This majestic fruit is perhaps my favorite in the entire kingdom of Thailand:
- Not just because it’s reminiscent of a freshly-used morning star worthy of Chuck Norris, Jack Bauer, or even Double Hanuman.
- Not only because it’s rare in most of Thailand, and normally eaten while still pale yellow, making perfectly ripe bright red ones basically unavailable at nearby markets.
- And not just because it’s filled with by far the highest content of beta-carotene (vitamin A) of any known fruit or vegetable and up to 70 times the amount of lycopene found in tomatoes.
In fact, the main reason I love this obscure fruit is its Thai name: It is romanized as “fak kao,” or, “fak khao,” but the truth of the matter is that it’s pronounced more or less as “FUCK COW.”
I shit you not.
The first time I saw one of these bad boys was on a tour of a fruit orchard in Chonburi during our epic 2007 Road Trip. The tour guide spotted a bright red globe in the bushes and said it was a FUCK COW. I laughed and made sure to research it further, but it was a long time before I saw one again. Once in a while, I saw locals in Sarakham carrying around these anemic-looking ones that were a waxy pale yellow, but it never occurred to me they were the same fruit. One day I asked a friend who had a couple what they were and she said FUCK COW. Suddenly excited to have been united with my favorite fruit (that was my favorite based on name alone, I’d still never tried one), I asked all about them: Where do they grow? Aren’t they usually red? Are they yummy?
But nobody knew about them, really. The general consensus was that you cooked the flesh in a pot of rice, and that it didn’t really taste like much… It was like the world was conspiring against my ever actually sampling FUCK COW.
Then, two weeks ago, one of Nam’s teachers brought some from her parent’s home in Ubon, and I had two healthy specimens on my kitchen counter – the fruit I had waited to taste for five whole years was going under my knife. I took a couple hurried photos on the floor and cut one open. Against Nam’s advice, I dug out a flesh-encapsulated seed and tried it raw – Ahhhhh…. It was, um, OK I guess. Slightly tart, with no real remarkable flavor. Like a very bland passion fruit with a hint of copper, perhaps. Talk about anticlimax.
We also tried it cooked in a pot of rice. It turned the rice bright orange, but basically tasted unremarkable. Not bad, just not remarkable at all. the kids were disappointed since the color of the rice hinted at least at a fruity taste, but no…. All bang, no bite.
So why is this still my favorite fruit, you might ask. Two words: FUCK. COW.