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How a Fruit Expert Picks & Eats Rare Fruit

Tristan Kwong's expertise has earned him the title of Fruit Sommelier—and he’s visiting the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen to share some of his rare fruit wisdom. From sweetsops and rambutans to mangosteens, sprouted coconuts and many more, learn how to pick and eat some of the less traditional fruits of the world.

Released on 08/29/2023


Hi, I'm Tristan Kwong, professional chef.

They call me Fruit Somm in the streets

'cause my love languages are fruit plates

and words of affirmation.


Today we're in the BA test kitchen,

and I'm gonna show you guys how to eat rare fruit.

Let's get it.

So here we have sweetsop.

So the sweetsop is native to the Americas

and the West Indies.

They are in a family of fruits

that are often referenced as sugar apples.

And while not anywhere close to appley texture,

this is maybe one of the sweetest fruits

that I think you can get your hands on.

This is a different varietal that grows purple,

and then when they turn ripe

you'll see that in between they get almost pinkish/brownish.

The biggest factor beyond all that

is that when they become ripe,

they essentially start to fall apart

and you can pretty much just pick out

each one of these pods.

These are not the edible bits, these are the skin,

but because they start falling apart,

you can peel 'em open like that.

So you just kind of suck the thing off the seed.

It's just like a little black seed

encased in that, like, white casing of flesh.

And these guys are kind of expensive,

but they are one of like my more favorite fruit

just because they have like such a unique taste and texture.

When they are ripe they become almost like a banana pudding.

It's incredibly floral, it's incredibly sweet,

incredibly soft.

They literally are just like some of the craziest fruit

I think you can get.

So if I had to present it,

I don't know if I would pull it apart like this

and eat the seeds as they were.

I would try to get a knife through it.

They have this little stemy bit in here

that you can't eat.

And while the rind is not edible,

it is incredibly pretty.

So if I were to serve,

they would probably be just like this.

You can eat them out of the wedge

and then spit all the seeds out.

Strange and weird and lovely.

These are rambutans.

They are native to Southeast Asia.

The best way to tell if these are ripe

is if they are a nice bright color

and the tendrils aren't all dry and crispy.

And then ones that have gone too far

will feel a little bit lighter

just because the flesh is shrinking away from the shell

and the tendrils start to turn brown

and get a little bit crispy

and are easy to, like, break off.

And because they are so wild and crazy looking,

I like to keep at least half the shell on

to show you like where it came from

so it doesn't look just like a tiny hard boiled egg.

Just peel the shell off, pop 'em in your mouth,

scrape the meat off the seed

and then spit the seed out.

The sugar in them is a little bit more tart

and a little bit more clean

compared to like a longan,

which is a little nuttier, a little bit muskier.

The flesh is more gummy bear-like.

They have a great mouth feel.

But they're delicious.

They are a great conversation piece.

[gentle chiming music]

So these are abiu.

They're native to central and South America

and parts of the Amazonian region.

When they're underripe,

they have a lot of latex in them

so they're really unpleasant to eat.

So you can tell that they're ripe

when they turn mostly yellow.

A little bit of green isn't too bad,

but too green is underripe.

So on the inside you can see

that the flesh is like almost translucent

and a little bit bouncy.

This entire pit here is completely inedible.

The outside rind is a little bit waxy, a little bit bitter.

Pop the edible bit out,

discard the super bitter rind.

Texture wise, I would say closest to a kiwi.

Taste wise, I would say somewhere between an apple

and a watermelon.

Don't eat the skin. [laughs]

[gentle chiming music]

So these are mangosteens.

They are native to Southeast Asia.

They are some of my favorite fruit

just because they're so weird.

They start growing off as green,

passing through like a red

before it gets as dark as this.

You can tell when they're ripe

because they'll get dark, like I just said,

but they also will start to have a little bit of give.

And I'm sure you can just even hear the difference

in sound of like...

[fruit thudding]

Like, this one is taking on a little bit of a dent here,

but this guy,

[fruit thudding]

firmer tap.

Another cool part about mangosteens

is that they have this little flower on the bottom.

The petals on the flower will actually tell you

how many segments are inside the fruit.

No fruit are really, you know, like,

This is what I look like inside,

except for really the mangosteen.

