You can’t deny the appeal of the rambutan. It looks like some kind of unhatched alien egg. It tickles the imagination and promises an exotic flavor experience, which, frankly is a check the rambutan just can’t cash.
The florescent-green-tipped spikes are soft and malleable, despite their velcro-like appearance. The skin easily peels away from the fruit inside, revealing firm, translucent white flesh which is sweet and succulent.
But the rambutan is the least tasty of the four eyeball fruits (my own classification). The other, yummier eyeball fruits are longan, lychee, and grapes. The problem lies not in the rambutan’s flesh, which is juicy and purely sweet, but in the flesh’s proclivity to cling to the large woody seed inside. This makes it hard to get a clear bite of the sweet fruit without getting a piece of the seed’s bark as well. But it’s not just a texture issue. Though I’ve yet to meet anyone else who agrees with me, I find the bark of the seed tastes disturbingly like fish. Even if I ate fish, I’m pretty sure I’d never choose to pair it with rambutan.
My students here in Thailand have recently let me in on a tip which converted them from rambutan haters to groupies. It’s simple and elegant, but I’ve yet to try it. Because I’m lazy and rambutan has burned me before. They suggest using a knife to peel away the flesh from the seed. Now they can’t get enough of the organic rambutan we grow right here in our own little orchard. Someday, when the supply of mangosteen, longkang, and dragonfruit dries up, I might just give rambutan another try.