Tasting Cempedak

Another interesting fruit found in many parts of south-east Asia is cempedak (Artocarpus integer). The first time I noticed it in the markets of central Cambodia I thought the vendors were selling breadfruit, but later I started wondering whether it was some sort of a mini jackfruit or even a small durian. As it turned out, it was none of the three. Although related to jackfruit and breadfruit — all three belong to the Moracea family characterised by large stately trees that can reach up to 20 metres (in contrast, durian is a member of the Malvaceae family) — cempedak is a separate species. Besides south-east Asia, the tree is also grown in Australia’s Queensland as an introduced plant.

The young vendor in the Cambodian town of Skuon was happy to cut the fruit open to make it easy for us to separate and consume the fruit segments, as shown in the photograph below. Each segment had a large seed, very similar to that of a durian. The taste and the smell too resembled durian to a certain extent, perhaps with a hint of a jackfruit. At one point I even thought that the fruit was perhaps a cross between the two – without the notorious smell of the former, but also without the juicy goodness of the latter. Overall, the fruit didn’t taste too bad. But with my curiosity satisfied, I doubt I’ll buy it again, especially while there is an abundance of tastier options available at every market around the country.

Cempedak (Artocarpus integer)

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