Mangosteen me, please!
A few years ago, I read in either Gourmet or Bon Appétit magazine about this Asian tropical fruit which seems to be available only in Hawaii- it isn't allowed to be imported into the mainland US. It was described as having hints of litchi and other tropical fruits. The photos of the snowy soft segments were completely drool-worthy.
Therefore, when I was in Maui a few years ago, I kept my eyes peeled for mangosteens. Unfortunately, all I could find were your standard pineapples and a rock-hard avocado that I picked off a tree when we stopped by a road-side stand for kahlua pork. Not quite the fruit-shattering experience I had hoped to have. So I gave up the quest, turning my nose up at frozen mangosteens, wanting my first taste to be of a fresh one.
And it finally happened.
There are a few tiny Asian grocery stores in the 5th arrondissement here in Paris on Rue Lagrange. Minuscule but generally well-stocked, they are great resources if you need an Asian ingredient or some fresh herbs and produce that you can't find in a normal grocery store.
A few weeks ago I spotted fresh mangosteens at one of them. After shrieking in happiness, I realized that they were already pre-packaged, about 8 to a container, and were about 15 Euros a kilo. Too expensive and too large of an amount for me to handle for my first mangosteen experience, I sadly walked away.
But last week, a return to the store showed that they were now selling them loose. I quickly bought two, rushed home, and contemplated the beautiful fruit. How do I open it? After all, the outer shell seemed hard, quite like a chestnut. Do I use a knife, or do I squeeze? These philosophical questions keep me up at night, really they do.
A quick search on the internet yielded some suggestions: gently squeeze and it will pop open; don't cut, as you want the segments whole. I took a deep breath and squeezed. The first squeeze was a little messy but did the trick. After peeling back the purple shell, I spotted the soft plump white segments inside.
The taste was amazing, slightly sour but very floraly and tropical in flavor. The segments were all irregular in shape, with the larger ones containing seeds. I don't know how fresh or how close to a ripe mangosteen this was, but it was pretty darn good.
I ditched the plan to save the second one and was able to open and devour it without any problems. It's too bad that this fruit is rarely imported into the US mainland- the possibilities with it seem endless.
Rest assured I will be eating lots of mangosteens in the near future before I leave. It's too bad I haven't seen any in the regular markets, just the Asian ones. Forget foie gras, forget truffles- mangosteen me, please!