Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Day 94- Thai Artisans- Fruit For Thought

I can't really believe that I was back in Bangkok again, so soon after the last trip but work and duty called, lucky me. I was there for 4 days, 28th- 31st Aug, Friday to Monday.

I had some free time on Friday and right after I checked in, I headed straight to JJ aka Jatujak/Chatuchak. Many shops do not open on Fridays at the "weekend market" but that was good because it meant no crowd. It was drizzling a little too that afternoon and the experience of meandering through the maze of stalls with the sound of rain on the zinc roof was pleasant beyond words.

As things turned out, it was to be the best 2 hours spent at JJ because I met Laiad, a Thai artisan. It was a little surreal as I have fallen in love with Laiad's mini rambutans months ago when I saw them in a Singapore shop. Due to some unfortunate incident, I could not buy them then and so, when opportunity knocks the 2nd time, you don't ask too many questions. You just buy 50 crates of these fruits and then promise to be back for more!

It is 5 days after my return, my 4th session at this post (see I started this post since 2/9)..too many things on my crate (1" wide, 5/8"high, 1 5/8" long)..well, I can't wait to show these off so ladies, and maybe one or two gentlemen, may I present....

The rambutan is cousin to the longan and the lychee. Rambutans are grown mainly in Malaysia and Thailand. Sometimes known as Hairy Lychees, there was limited planting in India. In '04, India banned the import of exotic fruits like rambutans and melons. Thanks to the prohibition, this forbidden fruit is now sweeter than ever and is the favourite contraband of our palace.

Now these are the real lychees, no hair! India is one of the top five world producing countries although the best lychees are from China. Few can resist the sweet juiciness of fresh lychees but personally, I love them chilled. All you have to do is to throw peeled lychees into the freezer and then wait 3 hours before serving. For other great Indian lychee recipes , check out "Live To Eat" .

Closely allied to the glamorous lychee, longan is often regarded as its poor cousin with nicknames like mamoncillo chino in Cuba ("little brother of the lychee"), or li-chihnu, ("slave of the lychee"). Longan means "dragon eyes" in Mandarin and is so named because of the fruit's resemblance to an eyeball when it is shelled (the black seed shows through the translucent flesh like a pupil/iris).


A somewhat less edible fruit of the family Meliaceae.
Small, white or pale-yellow, fleshy, mostly bisexual.
--Julia F. Morton, Fruits of warm climates, pp. 201-3.

A puzzling and rather scandalous description of a fruit that has launched national campaigns (Thailand) and caused mass hysteria (India). Just last year, the Thai Government has proclaimed “Longkong: A fruit of friendship” because the bunching of the fruits signify tight relationships. This campaign has backfired as in April this year, Thai teenagers in the South were caught using the leaves of the longkong tree to concoct a new illicit drug, giving new meaning to the phrase "high on friendship". You may mistake longkongs for longans but the latter has scaly skin while longkongs' are smooth and mildly poisonous.

(Honeydews, Cantaloupes and Water Melons)
Melon Shoe

These melons need no introduction surely, except to say that they can be made into hats and shoes (click on pics to see where you can find them). ALSO, if they are from Peru, they are banned, banned, banned in India. You can read this 56 page report for the reasons why. By the way, a Japanese farmer has invented square watermelons and although these are not banned, they are prohibitively expensive. I remembered water melon being my 1st ever favourite fruit. Can you remember which one is yours?


Ancestor of the common grapefruit, pomelo is the largest citrus fruit in the world. It is precisely this size that makes it a perfect fruit gift . As nothing is more moving than the sight of someone's shoulder sloping while he/she heaves and pants toward your house carrying a heavy load of pomelo from their hometown. That's why FaiZ brings back to Singapore car trunk load of them (the best, he claims) everytime he visits his hometown in Ipoh and seriously, FaiZ is one of the most popular guys I know. I am not a fan of pomelos but I do love the skin as it smells like a flower bath PLUS it too can be made into ridiculous clothes.

