Star apple (牛奶果 or vú sữa)

Posted on September 23, 2013

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Let me introduce you to a favourite less commonly known tropical fruit of mine – the star apple. The star apple is so nostalgic for me. Though I can’t actually recall eating these as a child, my mum assures me that I did. And certainly when I became reacquainted with star apples in my adolescence, the taste felt extraordinarily familiar and evoked a real sense of ‘home’.

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While this delectable fruit can occasionally be found in selected fresh fruit markets, I have not yet seen these in mainstream grocery stores. I bought these ones recently at the Saigon Market in Footscray for $13/kg (for those unfamiliar with Saigon Market, the prices for produce fluctuate quite a bit at this market and it’s famed for flash sales at the end of market day). There are 2 varieties of the star apple, one with a green skin, the other with a purple skin. There is little taste difference between the varieties although the green ones are known for having thinner skin and more flesh. The cross section of the fruit will reveal a star like shape of the flesh, hence its English name. Apparently the star apple is native to the West Indies and Caribbean Islands, but has since spread to Central America and the tropics. Now they are grown extensively in South East Asia.

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This fruit, especially the green variety, is extremely common in my hometown and every time I go back to visit, my family ensure there is a constant supply in fridge. In Cantonese we call star apples 牛奶果, which quite literally translates to cow milk fruit. The Vietnamese name for them is vú sữa, meaning breast milk. In case you missed the not-so-subtle clues, this fruit has a milky flesh. The taste of the flesh is sweet, smooth and as you’d expect, milky. The texture is almost like a cross between of mangosteen and persimmon. There’s no real distinct flavour that I can describe, but overall it leaves a very pleasant silky sweetness on the palate.

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The skin, thick rind and seeds are not edible, so you cannot bite into the fruit to eat it. Star apples are commonly eaten cut in half with the milky flesh extracted using a spoon (my preferred method). I have also seen others ‘milking’ the whole fruit by gently squeezing the uncut fruit before piercing a hole through the top to suck out the milk. Either way, this is a really lovely fruit and I highly recommend you try it if you come across one.

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Posted in: MissC eats