A rambutan is a tropical, jelly-like fruit that is native to Southeast Asia, and it’s one of those foods you’ll have to travel for, as it’s not easy to find outside that part of the world. The word rambutan comes for the Malay word for hair, which makes sense, because a rambutan is bright pink in color and very hairy. When skinned, what remains is a translucent, pearly jelly that tastes more solid and floral than a lychee.
Rambutans have small amounts of vitamins and minerals, the strongest among them manganese; 100 grams of rambutan (about 10 fruits) delivers 16 percent of your suggested intake. Manganese improves bone health, regulates metabolism, and helps lower cholesterol. You’re probably thinking, that’s a lot of fruits for a little bit of manganese! Here’s the thing: rambutans are so delicious and refreshing, you quickly lose track of how many you’ve eaten — especially if you are sightseeing in Vietnam or Malaysia in the hot sun. In his book Health Benefits: From Foods and Spices, John P. Hunter III writes that crushed rambutan seeds help clear skin, and rambutan skin has long been used to treat dysentery.
The shell of a rambutan is easy to break open and peel away with your fingers, leading you to the juicy, translucent flesh surrounding a large seed. Rambutan has a deliciously sweet flavor similar to that of grapes. Eating them is a great way to stay hydrated while traveling. An added bonus: their thick, leathery skins make them safe to eat in countries that don’t have drinkable tap water.