In India, the first mangoes of the year make newspaper headlines and herald the coming of summer. "Mango Mania March-May" happens once a year when mango frenzy is in full swing. This is a country where people know better than anyone how to reincarnate a mango: street vendors squeezing mango juice; fashionable bars mix mango martinis; and restaurants at five-star hotels launch mango minifestivals featuring expensive avant-garde mango curiosities while loving mothers pickle the green mangoes so their kids can have them all year round.

This “queen of fruits” is widely considered the most luscious and delicious delicacy in all fruitdom, One of my favourite fruits, sadly for some of you, countries prohibit their imports as these ambrosial fruits may carry asian fruit flies, also known as lucky-ass bastards. When imbibing, do take care that the purple skins do not touch your clothes for nothing can remove the stain it caused. It is precisely this indelible quality that makes it one of the best weapon for vengeful harem girls.

Dragon Fruits
I know many people have not seen this fruit, not to mention taste it. I believe it did not become popular in Singapore until my nephew was 3 and I see them in mum's house all the time. Nathaniel is fed dragonfruit everyday for its laxative quality. I have tasted it the grand total of 1 mouthful and it is disappointingly tasteless, like paper (yes, I have tasted paper, couple of times). I'd buy them though because they are so beautiful. In fact if there is a beauty pageant for fruits, this one will be crowned Miss Universe, the Longkong, Miss Friendship. Here is a funny story of an Indian family's 1st encounter with this fruit.

Fragrant Pears, Mandarins and Star Fruits

Fragrant Pears- A misnomer as there is hardly any fragrant but the taste is superb. In contrast, regular pears smells good but taste like sawdust. Originates from China, this pear made headline news on New York Times when it was first imported into America in 2006. The Chinese have cultivated pears for so long that producing delicious pears is no longer a challenge. Now, they are into art shaped pears, like little babies hanging from trees.

Mandarin Orange-Another 3000 year old fruit which is so much easier to peel, its nicknamed "kid glove orange" or "honey pixie", By the way, just so you know, all tangerines are mandarin orange but not the other way around. I hope to grow a lot of these blooming trees in my palace's backyard because they are a symbol of abundance in gold (very popular during Chinese New Year).

Star fruit-This is one tree I cannot miniaturise because in India, it grows to 4000 feet high (333 ft in 1:12!!). Best used in salads unless you have kidney problem for a mere 100ml of its juice will kill. Symptoms of starfruit poisoning includes confusion, nauseousness, agitation and epileptic fits. Oh yes, hiccups too.

Bananas & Papayas
These 2 fruits are featured together for their diametrically opposite qualities. On the one hand, we have the shapely and nutritious banana which contains chelating minerals and the bromelain enzyme, said to enhance the male libido. Central Americans drink the sap of the red banana as an aphrodisiac, while Hindus regard it as a symbol of fertility. A banana left on a doorstep indicates that a marriage is about to take place. Bananas made an early appearance in the Garden of Eden; according to Islamic myth, Adam and Eve covered themselves not with fig but banana leaves.

On the other hand, women in India have long used green papaya for contraception and abortion. Enslaved women in the West Indies are also noted for consuming papaya to prevent pregnancies and thus preventing their children from being born into slavery. Medical research in animals has confirmed the contraceptive and abortifacient capability of papaya, and also found that papaya seeds have contraceptive effects in adult male langur monkeys, possibly in adult male humans as well, since they are considered quite similar.

Now, I did not know that peculiar quality about papaya until today. I have heard however about pineapples being used that way. Apparently it was the Europeans (probably English) who gave it the name "pine apple" because they thought the fruit resembled pine cones. Pineapples are used quite a lot in Kerala Ayuvedic treatments for their digestive quality.

By now, if you can understand what I am writing, you are in better shape than me, so thank goodness we are now coming to

(which many of you probably know more about than me)
Grapes & Sugar Apples
I just want to say that of all the fruits here, sugar apple is the only one I have never tasted. It is expensive here, 1 fruit cost about S$3 at the economical food mall! Fafa loves it and told me it taste like milk. Just as well, I hate the taste of milk.

Strawberries and Apricots
I am trying to remember if I have ever tasted fresh apricots. Dried ones, zillion times but I am not sure if the fresh ones are even sold here. Time to go grocery shopping..


Another fruit I am not fond of. As you can guess by now, I avoid fruits that taste like you are chewing sawdust OR



dora said...

