No, Not Like the Thing for When it Rains

Siddhartha’s post on lovely lime pickle got me thinking about my favorite. Behold: The Amazing Ambarella!

Before

 

After

Other names for this fruit and close relatives are Otaheite apple, Tahitian quince, Jamaica plum, golden apple and wi…The tree grows tall, reaching almost 20 m (60 ft). The fruit, which is popular in Asia, is plum shaped, sweet-sour and eaten at all stages of ripeness. Its distinguishing feature is a spiny seed. The spines toughen as the fruit matures, so that when eating conserve made from the almost-ripe fruit, the sweet flesh should be carefully sucked from the seed to avoid an unsolicited lip-piercing or a tough fibre stuck between the teeth. In the unripe stages the green skin is peeled with a knife and slices of the firm, pale flesh dipped in chilli powder and salt before being relished by street-side snackers or school children. Unripe fruit is also cooked in chutneys. As the fruit ripens it becomes yellow to orange in colour and more fragrant and sweet, though still with a good percentage of acidity. It has been described as having a flavour like pineapple.link

I don’t think it tastes like a pineapple at all, but the rest of it is pretty accurate. I’ve never seen ambarellas for sale anywhere in the U.S. and the web didn’t have much except for these odd little facts:

In Sri Lanka, ambarellas are made into chutneys, curries, and pickles of all kinds. Cut a raw one up, sprinkle a little salt, sugar, vinegar and chili powder…oooh, heaven. My grandmother had a gigantic tree growing right over her house, and we’d visit her carrying buckets during the fruiting season. I’ve got strangely happy memories of eating peeled, uncut ambarella while reading a book, only noticing my bleeding gums (those spines are shaarrp) when my mother grimaced.

So does anyone else have memories of eating an ambarella? Maybe you call it by another name? Or (and this would be fabulous) you know where I could buy some?!

27 thoughts on “No, Not Like the Thing for When it Rains

  1. This is the other thing my childhood in Bangladesh was made of! Washed in dirty water, cut open into a flower, impaled on a stick, sprinkled with salt and chili powder, devoured by greedy little me.. so delicious.

    I’ve seen them in Indian groceries in the US a few times… keep your eyes open.

  2. aah, the golden apple. agree, it doesn’ t taste anything like a pineapple.

  3. Naina, do you have sri lankan roots?

    I remember eating Ambarella when I was in Colombo in 2002, just the way you described it yummy!

  4. In Malaysia, where I grew up, these little beauties are a standard ingredient of rojak, a mouthwatering fruit-and-veg salad dressed in a hot-sweet-sour sauce and garnished with peanuts and sesame seeds. The sauce is made with thick dark soy sauce, those tiny super-hot chillies, sugar, and fish and prawn pastes (though I’ve left out these last two ingredients for veg. versions and it’s still delish).

    Malaysian Tamil, especially as spoken in my family, is a bit wonky — Tamil speakers from India have been known to laugh in our faces at our pronunciation — but we call these fruits “Ampalam.” I don’t know if that’s anything like what they call it in proper Tamil.

  5. In the west indies we call it Golden Apple. It tastes best when ripe, but otherwise it makes good chutney.

  6. pickle.. then ambarella. great posts guys. someone please talk about amroods(guavas). ooh now those really bring back some great banaras memories.

  7. omigod, i loved this stuff! used to have it all the time in kolkata — there was a chap with a tiny portable stall (that he carried around on his head) who sold this. he cut it up with a sharp knife (through that strange spiked center-seed thing) and the rubbed it with chilli powder (i swear i am salivating right now). i think it might have been 25 paise for one, served on a piece of neatly cut local newspaper. i think we called it ‘amra’. if i had a penny for everytime i ate one of these i’d be able to buy myself a starbucks venti latte.

  8. Does anyone know what this is called in Malayalam? I don’t recognize it by looking at it.

    Never seen it, never heard of it.

    mangosteen?????????????? hellooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!! anyone?????????????

    Mallu for that is Mangusthikkya.

    That was really funny, UberMetroMallu!

  9. I LOOOOOOVE that!!! In bangladesh, it’s called Amra. I have memories of being 14 and buying amra cut up to look like a flower and covered in salt and chili powder from the street vendor. When I was in India a couple of years ago, I was on a search for ‘amrah’ but of course, no one knew what I was talking about in the North- rumor was I had to venture south to Calcutta.

    I was stoked when last year I discovered the frozen Amra in the Bangladeshi supermarket- but, it was frozen, so I couldn’t imagine that thawed it would have the same joy as biting into salted crispy amrah.

    I am salivating too. I think this is my favorite fruit of the Desh. Next to mangoes of course.

  10. Taz, you do get amrah in Calcutta, not in the streets perhaps, but definitely in a vegetable/fruit bazaar. My mom makes some awesome bangal amrah-r chatney.

    On a snarkier note,

    In Sri Lanka, ambarellas are made into chutneys, curries, and pickles of all kinds. Cut a raw one up, sprinkle a little salt, sugar, vinegar and chili powder…oooh, heaven. My grandmother had a gigantic tree growing right over her house, and we’d visit her carrying buckets during the fruiting season. I’ve got strangely happy memories of eating peeled, uncut ambarella while reading a book, only noticing my bleeding gums (those spines are shaarrp) when my mother grimaced.

    Hullaballo in the Ambarella orchard? ducks for cover

  11. ” LS – that’s Cicatrix, not Naina, who wrote the post, and she does have Lankan roots.”

    Sorry Cicatrix and Ennis, I clicked on her picture at the bottom and it took me to Naina’s SM bio.

  12. ” LS – that’s Cicatrix, not Naina, who wrote the post, and she does have Lankan roots.”
    Sorry Cicatrix and Ennis, I clicked on her picture at the bottom and it took me to Naina’s SM bio.

    It’s OK, LS, we all look a like. Why just the other day I confused Amardeep and Anna with each other. I think it’s an alphabetical thing …

  13. On a side note: Anyone know what’s up with the supposed de-banning (un-banning?) of mangoes from the Motherland his year? Are they coming or do I have to Trrrono?

  14. I’m salivating and I’m not sure it’s for the same thing. There are at least three different green fruits that I’ve eaten with chili pepper and salt. I got the taste for them in America, I think with green guava, and then in India I had a different type of guava and green mango (“polly mango?). I’m wondering, does anyone know the seasons for each of these fruits – I’m leaving to India for spring break on Friday and my dad told me polly mangos might be on the street.

    Yeah, I’m overly excited about food :)

  15. In Guyana, south America where I’m from It’s called Star-apple. we have a lot of great little ‘exotic’ fruits down there, that no on else seems to have. I’m glad that at least someone else knows what I’m talkin’ about. They are so good, we eat them just like that (with salt)

    Oddly enough, I found a tree growing by a river by my house in FL…it’s all good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. It is also available in Burma and it is sold in similar fashoion as described in previous comments. The name of the fruit in burmese can be roughly translated to “scrotum or testicles fruits” because the seed with its fibers are thought similar to that anatomical part. Seriously.