I braved the heat and roamed around Chinatown on Saturday. Exotic fruit were in abundance. In addition to the lychees, longans, and rambutans popping up everywhere, one of the metal fruit cart vendors on Canal St. (off of Mott) carried fresh mangosteens from Thailand. They were $9 / lb, and a yellow plastic-netted sack of 8 fruit cost me $20. Around September of last year, the same vendor sold mangosteens (also from Thailand) that were previously frozen (but sold thawed) for about half the price. Contrary to my expectations, I found the flavor to be more pronounced in the frozen ones, and the texture better. The flesh of the fresh mangosteen seemed rather soft, and it was missing that bright acidic tang that I associate with mangosteens. Apparently, they don't travel that well, and freezing them seems to preserve their flavor and essence better. I wonder how the ones being grown and shipped from the Caribbean taste.
One block west on Canal, another metal fruit cart vendor was selling Java Apples (aka Wax Apples). I had never seen these before, and their color and appearance were quite striking. They were pear-shaped and had a light-red /dark-pink colored skin that looked almost translucent. When I saw the display, I literally thought they were waxed fruit. My mom had heard about them while growing up in China, and said they were very popular in Taiwan (in Cantonese: mu lian; in Mandarin: lian wu), although they're indigenous to Malaysia and Indonesia. We bought a few at $4 / lb, and I have to say I found them very refreshing and texturally interesting. They tasted like a cross between asian pears and carambola (star-fruit). In fact, the thin, translucent-like skin was similar in both taste and appearance to the skin of carambola (save for the color). The fruit had the juicy, sweet, granular crispness of asian pears, but with a slight acidic tang that had hints of cucumber--much like a carambola. Surrounding the core, there was a cotton-like pithy layer--according to my mom, the pith is edible (I'm hoping she was correct). When chilled, I found the Java Apple very refreshing--especially against the oppressive heat. If anyone knows more about these, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. Apparently, they can range in color from a pale greenish-white to black, and the sweetness varies with the color.