Along with my passion for ‘bizarre’ flavour combinations, I am really excited by learning about new, exotic, rare, or largely unknown ingredients. I love going to markets in other countries and spending hours wandering around, looking at all the fascinating shapes, colours, and textures, smelling the foreign aromas, and trying as many different things as I can.
Speaking of which, my most intriguing tastespotting discovery of late is the ackee fruit. It is native to West Africa, but was brought to the Caribbean in the late 18th century, and is now common in regional caribbean cuisines like Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish. A relative of lychee and longan, ackee looks somewhat like a cross between a pear and a bell pepper. It splits into three sections when ripe, revealing three large, shiny seeds and a yellow-white, fleshy interior. Ackee can also be pressed into oil, a staple of many caribbean countries.
Be careful though! It seems ackee contains a type of toxin called hypoglycin, both when unripe and in inedible parts of the fruit, like the seeds and skin. Hypoglycin is converted to a type of acetic acid in the body, inhibiting enzymes involved in glycolysis, which consequently depletes the body’s glucose stores, resulting in hypoglycemia and Jamaican Vomiting Sickness. Not cool. But definitely an interesting fact that places it among other dangerous foods.
I came across this fruit when reading a recipe for none other than Vegan Scrambled Eggs. Apparently, the fattiness and fleshiness of the ackee fruit makes the most deliciously eggy non-scrambled-eggs ever. Based on the picture and the description, I believe it. I’ll have to try this sometime… maybe not soon, but when I’m in the city sometime I’m sure I can find a specialty store that sells canned ackee. It will be a fun experiment – I’ll let you know how it goes!