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Indonesia Fruit Installement 6: Lengkeng/Kelengkeng/Longan

I’ve become very fond of kelengkeng — that is the name I like most for this small fruit. It is just a fun name to say. Kelengkengs taste like a mix between a lychee and rambutan (I’ll write about rambutan one of these days). Kelenkeng are found all over Southeast Asia, thus the multiple names. Longan is the English name commonly used.

Kelengkeng grow on trees and on the branches hang the lovely fruit. When I first saw kelengkengs I assumed that eating them would be similar to lychee, peel and eat. As it turns out, I was correct.

The clear colored fruit with a dark seed in the middle earned kelengkeng the nickname dragon eye. And to be honest, I totally get that — it does kind of look like an eyeball (would great for Halloween).

The fruit itself is not very large. It has a mild sweet fruity taste and I like to keep them refrigerated and eat them cold.

Kelengkengs can be a bit pricier. A bunch can run up to Rp 25,000 ($2.80) or more. That may not sound like a lot, but at the local market I go to, I can buy about a week or more worth of vegetables for the same amount.

And here is the dragon’s eyeball:

Speaking of the market, it is a wonderful, slightly grimy place, where cats run around. You have to go early in the morning, so Emily and I usually make one trip a week. We went this morning and were able to buy mangoes, star fruit, guava, bananas, limes, avocado, eggplant, some vegetables I can’t identify, onions, shallots, carrots, ginger, Asian green beans and palm sugar for about $5. All of this would be about triple or more at a grocery store here. I love markets — the atmosphere, the smells and the sights. I am however, very cautious. I always ask the price of things before I buy, so if it seems high, I can just go to another stand. On our first trip to the market, our realtor’s maid took us and showed us the stands where she shops, so I feel good about the quality and the price. I am, however, very aware of the fact that there are three levels of pricing in Indonesia: Indonesian price, Chinese price, and then pale red-head girl price. I have to say though that no one has tried to rip me off yet at our market (or not badly enough that I noticed), so I am happy about that. And of course, I always have the thought, ‘OK, 10 cents or a bit more, maybe it will help someone.’ But, that always leads to more complicated thoughts as well…things aren’t black and white here. A lot of the time they fall into the shade of grey.


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