The best way to open them, honestly,

I think is with your hands.

Just do a little Hulk smash.

What you're looking for when you open them up

is that the flesh is bright white

and not at all translucent.

When it starts to go translucent

that means they're a little bit overripe.

And they come out just like this.

Hmm, banging.

It tastes like a litchi mixed with a little bit more citrus.

The texture is almost like a velvety grape.

But in terms of presentation,

this looks like a jungle man cracked it open.

But if I were to serve them,

I would slice like this.

And the knife will only go in

if the fruit is slightly ripe.

I would not recommend using a chef's knife,

but maybe like a serrated knife

so you get a little bit more control.

Beautiful, clean, easy.

You can even serve them like this

and have people pop it open.

I'll just pop this whole five-segment bit in my mouth.

It looks crazy, it tastes crazy, it is crazy.

10 out of 10, mangosteen.

So here we have some coconuts.

They're actually on different spectrums

of their respective life cycles.

While this one is smaller, it's actually older.

This is what happens once the coconut

falls out of the tree, hangs out in the sand.

And they're harder to find

because they take longer to sprout.

It'll actually take between four to six months

after the coconut's fallen out of the tree

for it to become like this.

I'm using a cleaver here

because I'm looking for weight;

not with your pointy side, but with the back.

[cleaver clanging]

It almost looks like,

I hate to say a brain,

but like almost like a brain.

But if you were to scoop into this here,

you'll see that the inside flesh is white.

This would essentially be the root

and nutrient system for the rest of the plant

as it continued to grow,

but it's also completely edible.

It's also like a high source of fiber

and a lot of different vitamins.


That's not my favorite,

but it's an incredibly strange and fun texture.

[mellow music]

Way better than a sprouted coconut.

[gentle chiming music]

These are tamarillo.

They're native to Latin America.

I actually have never tried one of these before,

so I'm actually pretty excited to cut into this guy.

The more red ones are more sour,

and the more yellow they are,

the sweeter they'll be.

So while tamarillo or tree tomatoes aren't actual tomatoes,

you can use the same indicators for ripeness

to tell whether they're ripe

as you would for a regular tomato.

You wanna look for ones that are slightly more firm,

have a little bit of give, but not too much.

And really depending on what the use you have for them,

whether you want them to be sour or sweet,

look for the difference in color.

That's crazy.

It looks exactly like a tomato.

Does not smell like one, though.

They smell more citrusy, a little bit more sour.

It's like a really sour tomato.

That outside rind is also less than edible.

That's kind of fire though.

I like that.

It's like a sour tomato with papaya flavor.

They're like weirdly savory for how sour they are.


I think this would be really good in like a salsa actually.

Like, it has like the whole salsa component, like,

the tomato-ey, plus the sweet,

plus the sour already, like, built into it.

Yeah, that's straight up like nothing I've ever had before.

Here we have cacao pods or cacao fruit.

They're native to the Amazon rainforest.

And these are the things you make chocolate out of.

So ripe cacao pods will have a little hollow sound,

like you can feel something rattling around inside of it.

It means that the pods themselves

have separated from the walls,

which means that they're ready to be harvested.

Secondarily, if you scratch the surface,

under here is a little bit yellow, white-ish,

that means they're good to go.

When they're green,

that means typically they're a little bit underripe.

Because it's ripe, the fruit has come loose.

The only edible part is this little white membrane

on the outside of the pod,

and the way to eat is to just suck the flesh off the pod.

If I had to say,

it kind of tastes like slightly underripe mango.

And the flesh itself is really difficult to remove

from the seed,

so it's more like a mouth fidget spinner.

And this is the thing that you would take, ferment,

and crush it.

It turns into cacao nibs

and then they get rolled out and pressed,

and then they add sugar or milk

and they solidify into chocolate.

[gentle chiming music]

So this is mamey sapote.

These guys are grown and native to Central America,

parts of the Caribbean, and Mexico.

A lot of desserts use this guy as its base,

but mostly not in its raw form.

So at the top here,

these guys are giving a little bit of give,

which is nice.

You obviously don't want them to be mush,

you do want this little bit of give.

But down here it's pretty rock hard.

I don't know how ripe this guy is.

Maybe about 60% there.

