It was in Phuket, Thailand, that I first encountered a mangosteen, years ago, in an otherwise ordinary hotel fruit basket: a curious object the size of a billiard ball, its leathery shell as purple as a bruise. The snow-white, segmented flesh recalled a lychee crossed with a clementine: tart and tangy, generously but not garishly sweet, bursting with juice and tropical sunlight. The mangosteen has since ruined me for all other fruits—hell, for all other foods, period. Grown primarily in Southeast Asia, they were barred from import to the U.S. until 2007, for pest-control reasons. It’s still hard to find fresh (not frozen) specimens stateside—unless, like me, you troll the back alleys of New York’s Chinatown looking for a guy who might know a guy. But never mind. It would be worth flying 18 hours in coach to Thailand to savor a single bite.
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