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What Does Hala Fruit Taste Like? [Pandanus]

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Hala fruit hanging on the Pandanus tectorius

The hala fruit, or pandanus, is found in tropical parts of the world like the Pacific Islands, Hawaii, Florida, and Southeast Asia. Outside of these areas, it’s unlikely you’ll ever have tasted this strange fruit. If you’d like to know what a hala fruit tastes like, then keep reading. We’re about to take a close look at its taste, texture, and more.

What do hala fruits taste like?

The hala fruit has a mildly sweet, tropical flavor that is a cross between a mango and pineapple with a distinctive banana undertone. Some people compare the taste to jackfruit.

It has an enticing floral aroma that most people enjoy. Like many tropical fruits, if left too long to ripen, the mild aroma develops into a pungent, unpleasant stench. This is how the fruit earned its nickname “stink nut” in Hawaii.

A hala fruit’s skin is inedible while the orange-red meat has a texture that is pulpy, tough, and extremely fibrous. The smaller fruits have barely any edible flesh and aren’t worth the effort.

At the center of the hala fruit is a seed that is reddish-brown and can be eaten. It is usually roasted before eating.

Did you know? The hala fruit contains a high level of isoamyl acetate which is used in artificial banana flavoring.

Hala fruit taste infographicIs the hala fruit worth buying?

Although everyone has their own flavor preferences, we think the hala fruit will appeal to a wide audience. It doesn’t have any offensive odors or overwhelming flavors.

The biggest complaint you’ll hear about hala fruit is they’re frustrating to eat. Unlike a banana or papaya that provides easy access to their edible flesh, hala fruit has barely anything to munch into. The vast majority of each segment has to be tossed out. This wastage makes it an expensive fruit by weight.

If you decide to buy it from a fruit market, then be sure to get some advice on how to eat it. You can bite into the end of it, but don’t expect to be rewarded with a mouthful of fruit.

How to eat a hala fruit

The first time you see a hala fruit you will probably think it’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen. It looks a little like an exploding planet or something from a sci-fi movie.

On the tree, they look like massive pineapples from a distance. However, on closer inspection, you’ll see dozens of segments, also known as keys, phalanges, or cones. Each one attaches to the core and, when ripe, can be twisted off by hand or prized off with the assistance of a sharp knife or claw hammer.

The keys contain edible flesh, which can be accessed from the inner end. Locals use a sharp knife to expertly slice thin pieces of fruit, taking care to avoid the toughest bits. Others will simply chew on the end for a sweet, refreshing (albeit small) snack.

Illustration of the inside of a pandanus or halo fruit
The inside of a pandanus or halo fruit.

Culinary uses

  • The fruit can be boiled and baked then dried to make a paste that looks and tastes a lot like dates.
  • Its seeds are excellent for roasting and eating on their own.
  • The flesh can be boiled with sugar and then preserved as a jam.
  • Juice can be extracted that has a pleasant acid-sweet flavor.
  • The leaves of the pandanus tree are a versatile ingredient that can be used to add flavor and fragrance to curries, sweet dishes, sauces, and chutney.
  • The flesh can be made into candy, soft halwa, and other confectionery.
  • Pacific Islanders extract the soft creamy flesh by boiling the chopped fruit and then straining it as you would sugar cane.
  • Hala flesh can be dried and processed into a powder which can then be used in desserts or mixed into drinks.

What flavors go with hala fruit?

Although hala fruit is delicious eaten on its own, its sweet, tropical flavors pair well with meat dishes and curries. It combines well with coconut, papaya, and other tropical fruits and vegetables.

Substitutes

Hala fruits have a unique flavor and texture which makes them very difficult to replace. Your best option is to use another tropical fruit such as jackfruit or papaya. They don’t taste the same, but the alternative won’t be out of place added to a fruit salad or used to sweeten a spicy curry.

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8 fast facts about hala fruit

  1. Alternative names for the hala fruit include the beach pandan, screw pine, pandang, pandanas, and hala tree. It is also called a stink nut by some people as it emits a strong odor once overripe.
  2. The fruit grows on the Pandanus tectorius tree, which is part of the Pandanaceae family. This tree can reach 14 meters in height and has a trunk that can range from 5 to 11 meters in width.
  3. The fruits are green but transform into a yellow shade once ripe.
  4. It is related to the pandan, a tree that produces leaves commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine.
  5. The flowers are considered to have aphrodisiac properties in some countries.
  6. Traditional Hawaiian culture uses hala trees for food, medicine, and dye. The leaves can also be braided into useful household items like baskets.
  7. Many Hawaiian locals don’t consider the hala fruit to be worthy of eating, although it has been eaten historically during famines.
  8. The fruit is extremely fibrous and can be used as dental floss.

Summing up

You may be forgiven if you’ve never heard of a hala fruit. If you’re interested in trying it for the first time then keep in mind it’s a mild, sweet, tropical fruit without any overpowering flavors. Although its taste is quite pleasant, you may find that extracting the fruit is time-consuming and a little frustrating. For its size, the amount of edible flesh is a letdown. If it’s on the menu at a restaurant or you can buy it already sliced, then you’re in luck.

Where are you looking to try hala fruit for the first time? Have you discovered it for sale at a store or are you looking to grow your own tree? Please let us know in the comments below.