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All about Citrus Fruits
Get to know the citrus family and add a spritz of sunshine into your baking.
Well-known for its characteristic sour taste and invigorating fragrance, citrus fruits are also an excellent source of vitamin C. Some common varieties of citrus fruits include oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and limes – all of which are readily available in Singapore at any time of the year. We love the versatility of citrus fruits. Use them in baking, cooking, roasts and sauces to add a burst of tanginess to dishes.
Citrus fruits also make frequent appearances in drinks and cocktails, for it is refreshingly zesty. Or, savour the tart fruit on its own (those that aren’t too acidic, of course!) to perk up your senses!
Similar to pomelo, grapefruit also comes in pink, ruby red and white, and with varying sweetness. Although often mistaken as a pomelo, the grapefruit has thinner skin and finer pulps; the segmentation of the flesh resembles an orange. It is valued for its unique tangy, slightly bitter flavour and sweet aftertaste. We love grapefruit segments in our salads (it is a great match with avocado). It also adds a gorgeous shade to yoghurt and fruit, pastries and in clear cocktails.
Don’t judge this citrus fruit by its size as it is one of the sourest in the family. Slightly smaller than a lemon, the lime either comes in round or oval shape. Its flavour and distinctive pine-like aroma is at its peak while it is still bright green, and it loses its refreshing punch once fully mature. The highly aromatic fruit – zest and juice alike, plays an extensive role in Southeast Asian, Latin American, Mexican and Indian cuisines. To get the most out of the fruit, firmly roll it on a flat surface first, halve the limes and then jab the flesh with a fork a few times before squeezing to extract more juice, or pop it in the microwave for a few seconds. It is often used interchangeably with lemon.
It is no surprise that orange is the most cultivated citrus fruit. Although it is juiced or eaten fresh most of the time, it also makes tangy appearances in bakes, roasts and sauces especially its zest. The most common navel orange, named after the belly button-like bulge at one end, has firm pulps, very few pips and sweet flesh. It is not the choice of orange for juicing as the juice turns bitter after 30 minutes; use Valencia oranges instead. We also like the seasonal blood orange, named for its distinctive ruby red flesh. It lends a beautiful tinge of red and a berry=like taste to salads and marmalades.
Best known for its edible skin, the small and mighty kumquat has a sweet peel and a relatively sour pulp. The simplest way to enjoy the fruit is to eat it whole, just like grapes. It can also be jammed or candied, and then spooned over cakes, tarts, ice cream and yoghurt. Cooking tames its tartness and cooked kumquat complements seafood and poultry dishes, especially when used in sauces or chutneys. Unlike most citrus fruits, kumquats do not have a very long shelf life. They can keep for about three days at room temperature or up to two weeks when wrapped in a bag and stored in the refrigerator.
Bright, tart and zingy, this versatile fruit is probably the most commonly used citrus across the globe in both savoury and sweet dishes, as well as in beverages. Its distinctively sour taste makes it too sharp to eat on its own, but is wonderful when mixed with spices for marinades, squeezed onto a basket of piping hot fish and chips, or any seafood for that matter. Its high acidity comes in handy in replacing vinegar when making a more aromatic ceviche, and in salad dressings too. The fragrant yellow zest is used both in sweet and savoury dishes, including pastries, desserts, gravies and stuffings. Preserved lemon is also a key ingredient used particularly in Indian, North African, Moroccan and Cambodian cooking.
Compared to the orange, the mandarin (also known as tangerine and mandarin orange) has a loose peel and is slightly smaller in size. It is favoured for its easy-to-peel skin and readily segmented sections, which makes it an ideal healthy snack on the go. It is very popular in Asia, where it has become a large part of the Lunar New Year celebrations as it symbolises wealth and good fortune.
Also known as Chinese grapefruit, the pomelo is the largest member of the citrus family. It has the largest pulp, thickest pith and the least acidic flesh; the coral pink and red varieties are much sweeter than the pale yellow ones. It is often used as a substitute for grapefruit albeit with a much weaker kick. Pomelo is best enjoyed fresh: perk up your salads with juicy chunks, or use the peel to flavour savoury soups and sweet broths.
Meet the smallest member of the citrus family. Often mislabelled as lime, calamansi (or calamondin) is less tart than a lime but much more sour than an orange. It is widely cultivated in the Philippines and Malaysia, and has a permanent status in most Southeast Asian kitchens. Halve the calamansi and squeeze the juice onto stir-fried noodles or freshly grilled seafood, or mix it into salty condiments such as fish sauce and soy sauce. Its flavour is at its best when it’s green; don’t let the ones with hints of yellow go to waste – the extracted juice mixed with honey water and ice makes for a most refreshing drink.
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