Sumatra is a heaven for fruit lovers. It is a must to visit a
traditional fruit market. Don't forget to bargain, it is a part of
the culture. There is an enormous variety in fruits available and
all is fresh and very tasty. Availability and price depends on
season, but there is always something in the stands. Some of the
fruits are describe below, but there is so much more to discover.
Mango (mangga), papaya (papaya), and banana
(pisang) are very common and extremely cheap. Almost every home has
a couple of trees of each in the backyard. Bananas come in many
different shapes, sizes, and tastes. There are even bananas with
black seeds in them. Mangos also come in several versions. The small
mango from the shores of Danau Toba is very sweet. One version,
Kuini, has a very distinct odor and tastes differently. Mango fruit
is messy to peel and very slippery when the peel has come off. Use a
knife to peel and to cut small pieces for eating. Papaya normally
comes in two versions, the smaller with yellow fruit meat and the
longer one with red fruit meat. The red one is sweeter. Papaya seeds
can be used as malaria medicine.
Passion fruit (markisa) is a popular fruit, especially the
yellow version that has made Berastagi famous in Indonesia. The peel
is hard, but cracks easy. Crack it open in two halves and slurp in
the contents. The seeds are edible.
Mangosteen (manggis) has a sweet and slightly acidic taste, a
bit different than most other fruits. Split the thick dark purple
peel open with your fingers and the delicious inside will be easy
Rambutan (rambutan) is very common all over Indonesia. The
English word is even borrowed from the Malay/Indonesian language.
The brightly red and “hairy” peel is easy to open. It contains a
juicy fruit with one big peel.
The lanseh (duku) is a small fruit with a brown and smooth
skin that is easy to peel. The taste reminds of Lychee.
The cross section of a Starfruit or carmabola
(belimbing) looks like a star. This fruit has also many varieties
and the taste varies between sweet and sour. It can be eaten with
its skin and is very refreshing in the form of juice.
The water apple (jambu air) is brightly red and looks more
like a Christmas tree decoration than a fruit. The taste and texture
reminds of an apple and it is sometimes called "the Indonesian
apple". It is so common and cheap that one hardly finds it in the
traditional market. One tree can produce "thousands" of fruits in
Soursop (Sirsak) is another must. It exists only in the
tropics and doesn’t resemble any fruit in America or Europe. It can
weigh up to 7 kilo. The flesh is white and interspersed with many
small black seeds. The taste is sweet and unique. Try it!
Jackfruit (nangka) is a cousin of the breadfruit. It is
extremely big and can weigh up to 25 kilo. Jackfruit is normally
used in cooking as a salad, especially in the Minangkabau kitchen.
Street vendors often sell jackfruit in the form of roasted thin
slices. It can also be eaten as a normal fruit. The taste is unique
and sweet and the odor very pleasant. The peel has a resin that
The fruit of the Zalacca palm (salak) is often called “snake
skin fruit” by travelers due to its strange skin. It is a drop
shaped fruit with a thin peel looking like scales of a snake. It is
easy to peel. The fruit is divided in a few separate parts each with
a thin almost invisible peel that can be scrubbed away with a
finger. The taste is unique and cannot be described. The area around
Padang Sidempuan is a big producer of Salak.
Durian (durian) is the King – the king of fruits. It comes in
different sizes, but on an average as big as a bowling boll. It is
heavy and has sharp spikes, making it almost impossible to carry
directly in the hands. The smell is for an unaccustomed overwhelming
and terrible. In Singapore it is forbidden to bring durian on public
transportation. The fruit is hard to open. Normally a crack is made
in its end with a machete and then the thick peel is pulled apart,
using all the strength one has. The fruit meat is white and creamy
and is hidden in separate compartments. The taste is very special
and cannot be described. First time eaters normally say it is awful,
but already the second time they like it. Next time again they are
addicted! There is a lot of fuss around the selling and eating of
Durian. The fruit grows on huge trees. Anyone lucky to own a durian
tree once planted by the parents or grandparents, guard it when the
season comes. It is a special feeling to sit in the forest in the
middle night waiting for the fruits to fall down with heavy thumps.
The fruits are valuable and popular, not only amongst humans. The
durian is often sold along major roads. The buyer inspects every
individual fruit and sniffs the odor like a wine connoisseur. In
season one fruit cost a few thousand Rupiah, but off season many
times more. Do not eat durian when drinking alcohol. It can be