A somewhat less edible fruit of the family Meliaceae.

Small, white or pale-yellow, fleshy, mostly bisexual.

--Julia F. Morton, Fruits of warm climates, pp. 201-3.

Less edible, fleshy, and mostly bisexual to boot!? Try telling that to the Thais, who rank longkong (ลองกอง) only slightly below the legendary durian in desirability. The Malays feel the same way about the langsat and the duku, the Filipinos of Luzon go crazy about their lanzone, and I have it on good evidence that the fruit causes mass hysteria in southern India and Vietnam. You'd be excused for thinking that "longkong" sounds awfully Chinese, but no, while the fruit is certainly known it's usually dubbed langsha (浪沙) after the Malay. Even the botanists are confused, since they've dubbed it both Lansium domesticum and Aglaia dookkoo.

The Unpeeling of the Longkong

So what is this convolutedly named fruit that sounds like a gorilla porn star? Examined from the outside, longkong grow in bunches bearing a marked similarity to large grapes, the big difference being that they're a dusky and often mottled yellow-brown. If all you have to go on is a picture, you might be excused for thinking that you're looking at the confusingly similarly named longan, but no; unlike the scaly longan, the longkong's skin is soft and yielding and the innards look quite different too.

But don't pop one into your mouth quite yet: the skin is in fact mildly poisonous. Instead, pluck one off the bunch and pinch it at the pointy end, and the thin but rubbery skin will peel off. And the similarity to grapes and longan ends there: the translucent to white fruit inside is split into 5-6 garlic-like separable segments.

Peel off the skin until the fruit is revealed in its naked glory, wrap your lips gently around it and suck. They'll pop off and shatter, releasing their delicious half-acidic, half-sweet juices. But chew carefully: most longkong hide a large, bright green and very bitter seed or two, which may provide a rude awakening if bitten into.

Crouching Longkong, Hidden Durian

After her snide remarks, Dr. Morton does note that the longkong is "ultra-tropical", an apt description as even in steamy Thailand only the southern provinces (in particular Narathiwat) can grow the longkong well.

Longkong season in Thailand is from September to December, although in Malaysia some varieties squeeze in two growing seasons and fruit both in June-July and December-January.

Like most tropical fruits, longkong is highly perishable: at room temperature it lasts all of 4 days, a period that refrigeration can extend to a maximum of two weeks. Due to this, I have never seen longkong outside South-East Asia (they're quite rare even in Singapore), although there appear to be small-scale farms in Hawaii and Puerto Rico.


Personal experience

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.