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What is a Cempedak?

By Douglas Bonderud
Updated May 16, 2024
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A cempedak is a fruit found predominantly in Malaysia and Thailand. It is also known as chempedak. This fruit comes from the Artocarpus integer tree. The term 'Artocarpus' is derived from two Greek words, artos, meaning bread, and karpus, meaning fruit.

These trees grow up to 49 ft (15 m) tall, and are found in low-lying rain forests. The leaves of the tree are a dull green and have brown hair on them. When it is young, the cempedak tree has smooth bark that grows rough as it ages.

Cempedak fruit is yellow, brown, or green in color, and contains between 100 and 500 seeds. The fruit is barrel or pear-shaped, while the seeds are shaped like kidneys. These seeds are surrounded by a soft yellow flesh which can be eaten without cooking or other preparation. The flesh has a sweet taste and strong smell, and is the most often used part of the fruit.

Seeds of this fruit can also be roasted and eaten, as can the flesh around the seeds. This part is also used for making jams and cakes, and can be salted to make a form of jerky. Whole fruits are also cooked and eaten. In Malaysia, the tree is grown commercially for food production purposes.

Spines cover the outside edge of the cempedak fruit, but it can still be easily opened by hand. When a cempedak fruit is opened, it will excrete a sticky substance. This requires an oil-based product to remove, since water is ineffective.

Closely related to cempedak fruit is the jackfruit. Jackfruits have the same pulpy flesh around their seeds, but are less sweet than chempedak. The jackfruit is also almost perfectly round, and does not exhibit the characteristic narrowing found around the middle of cempedak fruits. The flesh is also considered more suitable for dessert dishes than that from a jackfruit.

For this plant to grow properly, a continuously irrigated environment is required. These trees are found only in areas that have no truly dry season. A chempedak tree requires a minimum mean rainfall of 50 in (1,250 mm).

These trees are evergreen and will bear fruit once or twice per year. In addition to its function as a food crop, the chempedak tree is also cultivated for its wood, which is durable and resistant to termites. The bark is used in the production of the yellow dye used on the saffron-colored robes of Buddhist monks.

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Discussion Comments
By SteamLouis — On Oct 04, 2014

@candyquilt-- Yes, the fruit from the outside may smell different for those who haven't encountered cempedak before. But the fruit on the inside smells and tastes completely different. Trust me, it tastes great.

Even if you are no fond of the fresh fruit, you should try cempedak pastries sometime which are very delicious as well.

By candyquilt — On Oct 04, 2014

@ddljohn-- The fruits commonly referred to as durians which includes jackfruit and the closely related cempedak, are actually known for their very offensive smell.

I've heard on several accounts that these fruits smell rotten and repulsive when ripe. And tourists often flee away from the trees full of ripe fruit. It's certainly not something that I would want to experience.

Now I don't know about the flesh. It is said to have a nice, sweet flavor. But I don't know anyone can get past the repulsive scent of the tree and fruit skin to enjoy the flesh of the fruit. If the fruit is cut and cleaned for me and the flesh served in a pleasing way, then I would try it. But I have no interest in handling a ripe cempedak myself.

By ddljohn — On Oct 04, 2014

I'm always amazed to know the variety of exotic fruits around the world that I have never seen or tasted. I can't believe that there are so many and they all are so unique. The cempedak fruit must be one of the most interesting tropical fruits. Just look at the shape of the flesh! It's so different.

Has anyone here had fresh cempedak? What does it taste like? Did you enjoy it and where did you get it?

By Rotergirl — On Sep 28, 2014

I actually had some of this when we went on a mission trip to Bangkok! We were always advised to eat fruit that had to be peeled in our presence to help guard against picking up a goolie in the country.

The locals highly recommended this and it was delicious. I could have eaten nothing but this the whole time. I'm used to heat and high humidity, but Southeast Asia is a whole different animal. All I wanted to do was eat fruit and drink water. We tended to eat breakfast very early in the morning, and I ate fruit the rest of the day. We found some shaved ice stalls that used purified water to make the ice, and they had cempedak ices. They were absolutely wonderful! It's an awesome fruit!

By Pippinwhite — On Sep 27, 2014

This has to be the same fruit that a friend of mine talked about after she got back from Malaysia. I remember her talking about the durian, and how it stank, but I also remember her mentioning this other fruit and it sounded something like "champy," but I couldn't remember the exact name. I'm sure this is the same thing, though.

She said the fruit was delicious though, and also ate ice cream and shaved ices made from it. She said she wished she could have brought home a dozen of them, but of course, you can't bring that kind of thing into the U.S. I doubt they would export well, either.

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