So I'm gonna cut it the same way you would cut a mango

or like an avocado.

The outside is like super unassuming,

crusty, nasty, craggly.

But the inside looks beautiful.

It's definitely giving sunset.

The outside skin is inedible

and the inside big black pit here is also inedible.

It's cutting almost like butter.


So it's actually really sweet.

But it does have the texture of like a boiled potato,

which is not my favorite.

Because the texture is a little starchy,

I don't think big pieces would be a good idea.

So if I were to serve this on a fruit plate,

I would probably cut small, nice,

little chunks here like this.

This tastes great, 100%.

I think if you turn this into a smoothie

or like a cake even, like, it would be amazing.

[gentle chiming]

These are finger limes.

They are native to Australia.

They're called finger limes

'cause they're shaped like little fingers.

Ripe ones, like normal limes,

will have like a nice shiny skin,

it means that the fruit is still producing oil.

And you want them to feel firm and not empty.

Inside of here are little caviar-like pearls

full of lime juice.

Chefs like this because it adds acid, but in a form,

rather than just lime or lemon juice on a plate.


They're great.

They're super crisp and crunchy, like,

the pods almost like pop rock in your mouth.

Citrus Dippin' Dots' almost.

As is, I don't know if I would ever put these

on a fruit plate,

but I could see you squeezing them out

and then mixing them with like tajine

or like a little bit of sugar

to give yourself like solid limeade.

[gentle chiming music]

Here we have cactus fruit or prickly pear.

These are native to the Americas.

These are actually cousins to dragon fruit.

They'll grow off the cactus like this.

You see these little dots here?

Spines will usually be growing out of these,

but for the most part,

the spines will come off

so that nobody hurts themselves at the grocery store.

So ripe ones will have smooth skin.

Wrinkles mean that they're overripe.

They are very juicy.

The color is kind of crazy.

They're beautiful.

I would serve it in wedges like this.

You could even separate the flesh from the rind

to make it easier.

They taste like halfway between like a dragon fruit, a pear,

and a kiwi altogether.

The seeds aren't super pleasant but completely edible.

You know, you don't gotta be a baby about it.

[gentle chiming music]

So these are golden berries.

They're native to parts of South America.

They almost have like this little husk on the outside.

You can tell that they're ripe

when the husk itself will start to turn

a little bit translucent

and you can see like the gold of the berry right through it.

Peel the husk off like a tomatillo.

And you can eat them raw.

They taste halfway between like a sweet cherry

and a slightly tart tomato.

From an anatomy standpoint,

they're built very much like a tomato.

It has the little bit of tiny seeds inside.

They're just slightly more sweet, slightly more tart.

The fruit itself is honestly so good

that you really don't have to

or really don't want to do much to it.

They are near perfect as they are.

[gentle chiming music]

So up next we have a pomegranate.

They're not as rare as they used to be.

There's one growing behind my house

on the sidewalk in Queens.

When they are more ripe,

the skin will scratch more easily.

You can see here not a lot of effort to peel this guy.

This one doesn't wanna come up at all.

So what I like to do is slice the top here.

And you'll see that, like,

they're kind of separated into, like,

these smaller podular segments,

but there's like a slightly thicker white membrane

between them.

Find that little gap and follow it down.

Just score the outside, a little gap here.

Pop it open.

And you remove this, like, little center bit here,

and that way every single kernel you see

is completely exposed.

And rather than, like,

taking a spoon and hitting the back of it,

you can literally just take your finger,

go from underneath.

When they're riper, they're more sweet and less acidic,

but they still have this, like, nice tang.

There are little seeds inside of here.

They are completely edible.

Good fiber.

I think the best way to serve them

is to peel back this little white membrane

and serve them in, like, big chunks like this.

They almost look like a geode

after you, like, crack it open.

Oh, my shirt and my jacket.


I thought I was a professional.

[gentle chiming music]

So these are longan,

which is Cantonese for dragon eye.

Longan originate from southern China.

They started out as like little green pods,

and as they ripen they'll go through a yellow phase

until a white brown phase like this,

and then into a darker brown phase.

The ripe one will have a darker shell,

but it'll also feel very full

as if there's like a lot of stuff inside of it

almost trying to burst and get out of there.

