Have you ever seen a red hairy fruit at your local markets? I know I wondered about it when I came across it! The rambutan was one of my wife’s favourite fruits growing up as a child. Her dad would bring home baskets full of Rambutan from his village in Papar, Sabah where they had been picked fresh and ripe for eating.
The rambutan is native to the Malay Archipelago, with its name derived from the Malay-Indonesian word for rambut or “hair,” and you can certainly see why. Once the hairy exterior of the rambutan is peeled away, the fleshy and tender fruit is revealed. Native to tropical Southeast Asia the rambutan has been imported all around the world such as Africa, Oceania, and Central America.
The fruit is a round to oval single-seeded berry around 3–6 cm long and 3–4 cm broad, which grow in a cluster of about 10–20. The leathery skin is seen in various shades of red and covered with pliable spines, the ‘hairs’. The rambutan fruit flesh is translucent, whitish or very pale pink. Its taste is described as sweet (with a little sourness thrown in) much like a grape.
Rambutans are eaten raw but are sometimes stewed with sugar and cloves and eaten as a dessert. My wife says she used to peel them, pop them in the freezer and pull them out when frozen. A great relief for the heat!
Have you ever tried it?
4 pieces freshly peeled rambutan
40ml gin dried ancho chile, stemmed and seeded
20 ml of good quality orange liqueur
10 ml sugar syrup
15ml fresh lemon juice
1 piece of clove
Muddle rambutan together with clove in shaker, add the rest of ingredients and top up with as much ice you can. Hard shake about 20 times and double strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with kaffir lime leaf and enjoy.
Bartender’s note: “The delicate notes with flavours of fig, the gentle sourness works well with brown spirits as well as white spirits.”