Two of my favourite tropical fruits are salak and duku. Today, salaks are mostly available all year round in Indonesia, but I was very lucky to be able to buy some duku fruits (though not in season) when I went to Java last month. Salaks are fairly cheap and they only cost around 8000 rupiah per kilogram. Duku fruits are seasonal and they are much more expensive, around 22,000 rupiah perkilogram.
Salak (Salacca zalacca) is native to Indonesia. It is also known as snake fruit as the rough skin is scaly similar to that of snake’s. The skin is reddish brown in colour and rather shiny. The shape is kind of round with a pointy tip. The inside of the fruit is ivory white and come into three or four sections. Each section is covered with very thin and transparent membrane. Many people like to peel the membrane by rubbing it with fingers before eating the fruit. The taste is a nice blend of sweet and acidic while the aroma is similar to apple or pineapple. Only big sections of salak fruit have a hard and large brown stone/seed . When I was a child, I used to collect them to play. Good quality of salaks are never bitter in taste.
Duku (Lancium domesticum) is roundish with a slightly pointy tip. The size is the same as walnuts or can be slightly bigger and they usually grow in clusters of two to thirty fruits along the branches and trunk. Each of this brownish yellow fruit is covered by smooth and thick leathery skin. Underneath the skin, the fruit is divided into five or six slices/sections of translucent and juicy flesh. The flesh is quite sweet with distinct aroma and taste. In contrast with the sweet flavour of the fruit’s flesh, the seeds are extremely bitter. If the seeds are large, people tend to spit them out, but if they are small, they can be swallowed. If duku pulp is opaque white in colour and not translucent, they will be sour in taste and not worth buying.
There is a different type of duku fruit (less common) that is known as langsep or langsat. Langsep fruits are sold in clusters, while duku fruits are sold off the stem. Langseps taste very similar to dukus with a slightly different aroma and the skin is thinner. Long time ago when I was a kid, we went to East Java and my mom bought a lot of sweet langsep fuits in the city of Malang. I think that was the only time in my life that I had ever eaten langseps.