Me encanta leer lo que escribe, es como una enciclopedia, gracias por compartir con nosotr@s, cosas que hasta ahora yo no conocia. De las frutas que describe, hay algunas que ni conocia. Gracias
Un besito Carmen

Sans said...

Querida Carmen, me alegro mucho de que alguien lee mi mensaje largo .. lol

Josje said...

You lucky person, visiting Thailand again! And what beautiful fruits you've bought. I love nearly all of them, especially the rambutans (delicious and beautiful) mangosteens, dragon fruits and pineappels. Hate the taste of papaya (love bananas though, does that say anything about me, haha?) and avocado. Probably wouldn't like sugar apples either as like you I really, really don't like milk.
I love the little bits of information you provide with each fruit, lots of little facts I did not know.
The colours of the fruits will look wonderful in your Palace scenes.

Sans said...

You and me both, Josje, no to papaya cos to me it tastes like milk too :).

On Laiad's fruits, I am not too crazy about her grapes (too pointy) and watermelons (not to scale) . Apart from that, I think her fruits are amazing. I have already started placing the crates in my next "scene" and if I may say so, they do look kind of great.

Eva said...

Have you bought all tese wonderful fruits????
You are a lucky woman, be sure!!
Mainly all these fruits now can be bought in Europe but there are some that I have not idea about how they taste.
The minis are so beautiful!!
Do not worry about sending a gift, not hurry :)
Now I want to finish the nautical small roombox and after that I want to start with my little dollhouse. Can you believe that I am still doubting????
My hisband wants a English pub and I love the shabby chic house like the Mercedes, Sylvia and others mini friends LOL What a different styles!!!
Perhaps the old, tudor and rustic pub could be more challenging...I want and old building full of little details...

Pubdoll said...

This was quite a mouthful :-)
Stunning pics of stunning fruits, lots of interesting and funny facts, and funny links as well!
The longkong is my favourit because of all the fun stories linked to it :-) But except from that, my favourites to eat are strawberries, lychees and pineapples. But I start every workday with bananas, hmmm perhaps I should stop?

Liberty Biberty said...

Well, those little mini fruits are quite something! Lucky you!
Call me strange (amd many do) but I can't say I ever eat fresh fruit - maybe the odd strawberry in summer but only if it's smothered in icing sugar and served with ice-cream.

Anonymous said...

Wow - what a wonderful collection of fruit. Thank you so much for this lesson in fruit as there are many there that I have never heard of before. It was very interesting.

Sans said...

oooooh, Eva an old Tudor rustic pub ?? I think it's a fabulous"dark shabby with with pub and well, who doesn't like a Tudor (lol, we call our little Alfa Romeo GT 2000 (1970 vintage) a "Two-Door (Tudor)..haha, sorry for the digression")I have wanted to make you something for ages I finally know what I can try my hand at..:)

Do these fruits can be bought in Europe? I know 1 fruit that few will see in their country.. durians! Maybe next trip :)

Sans said...

LOL , Helene, we all love our bananas, don't we? Me too. In my household, we can finish 1 whole bunch in 1 day. And banana is a complete food and a fabulous meal on its own although I swear they attract the most fruit flies.

I tell you I find my stories going stranger with every fruit research .. it was so funny, the square water melons and baby shaped pears! The Chinese and Japanese are trying to outdo each other in "weirdodom".

Mercedes, no fresh fruits !! Not even bananas??! :) Actually , I do know many people who almost never eat fruits or ice cream or icing sugar ..:)

Hiiii Doreen :), thank you for visiting. LOL, the snippets are hardly lessons. Just juicy tit bits :)!

Texas Belle said...

Wow, Sans, these look great - I can see why you bought out the store, lol! Lots of interesting varieties here that I've never even heard of. I always learn so much when I come to your blog. I can't wait to see the scene you create with these!

Snowfern said...

whew. that's...ALOT OF FRUIT. i'm hungry.

welcome back! i've been feeling poorly and it's already september and we haven't had our playdate yet :( btw, i've been meaning to ask fellow miniature collectors, how do you keep the dust out??? :O there's no room in my house to put up showcases :(

Snowfern said...

oh and are the sugar apples - custard apples? my grandma used to have a coupla custard apple trees in the backyard of her old place, they taste heavenly! think soursop, but supersweet. mmm yea they're pretty costly but now i'm hankering after the taste of my childhood.....

