ramboutan/litchi chevelu (French), Rambutan (German), rambutan (Sri Lanka), ngoh (paa)(Thai), rambutan/gente (Malay), rambutan (Indonesian/Philippines), hong mao dan (Chinese)
(Nephelium lappaceum — Family Sapindaceae)
Rambutan is a fruit related to the litchi, and sometimes called “hairy litchis”.
Originally from Malaysia, it now grows in tropical Central America, South-East Asia, aswell as in Sri Lanka and Zanzibar, where they were introduced by Arab traders.
Rambutans are larger than litchis, averaging about two inches in length. Their larger size may be the allusion given by the long “hairs”. It is these hairs that gave the fruit its name of “rambut”, which is Malay for hair. They actually resemble small, hairy animals with reddish-brown leathery skin.
The fruits vary in quality and type. Colours range from crimson to greenish to yellow or orange.
The inner part is smaller than the litchi and has a similar texture. The flavour has a slightly sharper taste, somewhat like an almond; but it can be used in exactly the same way as the litchi.
To open the fruit, cut around the “equator” with a sharp knife penetrating only the skin. Lift off the top half of the skin, leaving the fruit on the half shell like an egg in an egg cup.
It can be added to fruit salads or made into jams but it is best eaten raw by itself.