2 October 2015

Pomelos - Ipoh's Famous Fruit

We live in Ipoh, one of the largest towns in Malaysia.  It may have made its wealth on the back of tin mining but these days Ipoh is synonymous, to those in the know, with the Pomelo fruit as the very best are said to be grown here.  Our little suburb of Ipoh, Tambun is the place where the best of the best of these Ipoh fruits are grown.  In fact, so superior are the Tambun fruits considered, that even at the supermarket they are displayed separately from the ordinary fruits and command a 25% surcharge.  They are so popular that when we are visiting friends in other parts of the country I bring local pomelos as a gift.  

Pomelo are synonymous with Ipoh and our suburb of Tambun in particular.
Pomelo farms cover the landscape
We see pomelos year round here but they are all over the place in Malaysia right now in the lead up to the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival and again in the run up to the Chinese New Year as these festivals coincide with the main growing season and they are a symbol of wealth and prosperity.  You can even buy lucky pomelo polishing spray in the local shops.

There are two main types of Pomelo, the white, Tambun version
is highly prized.
The fruits can grow really, really big!
Before moving to Tambun I did not know that most of the citrus fruits we enjoy today are hybrid varieties.  Pomelos are one of only four non hybrid citrus fruits (the others being citron, mandarin and papeda).  Oranges are apparently a cross between pomelos and mandarins and grapefruits are a further cross between pomelos and oranges.  Pomelos are also the largest citrus fruit, being significantly larger than a grapefruit.  Here in Tambun the trees bear fruit about four times a year so there is an effective year round supply although the out of season fruits do tend to be a little inferior to the ones on sale at the current time.

Pomelos are expensive so it is worth trying before you buy.

The fruits are sold by weight.
I can’t stand grapefruit so I was not expecting to like the taste of pomelo,  the sweet, white Tambun pomelos were not exactly to my taste; although touted as sweet I found them slightly sour.  Our older daughter agrees with my but my son and husband found them sweet and pleasant tasting.  I find the slightly less juicy (and apparently sour but sweet to my mind) red pomelos delightful.  The relationship between grapefruit and pomelo is strong enough that those who can’t eat grapefruit due to negative drug interactions (blood thinners mostly) should also avoid pomelo.

You can get your pomelo fix from any number of roadside stalls
selling fresh from the farm.
Some farmers are happy to let you tour the orchard.
The fruit takes a lot of care and attention.
There are plenty of roadside stalls that hawk pomelo from the family farms.  There are also some pomelo farms in Tambun that will allow you to walk around and buy the freshly harvested fruit.  It is fascinating to see the trees in the orchards and chat about the farming and harvesting process with the people in the shop.

These fruits are still babies
It is hard to believe the tree can support the weight
but they are surprisingly light.
If you don’t fancy an orchard tour or a random roadside stall you can visit the dedicated pomelo stop.  There is a large concentration of temples on the road from Ipoh to Batu Gajah including the famous Nam Thean Tong and the Sam Poh Tong Temple Just in front of them there is a parade of pomelo stalls.  One or other is open throughout the year but at the moment most of them are doing a brisk trade.  It is a useful place to park when visiting the temples and, after coming back to the car the stall holders were more than happy to chat about their fruits and hand out samples to try.

There is a whole parade of shops dedicated
to the sale of pomelo
Advertised, most appropriately, by a giant fruit.
The fruit is ripe when the skin starts to turn yellow.  Feel the rind, the thinner the rind the juicier the fruit, the base should also sound hollow.  Cut the fruit in half and scoop out the pieces, kiwi style.  I may also have a go at making candied pomelo peel (said to be very tasty) and substituting pomelo for lemon in a hollandaise (tambunaise)sauce.

Click the picture below for more posts on life in Ipoh

Ersatz Expat


  1. I had no idea about the history of citrus. Pomelo's are enormous, who knew? Now I'm going to have to hunt some down to try.

    1. Good luck - I would send you some if I could!

  2. i too am going to look in our local store and see whats on offer

  3. Thanks for the blog 'Ersatz', very informative and enjoyable reading! I have just tried my 1st Ipoh fruit in Malacca, it was a revelation; had pomelos from other Asian countries, but Ipoh pomelo was the best! Actually went to search for more in KL and bought 2 back to UK!