Hala fruit: tropical fruit or exploding planet? The hala fruit is a unique alien-like fruit indigenous to the Pacific islands' beaches. It’s noted for its gently sweet tropical flavors, and its juice and pulp are used in various dishes, from sweets to curries.
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What is Hala Fruit?
Hala fruit (Pandanus tectorius) is native to tropical regions in the Pacific Islands in places such as Australia, Hawaii, Polynesia, the Philippines, Southeast Asia, and Papuasia. Most hala trees are on the sandy beaches of these tropical locations and produce a rare tropical fruit that looks like an exploding planet.
Hala fruit is its common name, but it also goes by the Tahitian Screwpine or pandan. It has a delicate flavor that many compare to jackfruit, with notes of bananas, mangoes, pineapple, and sugar cane.
The History of Hala Fruit
The Hawaiians once believed that the hala tree was spread all over the islands when the god Pele furiously ripped the plants from its tangled prop root system and flung it in a fit of rage over the islands. The Hawaiians not only indulged in the tropical fruit of this plant but also used the lau hala (or the solid and stable leaves) to build things like baskets and canoe sails.
These tropical delicacies are incredibly rare and hardly ever leave the shores on which they grow. Sometimes, local cultivars ship hala fruit to novelty shops across the globe, but it’s rare to see it pop up in a market. If you want to try the hala fruit, your best option is to book a plane ticket to the Pacific Islands!
What Does a Hala Fruit Taste Like?
Hala fruit has a very mild and delicate flavor. Some find that it tastes similar to jackfruit or Juicy Fruit gum! It has a very fibrous texture, and it’s not very juicy, but the flavors are exotic.
When eaten raw, it has subtle notes of pineapple, mango, and sweetness like sugarcane. When cooked, the sweetness intensifies, and it lends a gentle kiss of tropical sweetness to curries and stews.
How to Tell When Hala Fruit is Ripe
As such an unusual fruit, it may be difficult to tell when a hala fruit is ripe, but here are a few steps to help you pick out a perfectly ripe fruit.
|When perfectly ripe, inside drupes that peek out of the rind turn a stunning red, yellow, and orange shade. If it looks like an exploding planet, it’s ready to eat.
|Even when perfectly ripe, hala fruit is very firm and solid, so the firmness test isn’t the best way to check for ripeness.
|If you can smell subtle hints of banana or pineapple, it means it’s ripe.
|It is likely past its prime if you see a lot of bruising or brown spots outside the hala fruit.
Are Pineapples and Hala Related?
While pineapples and hala fruit may look like distant cousins, they are not closely related. The Hala tree is a member of the Pandanaceae family of tropical flowering plants, while the pineapple is a member of the Bromeliaceae family.
The flavors are distinct despite having a similar fibrous texture and vibrant coloring. Pineapples are sharp and bitter with a hint of sweetness, while Hala fruit is much sweeter and less acidic and bitter than pineapples.
Can I Eat Raw Hala Fruit?
Yes, you can eat hala fruit raw! It has a beautiful aromatic sweetness that tastes lovely when perfectly ripe.
The only downside to raw hala fruit is that the texture is quite fibrous and a little dry, similar to the jackfruit. One of the best ways to enjoy this fruit raw is to blend it into a fruit smoothie the help draw out all its natural juices.
Cooking with Hala Fruit
Preparing hala fruit is slightly different from your average fruit because it has such an unusual rind and thick fibrous meat. Here’s a quick and easy way to prepare hala fruit for cooking.
- Remove each phalange or segment from the central core, rinse thoroughly, and set aside.
- Boil. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and boil the phalanges of this fresh fruit until they soften slightly.
- Remove from the pot, and press down on the yellow ends to release the juice, leaving behind the rigid flesh.
When you have your precious hala fruit juice, it’s time to dive into some stunning tropical recipes!
Hala-Kahiki Pastries: Think of these like tropical pineapple upside-down cakes, only better! They pair the delicately sweet flavors of hala fruit with a tender pastry for a dessert that’s out of this world.
Pandan-Scented Chicken and Tomato Curry: For a classic Malaysian dish, this fragrant curry is sure to impress. It incorporates aromatic notes of Pandan leaves that deliver a lovely floral sweetness against the bold curry spices.
Sri Lankan Chicken Curry: This is one unique red curry dish. It’s spicy and sweet, and the pandan flavors take the flavors over the top. Be sure to prepare a big bowl of fluffy white rice for this stunning and easy dinner dish.
How to Store Hala Fruit
Hala fruit doesn’t store like your average fruit. The best way to store this fresh fruit is to keep it at room temperature on the countertop to maintain its freshness.
When stored on the countertop, it will stay fresh for a few days before the inside dries out. You can also freeze it, where it will remain fresh for a few months.
Nutritional Benefits of Hala Fruit
Hala fruit is an excellent source of essential vitamins and nutrients, but its real claim to fame is its elevated levels of beta-carotene. Beta carotene is an antioxidant that helps fight off free radicals, promotes eye health, and even fights off certain eye diseases.
A diet that includes hala fruit boosts your immune system, regulates your digestive system, and promotes healthy hair and skin. Some even use the very fibrous meat inside as dental floss!
Where to Purchase Hala Fruit
Hala fruit is rarely exported, so it’s unlikely that you’ll stumble across it at your local grocery store. If you want to get your hands on some fresh hala fruit, be sure to pick some up whenever you travel to the Pacific Islands.
Specialty fruit companies can ship very exotic fruit, like hala fruit, right to your doorstep (for a steep price). It ships frozen and thaws on its way to your home. It’s not the best way to enjoy this exotic fruit, but it might be the only way without jumping on an airplane!