Pucker, Squint, Swallow – Meet the Star Gooseberry
These tiny flavour-packed gems offer a sour break from Thailand’s sweet treats.
Words: Ariya Chaiyarit
Photo & Style: Samatcha Apaisuwan
If durian, mangosteen, rambutan, and longan are the sweet darlings of Thai fruit-lovers, then the tiny star gooseberry is their tangy upstart brother.
The star gooseberry is known as “mayom” in Thai – not to be confused with “mayong”, the orange marian plum.
The star gooseberry also has little in common with the European gooseberry, apart from its sour taste. This tropical fruit is believed to have originated in Madagascar but can now be found across Asia, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
Shaped like six-pointed stars, its berries may be tiny but they are crisp, juicy and tart enough to make your mouth pucker and your eyes squint. Chew carefully, because there’s a tiny pebble-like seed hidden inside.
The light-green berries ripen to a yellow-white colour and turn red when cooked. Eaten as a refreshing snack straight from the tree, these tiny flavour-packed berries are also transformed into culinary delicacies. Think pickled star gooseberries servied with chilli salt dip. Or in syrup. Or sun-dried, or pounded into a som tam or yum spicy salad. Also keep a look out for star gooseberry juice, jam and sorbet.
The berry and other parts of the tree have also been used in Thai traditional medicine for centuries. Local folklore says planting a star gooseberry tree in your garden will bring you “niyom” or admiration (the Thai word for admire sounds a bit like the fruit’s Thai name “mayom”).
Yet despite its wide-ranging uses, this berry is rarely found in supermarkets. So if you spot a street vendor selling these rare and juicy gems, grab a few!