Text and images by Sheere Ng @ Makansutra
How do you choose oranges and apples? Unlike longan and rambutan, which you can openly pinch a morsel to test their ripeness, these fruits can’t be sold with your teeth or fingernail marks on them. To make it worse, they all look pretty much the same to the untrained eye once out of that brown carton, and fruit sellers sometime sprinkle them with water to enhance their appearances and cloud your judgment. Yet, we’ve seen the aunties and grannies coolly, expertly and wisely spending a good 10 minutes selecting their favourite five. Are there really things to look out for, or are they pretending to look wise? We speak to two experienced fruit sellers for answers.
Ideally, apples should be crispy, juicy and sweet. Varieties like Fuji and Gala fit the bill. After deciding on the variety, one can flick on the apple to test its crispiness, says Mr Loh Yoke Khuan, a fruit master at Makansutra Gluttons Bay who has been in this business for more than 20 years. But to tell the subtle difference, one probably will have to be a master like him: “If it feels hard it is crispy. If not, the flesh is soft and not nice to eat,” Mr Loh says.
Indented bottom indicates sweet orange
Besides the minor differences in shape and size, any two oranges are identical twins to the layman. But according to Mr Loh, one can judge orange by the looks of its rear (bottom). If it is indented, then the fruit is likely to be sweet. This applies to all oranges, regardless their country of origin. However, Mr Loh says most of the oranges in the market are sour, so you may not find a single one in a whole basket. Besides sweetness, one can figure out the juiciness of the fruit by its weight. Hold two oranges of similar size in each palm, says Mr Loh, and the heavier one tends to be juicier.
The bigger the better
There are two ways to pick a sweet and juicy watermelon. Experienced fruit purveyors would slap the watermelon with their palm. “If it makes a low ‘tong tong tong’ sound, there’s a lot of water in there and the fruit has ripen,” says Mr Sim Siak Jwa, a fruit juice seller at SPH Magazine’s canteen. “If it’s a sharp ‘pok pok pok’ sound, then the fruit is not ready yet.” If you can’t tell the difference, then you are only left with the no-brainer method. “Choose the biggest of the lot. The bigger it is, the sweeter the flesh,” says Mr Loh.
Smaller papayas are sweeter
An opposite rule applies when choosing a papaya. According to Mr Loh and Mr Sim, smaller papayas taste sweeter. As for the colour, it depends whether you plan to eat it on the day itself, or a couple of days later. But note that a fully green papaya takes only about two to three days to ripe (turns yellow) at room temperature.
Sweet pineapples are yellow on the outside
The best pineapples, says Mr Loh, are the Sarawak variety from Thailand. It is short and round, and golden yellow in colour. Such pineapple has yellow and juicy flesh. Those with green skin and white coloured spikes aren’t that sweet.
Too much trouble for you? Mr Loh says the general rule of thumb is that the more expensive the fruit, the better it tastes, at least in fair priced or your regular fruit shops.