Friday, February 8, 2013

All About Rambutan

Rambutan is one fruit that a person never forgets once seen: its loud, spiky, flaming red exterior begs for attention. And, unlike the all-bark-and-no-bite dragon fruit, the taste of rambutan almost comes close to matching its colorful visage.

Origin of Rambutan
Rambutan originates in Malaysia, where it also got its name: “Rambut” in Malay means “hair,” which makes for an unsurprising moniker given its hook-like spikes. As explained in the book, “Rambutan Cultivation,” rambutan spread westward from its native region to Thailand, Burma, India, and Sri Lanka. It then branched eastward to Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

Today, Thailand’s Surat Thani province produces most of the world’s rambutans, with Indonesia as another top grower. Many diverse regions grow rambutan including parts of India, Sri Lanka, Hawaii, South America, Tanzania, Australia, Zanzibar, Central America, countries of the Caribbean, and Pacific Asian countries like the Philippines.

Availability of Rambutan in India
Botany professor Thomas P. Thomas speculates that rambutan came to India by way of Singaporean and Malaysian migrants. Since the fruit’s inauguration, limited production occurs in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. Despite growing here, most of India’s rambutan comes from Thailand.

Rambutan season is May through September, though Indian farmers are seeking ways to extend cultivation from March through December. To grow, the fruits require high rainfall, high humidity, and average temperatures of 20C and above.

Where to find Rambutan in India

In the south, rambutan is easily found in medium-sized produce stores. Usually, rambutan gets hauled to the wholesale markets, picked up by local suppliers, and sold to consumers. Pushcart vendors do not sell rambutan. Southern cities that do not grow the fruit but have them transported into their borders include Bangalore and Hyderabad. In the north, rambutan is nearly unheard of, with the exception of upper class consumers frequenting gourmet grocery stores in pursuit of high-priced Malaysian exports.

Checking for Ripeness in Rambutan
Rambutan turns from lime green, then pale yellow, and at its peak ripeness, to either yellow or red. The red varieties may be a light red with hints of orange, to a deep red with purplish hues. A good rambutan is slightly squeezable, indicating that the jelly-like flesh is ready for consumption.

Overripe rambutans are brown with brittle spikes. The aril shows signs of browning, smells fermented and becomes slimy instead of watery. Inspect fruits carefully for any cracks as well, as sour juice leakage is a surefire sign of spoilage.

When purchasing rambutan, the best are those sold in bouquets with the stems still attached. Most rambutans in Asian countries are sold in this manner, particularly those purveyed by street vendors. The second best is wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and lightly chilled, as this means moisture has been well regulated. Otherwise, purchasing loose fruits at room temperature is acceptable so long as the color of the fruits is still bright and inviting.

Taste of Rambutan

Rambutan shares similarities to lychee: the gelatinous flesh—technically known as the sarcotesta—surrounding the brown seed tastes bright, mildly sour and grape-like with citrusy hints. In comparison to a lychee, the flavor is more vibrant. Rambutans bear even fewer similarities with longans, as the latter have a darker, less robust flavor.

Nutritional Value of Rambutan
According to figures published by the book, “Edible Medicinal and Non-Medicinal Plants,” 100 grams of rambutan contains the following values:

59 kcal
84.7g Water
.7g Protein
.1g Fat
13.9g Carb
.3g Fiber
.3g Ash
22mg Calcium
6mg Phosphorous
2.5mg Iron
5mg Sodium
49mg Potassium
.01mg B1
.04mg B2
.1mg Niacin
38.6mg Vitamin C

Health Benefits of Rambutan
The World Agroforestry Centre explains that rambutans feature in several medicinal recipes. In Malaysia and Indonesia, the fruit acts as an astringent, stomachic, and anthelmintic. The leaves as part of a poultice manage headaches, and the roots treat fever and tongue diseases.

Rambutans have a few unconventional health benefits, specifically the rind:
--According to a study published in Food Chemistry, a compound found in rambutan rind called geraniin displays anti-hyerglycemic qualities
--A study published in Carbohydrate Research indicates that rambutan rinds inhibit fatty acid synthase, thus showing potential as a therapeutic agent to treat cancers and obesity
--As per a study published in LWT—Food Science and Technology, rambutan peel and seed extracts showed antibacterial activity against five strains of pathogenic bacteria.
--A study published in the Journal of Food Biochemistry advocates selling the anthocyanin-rich rinds as a good source of antioxidants based on their ability to scavenge free radicals and fight lipid peroxidation.

--According to a study published in the Journal of Biological Sciences, rambutan rind illustrated protective effects against collagen-induced arthritis when tested in rats, and thus holds potential in preventing tissue damage and arthritic inflammation.

How to Open/Cut
If ripe, rambutan’s pliable skin can be peeled with the fingertips. If the skin is a little tough, take a sharp paring knife and cut a small incision in the middle of the fruit. Then, pry the rambutan open and peel back half the skin. Squeeze the other half and the rambutan will come out.

If de-pitting is required, cut a long slit down the middle of the peeled rambutan. Use a small spoon or the fingers to remove the pit. To halve the fruit, score the rambutan lengthwise circling the pit, remove each half, and take out the pit.


Rambutans only keep for a maximum of three days at room temperature. In refrigeration, the fruits last for up to a week. Store the fruits at 10 Celsius, ideally wrapped in a paper towel or perforated plastic bag. Consume immediately once removed from the refrigerator, as rambutans are sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Canned rambutans last for 9 months. It is possible to freeze the fruit, but the flavor and texture will be adversely affected.

Rambutan Recipe Ideas and Uses:
For starters, rambutan may be substituted in any recipe calling for lychees.
--Simmer rambutan as part of coconut curry tofu recipes: the fruit pairs well with pineapple and mango in this dish as well.
--Make a vodka-based rambutan cocktail
--Make an icy rambutan sorbet, especially as a flavor complement to coconut
--Create rambutan pudding by folding in rambutan flesh into any vegan coconut pudding recipe
--Combine rambutan as part of a fruit salad, including pineapple, kiwi, strawberry, mandarin, mangosteen, and lychee
--Make rambutan chutney by caramelizing sugar on the stovetop and adding onion and zucchini. When glazed, add vinegar, water and a pinch of salt. Add the rambutan last and wait for a syrupy consistency.
--Make a smoothie by blending the fruit with banana, strawberry, and coconut water.
--Add chopped rambutan as part of a spring roll recipe. The sweetness of the rambutan mixes well with soy, vinegar, and peanut sauce dressings in the roll itself.
--Create a simple rambutan beverage by mixing blending rambutan pulp with water, limejuice, ginger, and strain. Add plain sugar syrup as desired, or use a tropical-flavored syrup available in most stores.

--Add rambutan to curry or Asian stir fry dishes. It’s best to add chunks of the fruit near the end of the recipe, exposing the fruit to only 5 minutes of heat from the pan.

Gorgeous raw vegan tufaa from
Dimitri the raw vegan chef

Flavor Complements:
Coconut, pineapple, mango, lychee, longan, strawberry, orange, mangosteen

Herbs, spices, and oil: tamarind, ginger, soy sauce, mint, basil, chocolate, coconut oil, coconut milk

Random Facts:
The seeds can produce make a cocoa butter-like substance, which may be used to produce soap and candy.

Scientific Name:
Nephelium lappaceum

Other Names:

Related Fruits:



  1. Good and complete information of the rambutam fruit.
    Srinivas Reddy

  2. rambutan is not available in north india :(

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