Wish Upon a Star Fruit
The star-shaped carambola, or star fruit, is perfect for jazzing up your dinner party – and even better if you’re watching your weight.
Words Chusri Ngamprasert
Photo Kay Choomongkol
Its strange yellow segments radiating from a fleshy core give no clue as to why the carambola is more commonly called star fruit. The reason for its popular name only becomes apparent when the fruit is sliced horizontally to reveal a perfect five-pointed star.
This heavenly fruit is believed to have come originally from Sri Lanka or Indonesia, though it has been widely cultivated in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent for centuries. However, in some places it is grown more for its ornamental qualities than its tastiness.
There are several varieties of carambola, but the two main types are categorized by taste – the small sour star fruit and its larger sweet cousin. The sour variety has higher oxalic acid content, so people with kidney problems are advised to give it a miss.
But they’re a godsend for those watching their waistline, because not only is the star fruit low in calories and sugar, it’s also high in fibre, vitamin C and other beneficial minerals.
Yellow when ripe, the entire fruit is edible, including the thin waxy skin. Sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, the fruit’s translucent flesh barely has more than 4% sugar content. The star fruit is crunchy, firm, and incredibly juicy with a tart, sour undertone – like a mix of grape, pear, apple and citrus fruit.
These delicious yellow orbs are excellent when consumed fresh, but also tasty when added to savoury dishes, desserts, juice, and blended into smoothies or even cocktails. You can also add more pizzazz to your regular dishes by garnishing them with these neat little star-shaped decorations.
In Thailand, the star fruit or Ma Fueang is used to give dishes a sour bite. Tom Yum Gai Ma Fueang (hot and sour Thai soup with chicken and star fruit) will tantalise the palate of any adventurous foodie. The traditional Thai appetizer, Mah Hor or galloping horses, also takes tastebuds for a ride on its bite-sized slices of tangy star fruit (or sometimes pineapple) served with a dollop of sweet-savoury peanut sauce.
So, bring the carambola into your life and let those yellow starts make your dishes shine.