Today I brought home a new fruit. New fruit days are exciting, because the more fruit I discover, the less of these days there are.
It is called a 한라봉, romanized as a “hallabong.” It was softball-sized and orange like a Halloween pumpkin. Unlike other citrus fruits I’ve found, it had a characteristic bump at the top, very thick skin, and no seeds. The taste was a pleasing combination of mild grapefruit and tangerine. It looked like it would smell wonderful, but my hallabong had no scent. However, what it lacked in odor, it made up for in beauty. How photogenic!
Hallabong fruits are very expensive in Korea. Typically, a flat of 8 or so perfect fruits will be sold for roughly $20 USD. The fruit is given as a present for Lunar New Year, Chusok (Korean Thanksgiving) or one’s birthday. Mine had made their way from the flat into the grocer’s case, because they were slightly imperfect (thus making them perfectly affordable).
The word “hallabong” describes the region where these fruit come from in Korea. Hallasan is a mountain on Jeju Island, a southern honeymooners’ paradise where tangerines, green tea — and hallabongs — are cultivated. The bump at the top is supposed to resemble this mountain.
A similar naming device, naming the fruit based on its prominent bump, also happens in the Japanese. The hallabong originated as a hybrid fruit in Japan in the early 1970s. In Japanese, it is called a dekopon. This was originally the brand-name of the fruit, which is generically known as shiranui (不知火).”Dekopon” describes both the bump on the top (deko-) and one of the two citrus fruits that were crossed to create it: a kiyomi, which is a satsuma hybrid, and the ponkan, which is a tangerine with orange-sized fruit. Basically, in family reunion language, it’s a tangerine twice removed.
We enjoyed the hallabongs for breakfast with plain yogurt. They needed nothing else. However, if you’re feeling creative, try these — they taste like orangettes!
“Orangette” Tea Sandwiches
1/2 to 3/4 cups fresh hallabong juice (use a mixture of fresh tangerine and fresh orange juice if unavailable)
Zest from one orange
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 large egg
2 large yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened
Pinch of salt
4 slices soft white sandwich bread
4 tablespoons nutella or more to taste
First make hallabong curd –
1. If you’d like to make smooth curd, place a mesh strainer over a bowl and set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, place the hallabong juice (or tangerine-orange juice) over medium heat. Let it reduce to 1/4 cup, which should take about 3-5 minutes. Pour into a measuring cup to cool, and add the orange zest and lemon juice.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, the egg, the egg yolks, and the salt.
4. When the hallabong reduction has cooled to room temperature, whisk it into the egg mixture in a steady stream.
5. Cook over low-medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens to a pudding-like thickness. It’s done when you are able to lift the whisk from the pan, and the mixture holds its shape when it falls back into the saucepan. This should take 6-8 minutes, and the curd should reach 180 degrees.
5. Remove from heat. For smooth curd, press through the strainer, or leave zest in if you like it stronger. Stir in butter until well-combined.
6. Once strained, store the hallabong curd in the refrigerator until it is cool. Place a sheet of plastic-wrap over the top, so it doesn’t get a weird rubbery skin.
Next make a panini with nutella and orange curd –
1. Spread about 1 tablespoon of nutella and one tablespoon of orange curd on a slice of bread. More can be added to your taste preferences.
2. Top with other slice of bread.
3. Make your panini in a Foreman Grill or a panini press, for the greatest ease and crunch. Alternatively, place a small pat of butter in a skillet over medium heat, and swirl to cover pan. When the butter ceases foaming, place your sandwich in the skillet. Weigh down the sandwich with a heavy small pan, if you wish, to make it more panini-like. Flip the sandwich when the bottom is golden brown. Remove from heat when the bottom is crunchy and golden brown.
4. Cut into quarters and serve while warm.
Enjoy for teatime or as a rich breakfast. A vanilla tea like Mariage Freres Bourbon Vanilla or a good Earl Grey goes wonderfully with the citrus and chocolate notes.