Christmas in the Philippines is rarely without fruit salad. And by “fruit salad” I mean drained canned fruit cocktail and shredded fresh coconut tossed in a mixture of cream and sweetened condensed milk. I always thought it was a uniquely Filipino thing until I came across a salad called “ambrosia“, a traditional Christmas dish in the American South. I am now convinced that the Filipino fruit salad is an adaptation of ambrosia. After all, fruit cocktail was unknown in the islands until the Americans introduced it (along with M&M’s and SPAM) during the colonial period. Well, we long ago ditched the local canned fruit cocktail with rubbery content that is 90% chewy papaya. Fresh fruits tossed in a mixture of cream and sweetened condensed milk may entail more work but the result is a far, far cry from miniscule fruit pieces swimming in white mass. This fresh tropical fruit salad is what we had been making and serving for years. We sometimes include fresh coconut but even without it, this fruit salad is just as good.
There are no hard and fast rules as to what fruits can go into the salad. My family’s preferences include mangoes, melon, bananas, seedless grapes and apples. Papaya and pineapple are good choices too. You can even add buko to your fruit salad.
I recommend chilling the fruits (in the fridge, not in the freezer), as well as the cream and sweetened condensed milk, before preparing the salad.
Some fruit like bananas and apples discolor fast. If you don’t intend to assemble your fruit salad immediately, you may want to toss your sliced bananas and apples with a little lemon or kalamansi juice to retard the discoloration process. Aside from that, there’s not much to making a fresh fruits salad. Just remove all inedible portions of the fruits and cut into more or less the same sizes.
Then pour in your dressing and toss. Most people prefer a 1:1 ratio of cream and sweetened condensed milk but my taste buds say that’s too sweet. I prefer a 1:2 ratio—one part sweetened condensed milk to two parts cream. Just stir them together (or, for better results, whip the cream first until doubled in volume then fold in the sweetened condensed milk), pour over the fruits and toss gently. How much depends on the amount of fruit you have prepared. As a guide, for four mangoes, half a melon, four bananas, one apple and a cup and a half of grapes, I used one cup of cream and half a cup of sweetened condensed milk.
Once the salad has been assembled, place in a covered container and keep in the fridge until needed.
Fresh Tropical Fruit Salad
- 4 ripe mangoes
- 1/2 melon
- 4 ripe bananas
- 1 eating apple
- juice from a lemon quarter
- 1 and 1/2 cups seedless grapes
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
- Chill all the fruits, cream and sweetened condensed milk for several hours.
- Cut the mangoes in halves as close to the stone as possible. Discard the stones. Cut the mango halves into half inch cubes without piercing the skin then scoop out with a spoon or drinking glass.
- Peel the bananas and cut into slices about a third of an inch thick.
- Peel the apple (or not), core then cut into half-inch cubes.
- Place the banana slices and apple cubes in a large mixing bowl, pour in the lemon juice and toss to avoid discoloration.
- Stir in the mango cubes and grapes.
- Whip the cream until doubled in volume (an electric mixer is useful). Fold in the sweetened condensed milk.
- Pour the cream-milk mixture over the fruits and toss gently.
- Transfer the tropical fruit salad to a covered container and keep in the fridge until serving time.
Originally published in December, 2007.