When I first moved into my Sembawang-near-but-not-on-the-beach house, my late mother was thrilled to find a belimbing tree at the end of our lane. She picked enough to make sambal udang belimbing (prawn belimbing sambal).
Over the years, I forgot about the belimbing until my Burmese helper brought a basketful home. While the Chinese are not interested in belimbing, the Indonesian and Myanmar nationals and Peranakans like me, cook with the sour fruit, a relative of the starfruit.
I gave a bagful to my chef-and-cookbook-author friend, Devagi Sanmugam. She made chutney with it and gave me two out of three bottles! So generous, but I’m not complaining as I’m eating a bit every day – it’s a yummy condiment.
As Devagi blogged about it and provided a recipe, all I have to do is lift information from her blog – http://wp.me/p58GMV-Wu. If you don’t have belimbing growing in your neighbourhood, look out for it in the wet market. Tekka would be a good place to try.
Other names: bilimbi, belimbing buluh, belimbing assam,sour star fruit, irumbampuli
Bright green to yellowish green, the belimbing is quite crunchy when unripe and can go very mushy if ripe. It is extremely sour and has very tiny flat seeds. Since belimbing has a high concentration of oxalic acid, it can be used for cleaning brass and copper items and also for bleaching.
It is believed that consuming belimbing regularly will relieve high blood pressure, chronic cough and diabetes. All you need to do is, chop about 5-6 belimbing and boil it in 2 cups of water for 20 minutes and then strain and drink the water.
The belimbing is used to flavour curries and other dishes. When cooked, it mellows down. It can also be made into chutneys, pickles and into a refreshing drink. I like it in salads or just dipped in sugar!
Belimbing makes good chutney. This belimbing chutney has a tangy, sweet flavour which is perfect with cheeses such as cheddar or white stilton. Great on pork chops too. I am not joking – if served with vanilla ice cream, it will be an unforgettable dessert.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Makes: 400 g
700 g belimbing, halved lengthwise and cut into 1 cm pieces
250 ml cider vinegar
150 g light brown sugar
80 g onion, chopped
5 red chillies
30 g finely chopped peeled ginger
½ teaspoon garam masala or ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
- Place all the ingredients together and boil over medium heat for about 25 minutes or until the chutney is thick.
- Discard the bay leaf before storing in clean, sterilized glass jars.