Dragon Fruit, or Pitaya, looks like everyone’s idea of 80’s teen fashion. It’s a swirl of hot pink and florescent green, curvy and spiky and egg-shaped. Cut it open and the fruit, speckled thoroughout with small black seeds, resembles nothing so much as a Dalmatian. Dice the flesh, and suddenly you have dominoes. Native to Central America, it also grows well in many parts of Southeast Asia, and is commercially farmed in Thailand and Vietnam.
The taste can be a bit of a letdown after the flashy promise of its exterior. The fruit is– in a word– bland. In three words, bland and watery. It can be white, or it can be pink, but either way, the taste is nothing to write to Southeast Asia about. Were it not such a stunning fruit, (not to mention the exquisite serving vessel provided by its halved shell), I probably wouldn’t bother with it at all. But there it is, looking for all the world like a whimsical egg laid by a colorful dragon, (I’m certain this must be the genesis of the name). And so we must find a way to put it to delicious use.
The best way to bring out the flavor in Dragon Fruit, I’ve found, is to tease it out with citrus. With this in mind, I decided to make a Dragon Fruit sorbet the centerpiece of a plated dessert to top off a Thai-themed meal. I found inspiration for the garnish in the Thai dish Miang Kum, in which a variety of savory, sour, sweet, and salty ingredients, (such as peanuts, coconut, lime, chiles, shrimp, etc.) are finely diced and arranged on a platter. You wrap the ingredients up in a leafy green such as spinach; the flavors explode in your mouth.
I’m happy to report the concept translates well to dessert.
Dragon Fruit Sundaes
Yield: 4 servings
- 4 dragon fruit half-shells
- 4 servings dragon fruit sorbet (recipe follows)
- 2 organic limes
- 1 cup candied peanuts (see David Lebovitz's recipe, linked below)
- 1/2 cup diced fresh dragon fruit
- Slice 2 dragon fruits vertically and scoop out flesh, reserving shells (you'll have 4). Set 1/2 cup of the flesh aside and dice it evenly; use the rest in the sorbet or for another purpose.
- Fill each shell with dragon fruit sorbet (recipe below). Put the filled shells in the freezer at least half an hour, to harden.
- Prepare candied peanuts. Use David Lebovitz's recipe and halve it. (Or don't-- they're really good.) http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2008/04/candied-peanut/
- Dice limes, including the rind. (Wash them first, and trim off each end to remove excess rind to which not much flesh is attached.)
- To plate, place a sorbet-filled dragon fruit shell in the middle of a dish; garnish with peanuts, lime, and dragon fruit.
Dragon Fruit- Red Fruit- Coconut Sorbet
- 2 cans coconut milk (unsweetened)
- 2 dragon fruits
- Juice of 3 limes
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons agave nectar
- 2 cups red fruit (such as cherries and raspberries)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Slice each dragon fruit vertically and scoop the flesh out with a spoon. (Take care to reserve the shells in good shape if you plan to use them as serving vessels, as in the Dragon Fruit Sundae recipe above. Also, reserve half a cup of the flesh for garnish if making the sundaes.)
- Combine the dragon fruit flesh, coconut milk, lime juice, agave nectar, red fruit, and sea salt in a blender; blend thoroughly.
- Taste and adjust flavorings for sweet/sour balance as necessary.
- Process in an ice cream maker until desired consistency is achieved.