When you go to the grocery store, chances are you're confronted with the usual piles of apples, berries, bananas, and melons. All well and good, right?
Sure—except it gets a little dull, and every now and then, you've gotta seek out something different. Something with a little pizzazz. Something that comes with surprisingly fashionable upholstery.
Maybe... something like this?
Say hello to salak, also known as snake fruit. That nickname is no surprise, especially when you take into account its scaly and, frankly, pretty fancy-looking skin. Seriously, people pay good money for belts and shoes with a similar look. Take an up-close gander at those scales:
Despite its unwelcoming exterior, the salak (which might have the best scientific name ever: Salacca zalacca) is a fruit that's widely known throughout Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia. It grows in clusters on palm trees and each individual fruit is about the size of a small plum.
Salak are easy to eat: just peel back the brown skin using dry hands and you'll see a couple of white bulbs. Next, peel off the paper-thin skin that covers the actual fruit. (Check out Indochine Kitchen, which walks you through the process step by step.)
Boom! You're ready to eat or cook with salak. Pro tip: According to Indonesian fruit sellers, salak that's more white than yellow tends to be tastier.
Then you bite into the firm, spongy flesh, which tastes citrusy, tart, and has honey-like sweet notes as well. Some people say it tastes like a cross between a very tart apple and pineapple or a pineapple that's been dressed with lemon juice.
Salak is most popularly enjoyed as is, but there are a few dishes that feature the fruit. They work wonderfully well when they're pickled:
Or in snacks, like these raw energy balls with dates:
Or in desserts. Restaurants in Asia have been know to make things like salak steeped in perfumed syrup with coconut dumplings:
And chef Will Goldfarb from Room 4 Dessert makes something called "Ghostface Keller 2: Liquid Curds," (yes, that's spelled right) which contains a tatin from salak, among other goodies (Reblochon, focasccia, papaya, etc.).
Your best bet is trying your local Asian market, if you happen to have one close by. If not, a few purveyors sell them online.