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Salak grow in clusters at the base of the Rakum palm, a spine-covered palm that grows in small clumps averaging 3 to 4 meters high. Technically classified as a drupe, the fruits are 2 to 3 centimeters long and ovate with an elongated tapering tip. Their scaly exterior is brownish-orange and slightly rough to the touch. It easily peels away revealing 2 to 3 lobes of juicy white flesh that house hard, brown inedible seeds. While other Snake fruit may by crunchy and mild, this variety of Salak is much juicier, softer and bursting with flavors of pineapple, peach and pear.
Salak is available year-round in Southeast Asia.
Salak, Rakum palm fruit or Luk rakam in Thai, is botanically classified as Salacca wallichiana and a member of the Arecaceae palm family. There are at least 30 known varieties of the Salak palm, each producing similarly shaped fruits that are easily confused and often referred to on a whole as Snake fruit. The fruits are named due to their scaly exterior, not unlike the skin of a snake. This particular variety is slightly more elongated with a juicier flesh than its closely related and more mildly flavored cousin, Salacca zalacca.
Salak has high levels of potassium, thiamine, iron, calcium and vitamin C. It also has anti-diarrheal properties and if too much of the fruit is consumed it can result in constipation.
The coarse scaly skin of the Salak easily comes away by breaking of the fruit’s tip to expose the creamy flesh inside. Each lobe within is covered in a white film, similar to that on the outside of a hardboiled egg. Be sure to remove the layer of film before eating. Most Salak is eaten fresh, out-of-hand as a snack and commonly sold by street vedors. Their sweet flavor compliments pies or jams and they can be candied or made into syrup. One variety of Snake fruit, Salak gula pasir is fermented into a wine.
Snake fruit is called the Fruit of Memory in Indonesia due to its levels of potassium and pectin, which are both important nutrients for brain health and development.
Salak may be found growing throughout the hot lowlands of Southest Asia, specifically in Malayasia, Myanmar, Sumatra, Thailand and Vietnam. It is cultivated in Thailand where it is a popular tropical fruit almost as common as apples and oranges are in western cultures.