Star Fruit: a unique tropical fruit popular in Sanya and Hainan
Sanya is blessed with plentiful sunshine and rich soil, which helps to create a vast array of succulent and healthy tropical fruits that possess amazing flavors, textures, and aromas.
The star fruit or carambola is a unique tropical fruit that can be found at local grocery store or market in Sanya.
This tropical fruit is readily available in Sanya and Hainan throughout the year.
This fruit acquired its name from the five pointed star shape – when cut across the middle (occasionally 4 or 6 ribbed fruit may occur). The 3 to 5 inch long fruit has a paper-thin, translucent, waxy, yellow-orange to green skin with tart crisp flesh. Star fruit range in taste from pleasantly tart and sour to slightly sweet with a complicated flavor combination that includes plums, pineapples, and lemons. The flesh is juicy and crunchy, and may be eaten skin, seeds and all or used as a garnish, in salads and in relishes and preserves. When used in cooking, green fruit are frequently used for their sourness. The juicy flesh is mostly water and does not hold up well when heated.
Although it is not now found in the wild, the star fruit is originally native to Sri Lanka and the Moluccas, and has been cultivated in Southeast Asia and Malaysia for almost 1,000 years. It is known many other names including: ‘belimbing’ or ‘belimbing manis’ (Indonesia), ‘mafueng’ (Thailand), ‘kamrakh’ (Indian), Chinese starfruit, star apple and Five angled fruit. Today they are also grown throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America, Florida and Hawaii because the fruit thrives on growing in a warm environment.
Two varieties are found in markets, one sour and the other slightly sweet. Their flavor is sometimes described as like a cross between an apple and a grape. It is almost impossible to tell the sweet and tart varieties apart, but in general the tart varieties have narrowly spaced ribs and sweet varieties have thicker, fleshier ribs; some also report that the yellower, the sweeter. The tastes between the two are hardly distinguishable, as the tart variety still has some sweetness. There are several white varieties, all of which are sweet.
Star fruit are an excellent source of vitamin C, is low fat, and naturally sodium and cholesterol free.
Traditional Medicinal Uses
Preparations of the leaves and roots have been used to cure headaches, hangovers, sore eyes, ringworm, prickly heat and chickenpox. Given to nursing mothers it is believed to stimulate the flow of milk.
How to Prepare Star Fruit
Step 1: Choose a Ripe Star Fruit.
When ripe, star fruit appear mainly bright yellow with tinges of light green. They may have some dark brown along the five ridges – this is normal. The flesh should still be quite firm to the touch. You can also buy star fruit when it’s green and wait for it to ripen – just leave it on your counter for a few days. When over-ripe, star fruit turns entirely yellow and starts to have brown spots all over.
Step 2: Cut Off the Dark Tip Along Each Ridge.
Rinse the star fruit, or lightly wash it with a vegetable wash.
Hold the star fruit vertically over a cutting board or counter-top. Using a sharp knife, cut very shallowly down along each of the five ridges (or “star points”), removing and discarding the brown outer edge.
Step 3: Cut Off the Stem End of the Star Fruit
Turn the star fruit on its side. You will see that one end of the fruit comes to a peak, while the other end is flatter with a dark spot (where the stem was attached). Cut off this end piece and discard.
Step 4: Slice the Star Fruit.
Now your star fruit is ready to be sliced. Like an apple, you can cut thin or thick slices – it’s up to you. Either way, you’ll love the beauty of cutting this marvelous work of nature.
If you’re cooking with the star fruit, check your recipe for cutting thickness instructions.
Step 5: Remove the Seeds.
Using the tip of your knife, remove and discard any seeds you find (Star fruit seeds are similar to apple seeds, but can be slightly larger and flatter).
Step 6: Enjoy Your Star Fruit!
Your star fruit is now ready to be eaten fresh, or added to salads (great in fruit salad!) or desserts. Star fruit is also excellent juiced – it’s especially delicious combined with pear juice. It also makes a beautiful garnish serving company as well as for cocktails. Just make a slit in the side of a small star fruit slice and slide it onto the side of your glass.