The first time I saw hala fruit, I thought it was a mutant pineapple. My partner said it looked like a giant pine cone. Well, turned out it was neither of the two.
The hala fruit, or pandanus is a common tropical fruit found in places like Hawaii, Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, and Florida. If you do not come from any of the above-mentioned areas, chances are you have never seen or tasted the hala fruit.
I’d be the first to admit that I was curious to know what hala fruit tastes like. If you are wondering how it tastes too, then this article is for you. We’ll discuss everything you need to know about this amazing fruit.
The hala fruit is harvested from the Pandanus tectorius, a tree that is very common in Southeast Asia. The trees are usually very tall and can grow up to 14 meters in height.
A lot of people know it for its fragrant pandan leaf. Traditionally, the fruit was used for food, medicine, and dye.
The leaves of the tree were also braided into several household items.
What does it taste like?
Hala fruit has a tropical flavor. I would describe it as mildly sweet, a flavor that is a cross between pineapple and mango. A few people claim that the hala fruit and jack fruit have the same flavor.
Like most tropical fruits, hala has an enticing floral aroma. However, when it is left to ripe for longer than it should, the aroma becomes an unpleasant stench.
People from Hawaii actually call it the “stink nut” because of the stench it produces when overripe.
The skin of hala is not edible. The orange-red flesh has a tough, pulpy, and extremely fibrous texture. In case you want to try hala fruit for the first time, buy the bigger ones.
The small ones barely have any flesh, and they are not worth all the effort.
The hala fruit usually has a brown seed that is edible. However, you should know that the best way to go about it is by roasting the seed first. Its flavor is pretty much the same as that of the hala fruit itself.
Will you get value for your money when you buy the hala fruit?
This is a difficult question to answer since different people have different flavor preferences. However, you’d be glad to know that the flavor of hala fruit appeals to a large audience simply because it does not have any overwhelming flavors and its aroma is not offensive.
The only downside with this fruit is that it may be a bit frustrating to eat. It is not like a banana which you use your hands to peel and access the fruit.
Most parts of the hala fruit segments are inedible and have to be tossed out. This is the reason why buying the small ones is not advisable since they barely have anything to munch into.
In case you buy hala from a fruit market, don’t shy away from asking the best way to eat it. Just know that you may not get as much flesh of the fruit as you expect.
Best way to eat hala fruit
Like I mentioned at the beginning, hala fruit is one of the weirdest looking fruits that I have ever seen.
I have heard a few people say that it looks like an exploding planet or something from a science fiction movie.
While they are still on the tree, the fruits look similar to pineapples. When you have a closer look, you’ll realize that the fruit has several segments. Each segment attaches to the core.
When the fruit is ripe, you can use your hand to twist the segment from the core. If it does not come off easily you can use a claw hammer or a sharp knife to do so.
The segments contain edible flesh. You can access the flesh from the inner end. Those who sell this fruit normally use sharp knives to slice thin pieces of the flesh. They expertly avoid the tough bits of the fruit.
Hala fruit culinary uses
Hala fruit is very delicious when eaten on its own. However, you can also use it for several other culinary uses. Here are a few culinary uses of the Hala fruit.
- Roast the seeds
The seeds of the hala fruit can be roasted. They make for a delightful snack.
- Make a paste
You can boil, bake, and dry the fruit to form a paste that has a flavor similar to dates.
- Extract the juice
Like any other tropical fruit, you can extract juice from hala fruit. The juice is normally slightly sweet and acidic.
- Make the flesh into candy
If you are a candy lover, you’d be glad to know that you can easily turn the flesh of hala fruit.
- Process into a powder for use in desserts
You can dry hala fruits then process them to form a powder you can add to desserts or even drinks for an extra tropical flavor.
- Add the leaves to curries, chutney, and sauces
The leaves of the pandanus tree are very fragrant and they are a great addition to curries, chutney, and sauces because they add an amazing flavor.
- Make jam
You can make jam using hala fruits. Simply boil them with sugar and preserve the same way you do any kind of jam.
My favorite thing about hala fruits is that they pair perfectly with many different flavors. You can add it to meat dishes and curries since the tropical flavors pair with them perfectly. Other flavors that go well with hala fruits are; coconut, other tropical fruits, vegetables, and papaya.
- Add it to fruit salads
Fruit salads taste way better when they have some hala fruits in them.
Hala fruit substitutes
If you are making a recipe that requires the use of hala fruit but has none at hand, you can use substitutes in its place.
The best substitutes for hala fruit are tropical fruits. I suggest using papaya or jack fruit. The flavor profile is a bit different, but the two work just fine especially in salads and curries.
Benefits of the hala fruit
- Boosts energy levels
Hala fruits are rich in vitamins which stimulate the body system by boosting energy levels. Feeling sluggish? Eat a hala fruit.
- Promotes heart health
Hala fruit improves blood circulation which in turn protects the heart against diseases.
- Improves digestive health
This fruit is very rich in dietary fiber that plays a significant role in treating common digestive issues like bloating, constipation, and flatulence.
- Relieves headaches
Hala fruits are a natural pain killer. Next time you have a headache, try eating some for relief.
- Relieves menstrual cramps
Traditionally, females used to eat hala fruit to relieve menstrual cramps. There is no scientific research to prove that it actually helps but most women have had relief after eating it.
- Helps in weight control
Since hala contains a lot of fiber, it leaves one feeling full throughout the day. It also improves the well-being of the digestive system by making it work more effectively.
- Boosts libido
Locals that consume hala argue that it boosts libido since it acts as an aphrodisiac.
- Eases symptoms of stress and anxiety
Interesting facts about the hala fruit.
There are several facts about hala fruits that I find very interesting.
Here are some of them.
- Hala fruit goes by so many names. Some of the names include; beach pandan, Pandang, pandanus, screw pine, and hala tree.
- Hala fruit is related to the pandan, a tree that produces leaves that are a common ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine thanks to its fragrance and flavor. The tree can grow up to 14 meters tall and 11 meters wide.
- Some countries believe that the hala fruit has aphrodisiac properties.
- Traditionally, hala fruits were used for food, medicine, and dye.
- Most locals in Hawaii do not eat hala fruits. They believe it is not worth all the trouble since the edible part is small.
- Hala fruit has a lot of fiber and some people use it as dental floss.
It is very understandable if you have never seen or tasted hala fruit. After all, it is a tropical fruit that is only available in specific areas.
If you want to try it out for the first time, expect a mildly, sweet tropical flavor that will not overwhelm your taste buds.
The taste is very pleasant, but you may have a little bit of difficulty extracting the fruit. Doing so will take up a considerable amount of your time. The amount of flesh that is edible may also disappoint you since it is very small.
You can always buy hala fruit in restaurants. They normally come pre-sliced so you will not have to go through the frustrating process of doing it yourself.
Now you know everything you need to know about this amazing tropical fruit. Try it and share your experience with me.