Ingredient Focus: Belimbing

Friday, March 08, 2013

I want to give some attention to this rather understated ingredient which is not widely used outside of Malay and Nonya cuisine.

Not to be confused with starfruit, which also shares the same Malay name, this is a small sour fruit which adds a wonderful sour note to dishes with a crunchy juicy texture. It cooks very fast and this needs to be taken into consideration as you add it to your curries.  

I like to add it to my mum's Sambal Prawns recipe, something we did at our recent Alpha Course evening. While Assam (tamarind) or Lime juice can be used to introduce a fruity sourness to the dish, belimbing is unique in the way it "encapsulates" the taste as an eating experience. In other words, instead of experiencing the tinge of sourness throughout the dish, biting a  piece of belimbing gives a soury surprise, adding some variety to the experience of eating a good plate of Sambal prawns.  
Belimbing grows well in our climate. Once plucked off the tree, it does not keep well and needs to be fridged, for at most up to a week. It is also good as a pickled fruit.

Being both fruity and "soury," it is great as an appetizer. In a plate of sambal prawns accompanied with some mint leaves, it is a local gastonomical delight, best experienced when one eats with his/her hands.

To prepare it, just slice off the stem. When fried with Sambal Prawns, you can slice it diagonally or in rounds. Fry the sambal paste first, then the prawns and lastly, the sliced belimbing. About 4-5 minutes will do, depending on the quantity being cooked and the strength of your fire. The cooked belimbing pieces can still be seen and should not so soft that they have disintegrated.

This dish goes very well with Petai too. For good reasons (which you should know), I don't intend to serve this in our Alpha Course!

Hope you are able to get your hands on belimbing. They are sold in wet markets and when you next see them, come up with some plans to use it.

You will delight and surprise your family and guests, with its' "encapsulated" bursts of fruity sour flavours.

Slicing the fruit
Sambal Prawns
Serving Sambal Prawns Belimbing with Mint leaves and cucumber

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  1. Hi. Have enjoyed your blog, which I chanced upon some months ago. Thanks for posting this. Brought back memories of the tree in my aunt's house in section 14 PJ. We use this in Serani cooking too - in the sambal prawns but also dried and in pickles.

  2. Where abouts in Singapore can you find Belimbing? I remember my mum used to cook these together with pork cubes and "tao jio".

  3. My friends pass them to me. From their gardens, I suppose. I sometimes see them being sold at wet markets.

  4. In Singapore you can often find it in "Tekka" market, If not ask if they can call you when they have stock.