Hylocereus undatus, I’ve had Selenicereus megalanthus (sometimes called “yellow dragonfruit” though I don’t think it is grown in Asia) which does have a nice mild-moderate sweet flavor (sweet and floral).  Some might find it bland, but I’d never pass one up.  In contrast, I’m not going to spend another dime on the standard “dragonfruit”.

    The passionfruit you picture (one of many edible species and varieties) is I think the standard purple P. edulis.  I believe they develop full flavor if you let the outer rind turn brown and wrinkle up slightly.  It is also a new world fruit.  Not all passiflora have edible fruits but there are a number with edible pulp and they have a whole range of flavors.

    I’m going to be in Laos around New Years and hope to try lots of odd S E Asian fruits (not just common ones like durian, but also ones that are less common and that I’ve never tried before).  If you have tips on odd Laos fruits (relatives of mangosteen, Litsea species, Baccurea species, Salak species…) like what they are called and when they are in season I’d like that.

  5. Hola Dan, and thank you for the great comment and information.

    In the past I have had the luck to eat sweet tasting Dragon Fruit.

    However, trying to describe the taste would be quite hard. I would like to say that it tasted like a sweetish Kiwi, but I have never tasted a sweet Kiwi before, so that comparison is not quite right.

    Like most fruits, if you let them ripen away from the chill of a fridge, the flavour develops more, though the texture becomes kind of slushy, which is not good for food presentation.

    I simply adore the fruits you mentioned and will sit down with the rest of the team and see if we can come up with other fruits you should try.

    I am sure that you will enjoy yourslef in Laos. If you can, try to visit the Makphet Restaurant in Vientiane.

    http://laocook.com/index.php?s=makphet
    :)

  6. Hello, I am looking for seeds of Makgeehoot .Is it possible to buy some .I want seeds to grow the Makgeehoot

    Thank you

    Gene

  7. Hi Sally, you can buy frozen Lime Leaves from an Oriental store in Sevilla, they also have dried leaves, but those are not good. The store is called Hiper Oriente and their large branch is at Kansas City in Seville, they stock a lot of Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese goods, worth a visit.

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