Exotic Fruit: Southeast Asian Cempedak

Cempedak Fruit

Cempedak Fruit

Fruit, of all types, is one of the ultimate things to consume on the planet.

It’s fresh, sweet, juicy, natural, and pure healthy goodness.

Not only do I love bananas, mangoes, apples, pineapple, and other around the world familiar fruits, but I also particularly enjoy sampling rarer breeds of exotic fruit.

Southeast Asia, as well as any other tropical countries along the equator, are blessed with an abundance of ridiculously sweet and awesome fruit.

Snake fruit (salak), wood apple, santol, durian, and cempedak are just a few.

Cempedak Fruit

Cempedak Fruit

Cempedak Fruit

Cempedak is especially popular in Malaysia, Indonesia, Southern Thailand, and Papua New Guinea.

It is very similar to the much more common jackfruit, but while a jackfruit is huge and oval in shape, a cempedak is tubular and about the size of a rugby ball that’s been squished.

I tasted my first cempedak a few years ago in southern Thailand, and now I eat one at every opportunity possible.

Many exotic tropical fruits have a strong aroma.

Wood apple for instance smells like horribly bad cheese, durian smells like perfume to some and like a dead animal to others.

A super ripe cempedak can be smelled from far away, a natural scent that to me smells a little like fermented urine combined with sweet syrup (not the most attractive description I’ve written); But believe it or not, I absolutely love the smell!

Pieces of cempedak fruit

Pieces of cempedak fruit

To eat the fruit you simply open it up to reveal the bite sized nuggets.

Some people enjoy cempedak fruit battered and deep fried into fritters, but I most prefer it straight from the wrapper.

The taste is quite similar to jackfruit, a hint of banana mixed with a bit of pineapple. But the sweet honey nectar flavor of a ripe cemepdak is what makes it far more superior than a jackfruit.

I used to love jackfruit, and while I still do, after I tasted my first cempedak, a jackfruit just can’t compare.

The seeds can also be boiled and eaten like small potatoes.

Cempedak triplets, waiting to be eaten!

Cempedak triplets, waiting to be eaten!

Cempedak, while widely available in southern Thailand during fruit season, is extremely rare in Bangkok (video).

So when I happen to bump into a fresh batch of the fruit in Bangkok I buy as many as I possibly can.

Next time you happen to see a cempedak, buy it and try it.

It’s one of my all time favorite fruits in the world!

Have you had cempedak?

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  1. says

    Mark, these Southeast Asian Cempedak are SOOO cool!
    Never heard of them before and I am pretty sure I can’t source them locally so…
    Guess I’ll HAVE to go there. :-)

  2. says

    Lovely post Mark! I especially enjoyed this part:

    “A super ripe cempedak can be smelled from far away, a natural scent that to me smells a little like fermented urine combined with sweet syrup (not the most attractive description I’ve written); But believe it or not, I absolutely love the smell!”

    I’ll have to take your word for that, but it did make me wonder, why do so many fruits from South and Southeast Asia (durian, wood-apple, cempedak) smell bad but taste delicious?

    Tropical fruits from the Americas seem to lack these bold odors and Northern fruits seem to lack both strong smells and strong tastes…

    • says

      Thanks a lot Owen. You’re right, there are many SE Asian fruits withs strong pungent aromas, even though the fruit is not overripe. It’s these strong flavors I live for!

  3. Ari says

    Wow, interesting. It’s been harder and harder to find new fruits on trips to Asia, but this one I’d never heard of. I love jackfruit so I will keep an eye out for this next time. Do you know the season?

    • says

      Hey Ari, cool, hope you can try it. Hmm, I’m not exactly sure, but I saw some in Malaysia last time I was there in September. However, the main fruit season is normally May – July.

  4. says

    Definitely not the most attractive smell description I’ve ever read, but I’d totally give it a go, especially since you’re raving about it… unless you also eat durian every chance you get 😉

  5. says

    Like you I love trying local fruits when I’m travelling. I wonder if you got the chance to try mangosteen in Thailand? Its my favourite fruit that I’ve ever tried. Its purple on the outside and looks a bit strange inside, but dont let that put you off

    • says

      Hey Robert, good to hear from you. I visited Singapore about 4 years ago just for a few days but haven’t been back. I would love to go again to do some eating though! very cool, if I’m in California, will look out for your truck.

  6. says

    I have never heard of cempedak fruit. But, while reading your blog, the way you described, you forced me to taste it. I would definitely buy and try it.

  7. mlnau says

    I love this fruit! Have you ever been to east malaysia? It’s where I live. There’s a lot of great food and dishes here. Come explore our food. You’ll find other exotic food here that you might never heard or tasted before such as ‘dabai’, ‘terap’, and ‘ambang’ fruits.

    • says

      Hey Minau, great to hear from you. No I’ve never been to East Malaysia or heard of any of those dishes you mentioned. I hope to visit in the future and try them!

  8. Jacob says

    Hi Mark,

    That was a wonderful description of the fruit. I haven’t tried it so far. Would love to try it the next time I visit South east Asia. May I know how many fruits a cempedak tree bears annually?

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