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Fresh From the Farmers' Market: Pomelo Power

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Southern Californians are a privileged bunch: We live in a diverse and culturally rich community, bask in perpetually great weather, and are surrounded by inspiring coastlines, gorgeous mountain ranges, and incomparable desert expanses. Our ideal climate allows us another boast-worthy fact: we have access to a tremendous spectrum of locally grown fruits and vegetables, and we only have to drive as far as our nearest farmers' market to buy them.

In an effort to better understand California plant food, LAist will be cooking with different fruits and vegetables (at the time of year we're truly meant to eat them) then share a few recipes we like.

Lucky contestant number one? The pomelo.

The pomelo is a gargantuan citrus originally from South and South East Asia. What most people already know is that they're packed with Vitamin C -- perfect for the flu season -- and that they're related to the grapefruit. In fact, a grapefruit is a cross breed of a pomelo and an orange, a mixing that is believed to have happened first in Barbados. The pomelo is larger in size and doesn't have the bitterness of a grapefruit, though it often has the same pinkish flesh. It grows well in geographic regions with milder climates, as too much rain or very cold temps can ruin a crop.

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This batch came from the Hollywood Farmers' Market, the giant, greenish orbs selling for $1 each. They were grown on a farm just outside of Fresno, and the seller shared that he expects to have the fruit for about two or three more weeks only.

If you're not a pomelo connoisseur already, the act of peeling one of these beasts will undoubtedly surprise you. That is, if you find yourself throwing a mini-tantrum in the kitchen, yell-whispering something close to "This is insane! Why even bother?!" take comfort in the fact that this is probably the average reaction had by any other novice pomelo eater out there. It's not the thick rind that poses the problem, as that comes off with about the same effort as an orange's skin. It's the thick, inedible membranes that surround the flesh segments. We suggest channeling your inner yogi and turning membrane peeling into a sort of cathartic kitchen exercise. Or, try this pomelo peeling tutorial to move things along.

From here, your options are many. You can eat the fruit as is, relishing in your membrane defeat, or surf the web for some delectable recipes. We tried pomelo bars for a sweet treat and Thai pomelo salad, also known as Yam Som-O.

For the pomelo bars:

Gather two pomelos worth of segments and juice them. To do this, we placed them in a glass measuring cup and pummeled them with the backside of a spoon. You'll need 3/4 cup of juice, so beat away until that meniscus hits the 3/4 line.

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Making the shortbread bottom is simple enough: cream together the butter and sugars for about two minutes (a hand mixer or stand mixer will do), then add the flour in two doses, mixing in between. The dough went into the bottom of a greased 8 by 8 pan, baked for 30 minutes and came out with perfectly golden edges.

The filling required a bit more finesse, swirling the mixture the whole time to keep it from boiling and the eggs from curdling. Then, we skipped the straining part, so small bits of the pomelo flesh remained in then filling. No one was the wiser when they ate the bars, so if you feel like cleaning one less kitchen tool, this is the one to dodge. Filling went on top of baked shortbread crust, then went back into the oven for a little over 15 minutes.

Let the pan stand and cool for one hour before serving. This allows the filling to solidify a tad more.

For the Thai pomelo salad:

Once again, begin with peeled pomelo segments.

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Top with coarsely crushed peanuts, cilantro sprigs.

Toss oil (we used olive oil to be bit healthier), diced shallots, garlic and pepper flakes in a pan and saute down. Add coconut milk and stir until thoroughly heated. Set this mixture aside.

Toast coconut flakes in another pan, being mindful not to burn them. Set aside.

Poach the shrimp, drain, and set aside. We think grilling the shrimp would make this recipe better, so try it if you're so inclined!

Toss the shallot sauce, coconut, and shrimp in with the pomelo. Stir by hand or with serving spoons and eat right away. It's a light and refreshing treat that has the bonus of being a great option for the carb-weary.