So you can see if I open this one up here,

you really just need to peel the outside.

The inside pit is black and the outside flesh

is white translucent,

so it looks just like an eyeball.

These are also some of my favorite fruit.

They're very closely related to, like, litchis.

These are a little bit nuttier.

They taste like sugar water

with a little bit of nuttiness on it.

It's almost like eating an incredibly firm grape.

A lot of the labor comes from peeling the outside,

so just scoring them like this.

You can even leave half the shell

so some people have something to pick it up by.

I think it looks kind of cool,

almost like a little acorn.

[gentle chiming music]

So here we have a watermelon guava.

They are a slightly more rare varietal of guava.

There is no real way to tell the difference

between the pink ones and the white ones

from an outside visual perspective.

You can determine whether a guava is ripe

by picking it up

and feeling whether it's heavy for its size.

And then they'll turn from dark green

to like this lighter,

almost like yellowish green

like you can see here.

In an ideal world you get one with no dark spots

on the outside.

But if you do see the dark spots,

that means it's ready to go

and it's ready to go today right now.

And so I'm gonna go ahead and cut into this

and hope that it's pink.

Oh, that's white.

I was promised a pink guava,

so I don't really know what's going on here.

Maybe we get luck.

Eh, pink.

Oh, there you go.

We got a pink one. [chuckles]

The seeds are completely edible,

and so is the skin,

but the skin can have like a bitter taste to it

or like a really not so fun aftertaste.

And because of that I like to cut them

into little wedges like this.

Just separate them from the skin.

The texture of it is a little bit grainy.

The seeds are edible,

though not the most easy to chew.

And while they may not be my favorite fruit,

they are quite beautiful,

especially when you get pink ones

and not white ones, white ones, white ones,

white ones, white ones. [laughs]

[gentle chiming music]

So this is a Korean honey melon.

A ripe honey melon will be heavy for its size.

So picking it up, tossing it,

and comparing it to ones of similar size,

and picking a heavy one will help you determine

which one is slightly riper.

You also wanna avoid dents or bruises or demarcations

because it'll penetrate all the way through the melon.

Even if it doesn't bruise inside,

the bruising will, like, sink through

and make the flesh, like, mealy and not nice.

Korean honey melons produce an aroma

when they're ready to be eaten.

A little bit musky, a little bit sweet,

the same way like a honeydew or a cantaloupe would be.

The shades of gold here are like pretty even,

but the gaps in between are a little bit less gold.

They'll fill out a little bit more as they mature.

A little bit of give, like, again, not crazy.

You just wanna feel that it's firm,

but like not rock solid.

They have seeds inside

so I'll split them down the middle like this.

And while these are completely edible,

not a lot of fun to eat.

And I have put these guys

on a couple of fruit plates.

'Cause the skin is edible

doesn't mean we want to eat it it.

So you can cut pretty close to it.

They're almost like cucumber-like in texture.

If I go like this, you can hear it snap.

Crisp, ripe, sweet,

like a better honeydew.

[gentle chiming music]

So I guess you can consider these designer strawberries.

This is a company called Oishii,

which means delicious in Japanese.

These are grown in a warehouse temperature

and humidity controlled to mimic the Japanese Alps.

So in terms of picking ripe ones,

they pick it at the ripest possible time,

so you get the ripest possible berry.

They do smell incredible.

So the best way to do a strawberry,

you could do it completely whole.

The leaves are not toxic.

Or you could bite it so that the top remains.

These are, like, actually incredibly sweet.

The texture is berry-esque,

not crisp, but not too soft.

This is not an ad for Oishii.

Please send me more strawberries, though.

So now that you've seen all of our rare,

mystical fruit,

I think I'm about to assemble

the most chaotic fruit plate of all time.

Some of these fruits might not be super rare to you,

but they were incredibly hard for us to source

here in New York City,

and they can be a little bit daunting

to get into especially if you have no idea where to start.

And I don't know, man, she's kinda cute.

It's not often that I get to try a new flavor,

much less a new fruit.

That usually requires you hopping on a plane

and going some x thousand number of miles away.

Meanwhile, you might not be able to secure

every single thing on this plate.

Hopefully you can grab a couple of them

and they can end up on your plate at home.

[mellow music ends]