Origins of fruits in savoury mains
If you’re a foodie, you probably know the best food gems in town. But real foodies know that – and the stories behind the chow. It’s time to be one of them and find out the origins of what goes into your tummy. We’ll start with the stories of fruits in your favourite savoury mains:
1. Pineapples in Hawaiian pizza
In the 1960s, a Greek restaurant owner came up with this combination by chance. The late Sam Panopoulos ran several restaurants in Canada with his brothers, serving up American and Chinese fare.
One day, the innovative chef decided to put canned pineapples on a pizza “just for the fun of it”. And his customers loved it. So he put the ‘Hawaiian’ on the menu for good, and the rest is history.
P.S. This debate-sparking pizza is named ‘Hawaiian’ after the brand of canned pineapples Panopoulos used!
2. Green mangoes, green apples, and pineapples in Chinese rojak
The origins of rojak can’t be confirmed. But it’s believed that natives of the Malay archipelago ate sour tropical fruits with palm sugar and salt so they wouldn’t taste so sour. Java apples. Kedondong (golden apples). Young mangos. Those were among their favourite fruits to flavour and eat.
And that’s probably how fruits came to be used in rojak! Chilli peppers and peanuts were added to the mix later in the 16th century, when Spanish and Portuguese traders brought them to Indonesia.
3. Pineapples in sweet and sour pork
See those generous chunks of juicy canned pineapples in your sweet and sour pork? They were first incorporated into the dish out of convenience. Back then, canned pineapples were one of Singapore’s earliest manufacturing industries.
Because they were so widely available, they gradually found their way into sweet and sour pork as a key ingredient.
4. Papayas in som tum (Thai green papaya salad)
Som Tum may be a Thai staple, but this sweet-sour-spicy dish has its roots in Lao cuisine. Its Lao counterpart, Tam Som, was a sour green mango/ cucumber dish. But in the late 18-19th centuries, Ethnic Chinese-Lao settlers began using papayas instead. And this version became known as ‘som tam’.
As more highways opened in Thailand, more papayas flowed in, and papaya som tam salad gradually spread across the Land of Smiles.
P.S. The original Lao version of som tam wasn’t spicy – chilli peppers were added in later by the Thais!
5. Mango chutney
Chutney’s an Indian sauce made from fresh fruits and spices. But why mangoes in chutney? Back then, it was how the Indians preserved these yellow tropical fruits to eat when they weren’t in season.
During the 1600s, the English and French colonial troops regarded fresh mangoes as luxuries because they couldn’t get them at home. That’s when mango chutneys – which mixed the fruit with vinegar, sugar, salt, and spices – spread from India to England and France, and gradually across the world.
Savoury food with fruits
Now that you know the stories behind the fruits on your favourite dishes, you’re on your way to becoming a real foodie. Happy eating!