We lived in Singapore way back in the mid-90’s. At that time, we were bold and adventurous (and I believe we still are in MOST categories) so we tried most every type of food that came our way. My hubby and I both learned to love a lot of the “exotic” fruits of Southeast Asia which includes but is not limited to: lychees, rambutans, star fruit, dragon fruit, mangosteens, passion fruit and others. And in the true spirit of adventure and culture immersion, we tried everything, including jackfruit and durian. Didn’t really like jackfruit much but durian – OMG. For those in the know, durian smells like the back end of a weeks old dead dog thrown into a never-cleaned overflowing outhouse. It is so bad that it is banned from subways and buses in Singapore. Walk into any market and you can tell if they stock durian or not. Yep, that bad and yet we still gave it a go because oddly enough, it is loved by many in Southeast Asia and they swear by it’s sweet taste. We tried the durian ice cream and the durian creme puffs (on different days as it took awhile to work up our courage again). Held our noses, held our breath and nope, nothing worked to kill the stench that flows into the back of the mouth and made us gag so durian is definitely a thing we will never eat again, probably.
However, we did like and love a good many of the other fruits. My absolute favorite is the mangosteen which is a small ball of hard purple (and it is also banned in some hotels because it will stain their towels). You push on it until it breaks open and inside is some lovely, tasty white flesh – sometimes with some seeds and sometimes not. I learned that I can easily eat a dozen of these things at a single setting. Love, love, love mangosteens. So it was with great disappointment that I learned it is incredibly hard to find mangosteens in most countries outside of Asia. I guess that it does not travel well.
Fast forward past several years without mangosteens then our first year here, my first visit to Borough Market and I discovered one fruit and vegetable stall that had mangosteens in stock. OMG again! Hallelujah! Yippee! I cleaned them out of their entire stock that first day. Oops, OMG a third time. Yikes. the price is somewhat way, way, way, way higher than anywhere when you can buy them closer to the source. OUCH. I think I paid 3 or 4 pounds each! But I love them so much that I didn’t care. And very sad to say, I didn’t share either. By the time my husband got home that day, the mangosteens were just a happy tummy memory.
Luckily I don’t live in London and don’t get to go to Borough Market that often or our grocery budget would be way out of hand, but every time I do, I have found the mangosteens again and bought all I could carry or all I had money to get. Then one day I discovered that you could also get mangosteens at some of the markets in Chinatown, close to Leicester Square. Much cheaper but also much less in quality. Sometimes a mangosteen is sold past it’s prime and the white flesh inside is brown and yucky and almost every mangosteen I bought in Chinatown was either in this condition or very close to it. So no longer do I consider Chinatown to be a place to find good mangosteens – back to Borough Market whenever I can.
Last Thursday, my daughter and I headed to London as she still had a few Christmas presents to buy (yes, we just had Christmas as she didn’t get here until this week) and I headed to Borough Market to my fruit and veggie stall to get my fix of mangosteens. I walked through, walked through again, went through a bit faster looking desperately all around me and then went very slowly through checking bin by bin and no mangosteens!!! Surely I’ve just missed them and they have moved them somewhere else. There was the dragon fruit, the star fruit, the lychees, and other good exotic fruit but I was not seeing my purple passion! I went up to the clerk and asked and he informed me that they had sold out of mangosteens the day before. Oh No. I had based my entire trip and my day on getting to Borough and getting those little purple balls of glory. Someone else has decided to hoard mangosteens. Some evil person got there before me and stole my wonderful fruit. Some nasty, evil, devious, evil and triply evil person took them all. I was bereft, crestfallen, depressed, glum, and sad. Yes, mangosteens are that good.
No plans to go into London for probably the next month or so. drat it all. I will go again though and if they are out again, I may have to try Chinatown again and if they are bad again, I may have to fly to Singapore, just for mangosteens. Some say that the durian is the king of fruit but I think it is the lowly, lovely mangosteen. And please stay away from Borough Market if you plan to try them. get some in Chinatown again, or better yet, don’t get any. Leave them for me, a true enthusiast and affection-ado of the mangosteen.