Friday, July 25, 2008

Of Mangosteens and Rambutans

Every day here in Beijing for this busy Olympic Games planner begins and ends right on the 19th floor of the Westin Hotel Financial Street Residential Apartments. In this three bedroom high-rise apartment my colleagues and I work here, we sleep here and when a sunny day looks like this outside...


...we eat here. Its not a bad place to call home for six weeks -- and until the games actually begin - the commute is fantastic: four feet from bed to work station and a half-dozen yards to the fax and copy machine.

By Oklahoma standards - folks who say it's hot here are wimps. It might be 90 degrees tops. The pollution is another thing: thick as pea soup and harder to swallow. Look at the picture above - today was sunny -- not a cloud in the sky - but you would never know it. Its enough to consider keeping the camera packed away for the rest of the trip. Not to mention your respiratory system.

To shake things up a little in our apartment-cum-office in the sky we introduce Fun Fruit Friday - China style. A celebration of all that is wonderful and bizarre in our little host country.

Today's Fun Fruit Friday celebrates the joys of mangosteens and rambutans. Delicious, without question -- but at first a little daunting.

This is a rambutan - a little intimidating no doubt -- but worth the effort. Rambutan is a Malay word that means "hairy fruit." To eat it, you dig your nails in like an orange and rip the hard, hairy shell away. What is exposed is a little weft of lychee-like, milky colored flesh wrapped around a hard seed. I ate this one before I decided it might make a good post -- all you get is the hairy hard shell. Maybe next time I'll show you the fleshy bits -- divine.

This is a mangosteen. A silly name really as it has nothing to do with a mango. A mangosteen has a very hard, but pliable, shell that has to be ripped off before this can be enjoyed...

at the center of all that purple husk are these sweet, juicy, fleshy pieces that will send your taste buds to nirvana. This is the fruit of the gods - no doubt the ambrosia long quested in all of mythology. Look no more folks -- it's right here. The holy grail of fruit. Although, I can't help but think the meat looks like those ever-present garden grubs all curled up under the grass. They certainly taste better.


I am an old rambutan eater from way back when. But I've never had a mangosteen. A lot of Chinese believe there are healing properties in the husk of a mangosteen. Its full of tannin and as good as the nut flesh tasted -- the outer shell was a bitter and disgusting. Never the twain should meet. My hands are stained red from eating too may of these things. I accidentally got a bit of the chocolaty purple fiber on my fruit - not a good thing -- like injecting a shot of msg right into your arm. The rind of partially ripe fruits yields a polyhydroxy-xanthone derivative termed mangostin. A derivative of mangostin, mangostin-e, 6-di-O-glucoside, is a central nervous system depressant and causes a rise in blood pressure. Zing went the strings of my heart. There is never a dull moment here on the 19th floor.

Here is the postscript. Nothing left but the bones. Thank you for joining me on my first Fun Fruit Friday. I can't promise too much. But we might tackle a durian next week - you know the fruit that smells like rotting flesh - why not. Stay tuned. I love my job.
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