We spotted these gorgeous hot pink guavas on our first morning in Jakarta.
We know them from Saigon, where they appear in the market once or twice a year, hang around for a week or two, then disappear without warning. Our last trip to Vietnam, in December, coincided with their season but we were so busy we kept forgetting to buy a bag to take back to our hotel. We ended up leaving the country without tasting a single one.
Guavas are native to central America and/or Mexico. The guava most common to Southeast Asia is fist-sized or larger with grass-green skin land crunchy white flesh. It's one of our favorite tropical fruits, though we don't eat too many of them in Malaysia, where their subdued flavor (and sometimes just plain tastelessness) pales in comparison to the floral sweet-sourness of their Thai cousins.
In Jakarta we've heard these pink guava called jambu biji (biji=seeds, to distinguish them from rose apples, I suppose, which are also called jambu) and jambu merah (merah=red). Their skins range in color from the green above to pale yellow (they seem to yellow as they age and soften). There's a few textures going on here, from the skin, which is thickish and firm (we never peel them) to the outer flesh - soft and a little grainy, like a Comice pear - to the inner flesh, which is slippery smooth and soft as barely-set custard. Then there's the seeds, not unpleasantly hard and entirely edible.
Jambu merah are fantastically fragrant: tropical-floral and, when they're ripe, a little musky. They taste 'unreal' in that way that mangosteens and passion fruit do, sweet and sour and intense and 'different', like Hawaiian Punch but in a good way - without the preservatives, fake flavors, and sweetener. Speaking from an American's perspective - one not raised on tropical fruits, anyway - when you bite into a pink guava (or a mangosteen or passion fruit) you know you're far, far from home.
They're also 'super fruits', packed full of vitamins C and A, 'good fats' and omegas, and dietary fiber.
Which is a good thing, because when we spied jambu merah we vowed not to make the same mistake we made in Vietnam. We've been carting them back to our hotel and eating, on average 4 or 5 a day each. We've also been stopping for jambu merah shakes (tidak manis - without sugar, though there's usually some sweetened condensed milk involved) whenever possible (one of the great things about Jakarta - fresh fruit juices and shakes on nearly every corner).
And this morning we're eyeing our luggage, trying to figure out if there's room to pack a kilo or three back to Kuala Lumpur.