06/06/13 3:50pm

Have You Ever Had A Good Mangosteen?

The leathery skinned mangosteen is renowned for its exquisite flavor.

The leathery skinned mangosteen is renowned for its exquisite flavor.

The mangosteen is the Holy Grail of tropical fruit to me. For years the leathery orbs native to Southeast Asia were illegal in the United States. Several years ago I took a trip to Toronto and scored two or three. As I recall never did wind up eating them. And last year, I purchased a bag, sadly one out of five were moldy. The ones that weren’t were tasty, but not worth the exorbitant price.


Slice through the leathery skin to find the succulent fruit inside.

Slice through the leathery skin to find the succulent fruit inside.

Earlier this week I stopped by Ou Jiang City Supermarket (40-38 Main St.) in Flushing and decided to spring for a bag of the rare fruit. My bounty cost just under $20. These better be good I thought to myself as I toted them back home to Rego Park on the  Q-58 bus. When I got home I immediately sliced one open, taking care not to slice into the whitish flesh within or my hand. With a twist I popped the top off and put one of the segments in mouth. It was refreshing—tart and sweet—the tutti-frutti of fruits if you will. It was good but not transcendent, this did not stop me from eating all of them save one. Best of all none of the mangosteens were rotten, if anything some were a tad under ripe.

“To eat the mangosteen, it is necessary to eat the mangosteen grown within three or four degrees of latitude of the equator to realize at all the attractive and curious properties of this fruit,”wrote James Herbert Veitch of an 1892 to visit to Java. Yesterday I asked a more contemporary globetrotter, Andrew Zimmern, whether he’d ever eaten a good mangosteen in the States. His response: “Never. And ones others say are good pale compared to the real thing.” I am pretty sure that the ones I purchased came from Thailand. Here’s what I’d like to know: Have you ever had a good mangosteen, in the States or elsewhere?  Tell me in the comments or hit me on the Twitter, @JoeDiStefano.

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12 Comment

  • Nice post kind sir. I remember buying a bag of mangosteen a couple years ago in Chinatown NYC for about 20 $ and only 2 out of 5 were edible with a few brown spots mixed in. Not a great first experience. Then I was in viet town in orlando last year and found another bag. Didn’t realize til I got in my car and looked at the receipt that they were 45 $!!! To this day I yearn to have a real taste of the good stuff. I can imagine it being the what I was hoping for all along. The best fruit in the world.

  • Great question Joe…

    In US – they suck
    In London – they are marginal
    In Australia – they are passable
    In Hong Kong – they are pretty good
    In Thailand – they are incredible

    They are my favorite fruit but I won’t waste money on them here until they figure out a way to preserve the flavor of get them from a better source.

  • Of course not. Never!

  • I once had an emergen-c electrolyte packet that was mangosteen flavored and it was delightful, slightly enchanting. Apparently Queen Victoria was rather partial to them but she had a empire at her disposal so maybe that’s what it takes to get a good one.

  • Yep! I ate a bag a day when I was living in Bangsean, Thailand. Worth the purple hands and sticky fingers, my yard would be loaded with the skins I had thrown away. They are amazing, truly the “unicorn of fruit” as I say. Then I come to NYC and spy them in Chinatown, spending $20 for perhaps 6 of the precious jewels and blech! Clearly they had been frozen to ship over and were mushy inside. There is a small taste of the real thing, but pales in comparison and definitely wasn’t worth the price. Also after bragging to all my friends about how tasty they were, everyone clearly kind of thought I was a crazy person after their first taste of the US mangosteen. Unfortunately, due to the freezing and the packing and the long journey, the mangosteens in the US just aren’t meant to be. Just need to get back to Thailand again!

  • I had one in Beaune, France about 10 years ago, before they were legal in the US. I was really looking forward to it, since I had heard all the hype. It was nothing special.

    Guess I’ll have to wait to get to Thailand.

  • I had truly amazing mangosteens in Thailand, several years ago, in the rainy season, July and August. It was the best fruit I have ever eaten. I enjoy durian too, but durian is not as good as fresh mangosteen. I went back one November a few years later, and they were much harder to find, and most of the ones that I *did* find were not as good (mostly in the fruit sections of department stores in big malls — yes, their department stores sell fruit!). Presumably they are seasonal.

    I have shied away from trying the imported ones here in the U.S. after reading many reports of terrible disappointment. I’ve had some decent freeze-dried ones, though, but not recently.

  • The mangosteens I had in Indonesia (Sumatra and Java) were like nothing I’ve had before or since. Sweet and very juicy. I purchased some in Chinatown (Manhattan) and it was nothing like I remember. In Sumatra they sell 5 for 25 cents.

  • You must go to (sub)tropical Asia, where the mangosteens are abundant, cheap (a steal at $2.50/kilo) , and delicious beyond words. I had them in Hong Kong, where I ate them till I was literally sick. And I will do so again whenever I go back.

    I think the real issue is transporting them – the ones I had had a vibrant, deep purple shell, and the fruit was snow-white and juicy, which I think is reasonably indicative of their ripeness. Due to the time it takes to ship (and thus picking them at too early a stage), and likely also because of being irradiated, the fruits are only a shadow of what they could have become.

    I do wish they were more available and of better quality in our parts ’round here. I miss them so.

  • Right now Thailand is abundant with this fruit along with Rambutans. Everyday I would walk five minutes to the local fruit stall in my street and bring home 1 kilo of Mangosteens (about 15~18 pcs) and it costs only 20 baht (~65 cents). The flesh is sweet and tangy and so, so delicious. You actually don’t need to use a knife to slice around it, a simple twist in the center breaks it neatly in half. The trick to find the tasty ones is to squeeze it lightly to see if there’s any give, hard skin, soft interior. Skip the ones with yellow sap.

    • Funny you mention rambutan. I just had some the other day from the same shop. Like the mangosteens they seemed under-ripe juicy but not super sweet. I’m not even going to bother asking how cheap the mangosteens are in Thailand.

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