Sans said...

Thank you Belle. Laiad does pretty fabulous food stalls too. Really artisan standard. I am very sure she will meet a standard even as stringent as yours. So check her out if you are in Bangkok. And on the facts, I too learn many new things after the research so its just as fun for me to do this. :)

Sans said...

Oh dear, Cindy! I know from your posts that your hand is still not healed. Since Bangkok, I have also caught the flu and you know how every flu case here is now a H1N1! Anyway, I am also super busy :) but I always remember our play date.

Sugar apples is a specie similar to custard apple (from my research) probably green pear v fragrant pear or orange and mandarins etc. I was told Seng Siong sells custard apple for S$3 each. If they really taste like sour sop.. then YUMMMMS! Love them!

Dust..hmmm, my house is a dust haven. Ok, I swear by 2 things: always always use Scotchguard or paper protector for cloth/paper minis. They preserve the paper's colour AND gives it a protective layer so that they don't get dirty easily. My tent, which was finished months ago is still quite squeaky (ok, maybe that's an overstatement) clean. You will see when you are here. I spray thm again after 3-6 months. By which time, things are falling off!

Cindy, I may have a very exciting project where I hope to get you interested. I will email you when things are more firm.

Snowfern said...

oooo scotchguard! good tip! my place is a mess. more so since i've been slacking on the housework and i have a good excuse -not- to hold a broom/mop :P

ooo is it a CHALLENGE??? wooo! i will be sorting out a few requests (had some a month back for smaller scaled work but ....anyway...) and a few new ones too...i'm getting really excited but trying to work moderately.

i've been spending some time (now that i have time) reading your blog from the beginning and it's so intriguing! i'm up to february now...:P slow...and steady.....PICTURES SURE DO HELP! hee hee hee *blush* everything makes a lot more sense now, i'm sorry i've been such a slouch hee hee

you have to take care of the flu aftermath. it seems h1n1 is harder to shake off than most flus, and you'll feel alot weaker during the recovery period. drink more water!

Katie said...

Oh Sans! I sure hope you are feeling better ny now.... :)

What lovely fruits.....LOL, I don't know what half of them are, but they sure are pretty. Im 'allergic' to citric acid, which in in most fruits, and kinda gave up eating htem years ago. I do still love applesauce, and every once in a while I'll sneak a strawberry in. Techinally, pears and blueberries are the only 2 fruits that don't have citric acid in them......

My first memory of fruits was when I was little and my Dad and I would go on walks through the countryside and pick blackberries! I cam still taste them now:) Yum!

Thanks for all the info! Never realized there was so many different kinds of fruit out there! :)

Sans said...

Katie & Cindy, I feel better now, thank you :) and no, it is not the dreaded H1N1 although it is so common here, it is no longer scary :).

Katie, I love your 1st "fruit memory". I have never been to a fruit orchard except tea plantations. The blackberry farm must smell heavenly! One day, I will go work in a Italian fruit orchard for 1 summer (pay me in fruits!) I don't have very many 1st memories but there's something wondrous about how the taste of a fruit can jolt forgotten thoughts.

Ara said...

Such a wonderful post!! and how great for you to meet and artisan you have admired!! I think my first favorite fruit was probably apples (just because as a child I could chug apple juice like nobodys business! My mother had to mix it with water so I didn't get too much sugar from it!). I found it interesting that you could get Starfruit poisoning.... I know I have had that a lot before! Your palace will have such a wonderful kitchen full of food!! -ara

Sans said...

:):) Thank you Ara. Well, you know what they say about an apple a day..I only like the green ones cos the red ones sometime taste like sawdust..haha! Writing this as kiwi juice is running down my fingers...slurp!

Jean Day said...

Absolutely amazing fruit, so beautifully made, how fortunate for you to meet the artist! The colours are stunning. Mini Hugs, Jean

Sans said...

Jean, nice to see you here :). I hope you will be back to see the scene where this fruits are displayed :).

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