Strange Fruit, pt.3: Salak

I came back from my latest foray in the night market with a small bag of Buah Salak. These fruits are about the size and shape of a ripe fig. They are covered in a shiny, scaly peel that resembles snakeskin or armadillo hide. Inside, the flesh is firm, dry and crunchy, kind of like an unripe pear. As for the flavor, my report will have to wait till next time. You see, I got took. The whole half-kilo bag was unripe. I should’ve known I was about to be duped when I asked the innocent-looking 12-year-old running the stall how to tell a ripe salak from an unripe one. “These are all good,” he tells me. Yeah, right. There was enough hint of sweetness and flavor to make me definitely try again, but this batch was inedible. Kelat, they say in Malay: that woody, bitter aftertaste left on the roof of your mouth.

I wasn’t too happy with how the pictures came out, but I found some better ones. This site has artsy pictures of popular Balinese fruits, including the Salak. For you horts, this site has growing requirements and tips, as well as good pictures. This site has a lot of information, in bad english, about the Salak and the commercial Salak trade, which is big business in Bali. Finally, for the botanists: Salak is Salacca zalacca, formerly Salacca edulis. [Aside: You know, botanical names are supposed to provide a standard reliable name for describing plants, but I swear they change faster than common names. I can think of six or seven common Michigan plants that have had a name change since I last was last studying them.] This site has a catalog of the various Salacca palms in existence. Here in Kuching, Salacca conferta, Kelubi, is also readily available. It is smaller than the Salak, and is used as a sour ingredient in sauces. Apart from the size, they look pretty similar. I bought some a few weeks back thinking they were Salak…


11 thoughts on “Strange Fruit, pt.3: Salak

  1. Hmm.. picking up ideas from your website. I should do this also so I can introduce fruits to my in-laws and we can become fruity! Eh?

    I’m gonna miss these fruits. *sigh*

    *Note to self: Maybe you can be fruit importer when you get to U.S *

  2. You’d be surprised what fruits you can get in the US! I used to get a durian once a month or so whenever I went to the Vietnamese store for groceries. They are shipped frozen solid, so they lose more than a little flavor, aroma, and texture upon thawing, but I thought it was still worth the 8-10$ it would cost. But I never saw Salak in the States, so maybe there’s a niche there…

  3. does anybody know a really good site where I can find information on the salak friut? I am doing a project for my food studies class and I can’t seem to find any really good information yet.
    If you could send websites to me via email (firelover88@hotmail.com) that would be great.
    Thank you very much.

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