Acid Fruit in Asian Cooking

Acid Fruit in Asian Cooking

In Asian cooking, acid flavors are achieved by adding fruit juice, pulp or whole fruits with piquant flavors. Some acid fruits, example tamarind, are widely available and well known. Others are only known in the area of origin.

Some common acid fruits are like belimbing or billing (Averrhoa bilimbi) which looks like a miniature cucumber with thin, pale green skin and belongs to the same family as star fruit; gamboge (Garcinia cambogia) which starts out as a brilliant orange-colored segmented fruit but is dried for storing, turning black in the process; and asam gelugor (G.atroviridis), a sour fruit which is sliced, dried and used instead of tamarind in certain Malay dishes.

What leads to confusion is the free-wheeling labeling of some producers, who refer to gamboge as 'fish tamarind' and gelugor as 'tamarind slices', though they are not even from the same botanical family as tamarind. The fact that they provide acidity is reason enough - for them, at any rate - to justify the mislabeling.

In India, unripe mangoes are dried and ground into a powder called amchur which is useful when a piquant flavor is required without the liquid element of lime juice or tamarind. Dried pomegranate seeds, anardhana, are used in Indian cooking and added to certain dishes for a sour flavor.

Limes of many different types are used throughout Asia, with some kinds being flavored in certain countries. In the Philippines, kalamansi (small round citrus fruits also called musk lime) are indispensable. Malaysian cooks use limau nipis (a large lime) and limau kesturi (another name for kalamansi). In Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka, tamarind and fresh lime juice are as essential as salt. In Thailand, cooks cannot do without the highly perfumed rind and leaves of makrut (kaffir lime), a deep green fruit with knobby skin.

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