Saturday 29 March 2008

salak: snake fruit

Salak, Salacca zalacca

During our honeymoon in Bali, Jonas and I managed to try this strange little fruit.

One of our drivers bought a whole bag and I watched him munch through them, one after another. I wasn’t surprised when he confessed they were his favourite fruit.

Before going to Bali I had never seen nor heard of salak before. In English, they are known as snake fruit and it’s easy to see why: their coarse skins look very much like the scales of a brown snake.

Apparently salak means bark in both Indonesian and Malaysian where the plant, related to palms, originates.

Trees take four years for their first fruit and although that’s a long lead time to yield results, the fruit has its own protective “wrapper” which prolongs shelf life and prevents bruising.

Each fruit weighs around 90g and the protective casing peels off to reveal three segments of firm-fleshed, creamy-white coloured fruit.

Usually eaten fresh, it can also be pickled or candied in syrup.

There are around 30 cultivars but the two most common types of salak are salak pondoh from Yogyakarta and salak Bali from (yep, you guessed it) Bali. Salak Bali smells a lot less punguent than salak pondoh and is therefore more popular with foreigners.

Salak had a beautiful flavour that reminded me of a combination of pear and pineapple, with a slight tang. Unfortunately it lacks juiciness and has a dry-mouth feel, which is apparently caused by high levels of tannin. I’m not sure I liked salaks because I felt it needed more juice to be pleasing.

All over the internet I have seen comments about people outside South East Asia buying salak and having awful experiences but from all the comments and photos it seems they have bought soft, rotten fruit that has become translucent and pungent. The salak I tried was white and hard while the scent was like delicate pineapple. In fact the hotel used the fruit to scent our room.

Although there is no recipe attached, I thought it might be interesting to share a fruit rarely seen outside its native South East Asia. That this is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging: hosted by Ramona from The Houndstooth Gourmet.




  1. Good things are worth waiting for! Thans for entering this into Weekend Herb Blogging.

  2. Very interesting. I've never even heard of this before. I wonder if you could chop it up in some kind of fruit salad with some liquid to get rid of the too-much-tannin effect?

  3. Thank you for the information. Salak is in my top priority list for culinary exploration! I do not recall trying them when we were in Bali.

  4. We had an 'exotic fruit' display at my local supermarket last winter... I bought a passion fruit, a pomegranat, a starfruit, and one other I had never heard of....That's as exotic as we get in our little backwater....
    These look interesting - and sound delicious!. With so much tanin I wonder if there are other uses for them...

  5. hi, i am indonesian and we really eat these bad boys all the time when they are in season. But we believe that this one is not good for our toilet we try to limit ourselves ^_^

  6. These look amazing!

  7. hi!
    my wife and i just returned from bali. the first time i tried this fruit, i thought it was ok, it had an interesting flavor but not to desirable, then a french couple introduced me to slicing it up and squeezing some fresh lime on it. the combination of flavors is amazing! i ate way to many of these little fruit after that. definately worth a try.

  8. Your blog is really great. I love it when food blogs surprise me and give me new perspectives on things. Thoroughly enjoying it. Keep up the great work.

  9. I admit that I never heard this or seen this before. It looks little freaky though.

  10. Salak is a delicious and wonderfully distinctive fruit, but you have to catch it at the perfect stage of ripeness. Then it is not at all too dry, as you complain.


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