An Abundant Fruit For a Year of Abundance

Posted By | Posted On Jan 18, 2012


As the Lunar New Year approaches, shoppers in Chinatown will be confronted with pyramids of what might be mistaken for grapefruits on steroids. By the time we usher in the Year of the Dragon, some of the specimens will have reached the size of a soccer ball and will sell for over $14.00 each!

The pomelo is the largest of the citrus fruits. It is not uncommon to find a single pomelo weighing over 10 pounds. Native to Southeast Asia, the pomelo is particularly popular in Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian and other Southeast Asian cuisines. It is also considered to be a “lucky food” in China, because its name rhymes with “have”, and it therefore represents abundance. This makes it extremely popular for the Lunar New Year.

Peeling the rind from the pomelo

With a mildly sweet, aromatic, but less acidic taste than grapefruit, the pomelo takes a bit of effort to peel, as its skin is very thick. It can be perfectly round, or slightly pear shaped, and can range in color from green to yellow, with an off -white, yellow, pink or even (rarely) ruby red flesh.

The best way to attack a pomelo is to use the tip of a sharp knife and make a few deep incisions vertically from top to bottom. You can then peel off the thick skin to reveal the flesh. It is important that you

section it carefully, avoiding any of the pith and membranes between the segments, as they can

Pomelo flesh exposed

be extremely bitter.

In Thailand, pomelo is often eaten dipped into a mixture of chilies, sugar and salt.  But I think it reaches perfection in the popular Thai salad known as Yam Som O.


YAM SOM O   (serves 4)

1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut

1/2 cup unsalted raw peanuts (available in Asian markets) -optional

1 medium sized pomelo

1 tablespoon Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 small Thai bird chilies, or other small green or red chilies, minced

1 tablespoon of palm sugar, or brown sugar

1/2 pound shelled, peeled and de-veined medium sized cooked shrimp

1/2 cup Asian coconut milk

2 tablespoons small dried shrimp (available in Asian markets)

1/4 cup fried red shallots (available in Asian markets)

1/2 cups roughly chopped cilantro leaves


Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Toast the coconut on a sheet pan for five minutes or until golden brown. Set aside.

On the same sheet pan, toast the peanuts, if using, for about ten minutes, or until golden. Remove, and when cool enough to handle, roughly chop the peanuts into small pieces. Set aside.

Peel and section the pomelo, being careful to avoid any of the pith or membranes between the sections. With your fingers, shred the flesh into strips, and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the fish sauce, lime juice, chilies and sugar. Stir well, then add the cooked shrimp, and toasted coconut. Add the pomelo shreds and toss lightly. Add the coconut milk, and toss again.

Remove to a serving platter and garnish with the dried shrimp, the dried shallots, the peanuts, if using, and the cilantro leaves, and serve.

written by Jim Becker, Chinatown Guide

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