Where's the fire?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 June, 2009, 12:00am

Dragon fruit is dramatic and beautiful. The thick but tender skin - most commonly bright pink (but it can also be purple or yellow) has smooth, large 'scales', which give a clear indication of how the fruit got its name. The juicy flesh, which is dotted with edible black seeds, ranges from white to deep pink.

It's a pity that the flavour doesn't live up to its enticing appearance. The texture is similar to that of a kiwifruit but the flavour is blander. The most common type found in Hong Kong has fuchsia-coloured skin and white flesh but those with pink flesh are sweeter. Buy fruit that is heavy and firm with unshrivelled skin and soft, pliable, green tips on the scales. The fruit is popular during summer because the flesh quenches thirst and cools the body.

Fruit-juice shops usually pur?e dragon fruit with sugar syrup (two parts sugar dissolved in three parts of water) to make a refreshing drink but it's even better if you add fresh strawberries and lime juice, which add flavour (for an alcoholic version, mix in a shot or two of vodka). The same combination can be used to make a lovely pale pink sorbet, but don't add too much vodka or the mixture won't freeze. For the sorbet, use two parts syrup to three parts of dragon fruit pur?e (with the seeds, or the pur?e can be strained to remove most of them). Add a small amount of egg white before freezing the mixture to give the sorbet a lighter texture.

For an easy dessert, trim the ends off the dragon fruit then cut the unpeeled fruit lengthwise into six wedges. Sprinkle granulated sugar on one of the cut sides of each wedge and place immediately in a very hot, lightly oiled pan. When the sugar is caramelised, sprinkle sugar on the other side and turn the wedge over (if you sprinkle the sugar on too early, it will soak into the fruit). Caramelise the other side and serve the dragon fruit with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.