Exotic Fruit: Southeast Asian Cempedak

By Mark Wiens 41 Comments
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?



41 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Sylvia

    2 weeks ago

    Mark, I’m from Asia, neighbour to Malaysia, did you know that chempadak can be fried, made into fritters and its seed can be consumed too? Try it one time! Totally edible!

  • Skye

    12 months ago

    Taste like Durian to me but without the bad smell.

  • Stuart Daly

    1 year ago

    Great post!

    Im going to Thailand on the 8th May and will be in Bangkok but also southern Thailand( Krabi, Phuket and Phi Phi) if Cempedak is in season how do you find it? What do you do to find the rarer stuff like this in thailand?

  • Sam

    2 years ago

    I am looking for years some chempadak seeds or scions.

    CAn you help me to buy them

  • izatt

    2 years ago

    hey Mark,
    if u love the fruit so much, u should try the cempedak fritters. its heaven!

  • Sam

    2 years ago

    I am a Sri Lankan Home Gardner. I am looking for high quality Chempadak seeds. Can anyone sell me some seeds please

  • Barry

    3 years ago

    Check out Raw Food Asia group for all the amazing exotic fruits in Asia here:

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/rawfoodasia/

  • durianlover

    3 years ago

    What is cempedak called in Thai?

  • Alvin

    4 years ago

    Tebak – tebak
    buah salak
    lo galak
    gw geplak

    Another poem :b

  • Jacob

    4 years ago

    I would also like to know when the season of the fruit is, especially in Malaysia.
    Thanks.

  • Jacob

    4 years ago

    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?

  • Yanti

    4 years ago

    yes come to Borneo Mark! we have plenty more exotic looking (and smelling) fruits to offer 😀

  • taro

    4 years ago

    I’m indonesian and it’s like my absolute favourite fruit.

  • mlnau

    4 years ago

    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.

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      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!

  • Peter Lee

    4 years ago

    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.

  • robert zuetell

    4 years ago

    Do you ever film Singapore food? I have a Singaporean “American Style” Food Truck in Anaheim Orange County California Chomp Chomp Nation More Than Singapore! Named after the Hawker Court in Serangoon
    http://www.chompchompnation.com http://www.Facebook.com/ChompChompNation
    Please come visit if you get a chance.

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      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.

  • Helen

    4 years ago

    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

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Helen, yes I love mangosteen as well, it’s one of my favorites too!

  • Erica

    4 years ago

    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 😉

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Erica, yes, I think you’d like this fruit, you’ve got to try it!!

  • Ari

    5 years ago

    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?

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      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.

  • sully86

    5 years ago

    mark: You’ve got to learn the chempedak di luar pagar song. It literally translate to, chempedak outside the fence..

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Haha, I want to hear that!

      • Nadia

        4 years ago

        Buah cempedak di luar pagar,
        Ambil galah tolong jolokkan,
        Saya budak baru belajar,
        Kalau salah tolong tunjukkan…

        It’s a poem, it’s a song 😉

  • Owen Lipsett

    5 years ago

    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…

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      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!

  • Maria

    5 years ago

    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. 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      I agree Maria, such an incredible looking and tasting fruit. You’ll have to come to SE Asia!

  • Ruth

    5 years ago

    I have never heard of this fruit before. It is surprising to see the variety of fruits available in tropical climates.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      I agree Ruth, so many different varieties of edible fruit!