This fruit native to Southeast Asia is closely related to other tropical fruits with a sweet, gummy flesh, such as lychee and longan. The soft spines that cover its red - or sometimes golden - leathery skin are responsible for the fruit's name, which is based on the Malay word "rambut," meaning "hairy."
Use it: Cut the skin partway around the middle of the fruit then pry it open with your fingers and remove the flesh. Enjoy rambutan as a table snack (but spit out the pit) or cook down finely chopped rambutan and lychees with white wine, pineapple juice and brown sugar for a tropical fruit glaze to serve atop ham, roasted pork or duck. Rambutan can serve as a sweet ending to a meal: Think sorbets, a wobbly jelly made with agar-agar, soy milk and sugar, or a tropical fruit salad enhanced with a dollop of coconut cream plus a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds and grated coconut.
Find it: Fresh rambutan is available at China Town Market, 8150 Olive Blvd., University City, 314.567.8522. Numerous Asian grocery stores sell canned rambutan.
1/4 lb. fresh or canned rambutan
2 Tbsp. calamansi juice*
2 scoops vanilla ice cream
• If using fresh, peel the rambutan and remove the fruit from the seed.
• Place the fruit and juice in a blender and purée. Add a few ice cubes and blend until smooth.
• Add the ice cream and blend it all together.
• Pour into glasses and garnish with mint leaves.
*Calamansi juice is available at Asian groceries.