You’ll find fruit (phonlamai) offered everywhere in Thailand – neatly sliced in glass boxes on hawker carts, blended into delicious shakes and served as a dessert in restaurants. The fruits described below can be found in all parts of Thailand, though some are seasonal. The country’s more familiar fruits include forty varieties of banana (kluay), dozens of different mangoes (mamuang), three types of pineapple (sapparot), coconuts (maprao), oranges (som), limes (manao) and watermelons (taeng moh). Thailand’s most prized and expensive fruit is the durian (thurian).
To avoid stomach trouble, peel all fruit before eating it, and use common sense if you’re tempted to buy it pre-peeled on the street, avoiding anything that looks fly-blown or seems to have been sitting in the sun for hours.
(soursop; noina; July–Sept). Inside the knobbly, muddy green skin is a creamy, almond-coloured blancmange-like flesh, with a strong flavour of strawberries and pears, and a hint of cinnamon, and many seeds.
(farang; year-round). The apple of the tropics has green textured skin and sweet, crisp pink or white flesh, studded with tiny edible seeds. Has five times the vitamin C content of an orange and is sometimes eaten cut into strips and sprinkled with sugar and chilli.
(khanun; year-round). This large, pear-shaped fruit can weigh up to 20kg and has a thick, bobbly, greeny-yellow shell protecting sweet yellow flesh. Green, unripe jackfruit is sometimes cooked as a vegetable in curries.
(lamyai; July–Oct). A close relative of the lychee, with succulent white flesh covered in thin, brittle skin.
(linjii; April–May). Under rough, reddish-brown skin, the lychee has sweet, richly flavoured white flesh, rose scented and with plenty of vitamin C.
(mangkut; April–Sept). The size of a small apple, with smooth, purple skin and a fleshy inside that divides into succulent white segments that are sweet though slightly acidic.
(paw-paw; malakaw; year-round). Looks like an elongated watermelon, with smooth green skin and yellowy-orange flesh that’s a rich source of vitamins A and C. It’s a favourite in fruit salads and shakes, and sometimes appears in its green, unripe form in salads, notably som tam.
(som oh; Oct–Dec). The largest of all the citrus fruits, it looks rather like a grapefruit, though it is slightly drier and has less flavour.
(ngaw; May–Sept). The bright red rambutan’s soft, spiny exterior has given it its name – rambut means “hair” in Malay. Usually about the size of a golf ball, it has a white, opaque flesh of delicate flavour, similar to a lychee.
(chomphuu; year-round). Linked in myth with the golden fruit of immortality; small and egg-shaped, with white, rose-scented flesh.
(sapota; lamut; Sept–Dec). These small, brown, rough-skinned ovals look a bit like kiwi fruit and conceal a grainy, yellowish pulp that tastes almost honey-sweet.
(makhaam; Dec–Jan). A Thai favourite and a pricey delicacy – carrying the seeds is said to make you safe from wounding by knives or bullets. Comes in rough, brown pods containing up to ten seeds, each surrounded by a sticky, dry pulp which has a sour, lemony taste.