Taste Test: Buddha's Hand

By Lisa Katayama

Buddhas_hand_2.jpg

This has to be one of the strangest looking fruits on the planet. It's also one of the most useless when it comes to conventional usage — this member of the citrus family has no pulp or juices; it's all skin and pith. But while you wouldn't squeeze this one over veggies or in your afternoon tea, its rind is a complement to almost anything and can be seen on many a fancy restaurant's menu.

Buddha's Hand hails from India and parts of China. It may have gotten its name from the way it looks like human fingers, or because it's sometimes used as an offering at Buddhist temples. In parts of Asia, it's used to decorate tabletops and as a natural air freshener. Here in the US, you may have experienced it as flavored vodka.

Instructables.com has a quick and easy recipe for candied Buddha's Hand. Here are the basics:

Chop up 1 Buddha's Hand into small strips or cubes. Put them in a pot with 3 cups of water and 3 cups of sugar, and bring to a boil on medium heat. Once it boils, simmer for 45 minutes. Once it becomes candied and syrupy, turn off the heat and let it cool for about a half hour.
I should mention that this fruit is not in season right now; you might be able to find it at the supermarket now, but you'll likely have to wait until fall, which is when it's most ready to eat.

Every installment of Taste Test will explore recipes, the science, and some history behind a specific food item.

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Published 8:10 am Fri, Apr 2, 2010

About the Author

I'm a contributing editor here at Boing Boing. I also have a blog (TokyoMango), a book (Urawaza), and I freelance for Wired, Make, the NY Times Magazine, PRI's Studio360, etc. I'm @tokyomango on Twitter.

33 Responses to “Taste Test: Buddha's Hand”

  1. Pantograph says:

    “If you meet the Buddha on the road, chop his hand into small strips or cubes.”

    Sorry, just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

  2. MadMolecule says:

    I went to a Christmas party last year at which one of these was on the table as decoration. They may not be good to eat, but they smell lovely.

  3. Ellavemia says:

    It really should be called Cthulhu’s Beard.

    Also, you will never, ever find that in a market here, in season or not. I envy your markets.

  4. juliegomoll says:

    At last, we learn where the inspiration for Sideshow Bob’s hairdo came from.

  5. Bennett says:

    It’s pretty good raw in a salad, if you chop it thinly enough.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Can you tell us how it tastes? citrusy? floral? sweet? spicy? bitter? mild? strong?

    the post is called “taste test” after all..

  7. dculberson says:

    Hangar One makes a Buddha’s Hand vodka, using whole Buddha’s Hands, not an extract or concentrate. It’s pretty tasty.

    http://www.hangarone.com/fruit3.html

    [no relation, don’t work for them, just a drunkard.]

  8. Anonymous says:

    We grow them in our back yard, and I’ve made Buddhacello (like Limoncello), Buddha Hand Campari Marmalade, and citronette (like vinaigrette, but with citrus) served over pancetta-wrapped asparagus. The floral quality of the hand really adds a wonderful note.

  9. monkey says:

    unlike the pith of other citrus fruits, the buddha hand’s is less bitter. i imagine that is why the candied buddha hand recipe lisa has listed omits the step that is necessary with other citrus products of boiling for 5 minutes to reduce the bitterness.

    it’s a natural for marmalade, wonderful grated raw into salads, sliced into beverages.

    please remember to wash it before you use it.

  10. Jason Rizos says:

    I’d like to take the rind and steep it in hot beer wort for 10 minutes, a light beer with 40% wheat malt, add Belgian White yeast. Viola!

  11. IWood says:

    Didn’t know the Buddha was a got-damn alien freak.

  12. Jason Rizos says:

    Jesus was an extraterrestrial.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I made my own flavored vodka with one of these recently. Came out great. I used a Svedka Potato Vodka (I think Potato Vodka tastes better, YMMV) and decanted it into a Bell canning jar. I then cut the Buddha’s hand into slices and put them in the vodka (washing first). I let it sit in a dark place for about 2 weeks, then decanted the vodka back into the Svedka bottle. It took on quite a bit of the yellow hue from the fruit, and tastes wonderful.

    I like to make my version of a pomegranate martini with it.

    1 part citron (the buddha’s hand vodka)
    1 part pomegranate liqueur
    2 parts pomegranate juice

    Shake with ice, strain, and put a lemon or orange rind curl in it.

    For extra points, burn the lemon or orange oil with a match as you squeeze it into the drink. Makes a neat show, as well as making a great extra taste.

  14. JonGilbert says:

    Careful with Buddha Hands – they often like to prey on unsuspecting oranges: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jon_gilbert/3066752720/

  15. katzenjammy says:

    At the Chow Kit market in (predominantly Muslim) Kuala Lumpur, I was informed that this fruit is “Tiger’s Paw” rather than “Buddha’s Hand.”

  16. dghenke says:

    Some kind of amazingly delicious synergy happens when you eat very thin shavings of the rind (try a microplane!) with super-dark (80+%) chocolate and oak-y high-tannin red wine. Om nom nom.

    No viola, cello or other instrument from the bowed string family, though. Sorry.

  17. glamaFez says:

    Buddha’s hand scares the shit out of me.

  18. melpriestley says:

    I can attest to the deliciousness of Hangar One’s vodka made with Buddha’s Hand. It’s the only lemon vodka I’ve had that doesn’t remind me of furniture polish.

  19. Chupacabara says:

    I thought Hellboy killed those things in the first movie?

  20. mermaid says:

    It looks like a chrysanthemum.

  21. Rich Keller says:

    Super Saiyan hair? A nudibranch?

    My hope is that Buddha never asks me to knit him some gloves.

  22. giova says:

    This was a fun holiday project. I bought one out of curiosity last November and the thing I made was “buddha-cello”, a variation on limoncello. It’s all rind. Nothing inside just a thick rind. Grating it is interesting. The project was a huge success, delicious and strong. You grate the rind into 100 proof vodka an d let it sit for two weeks. Then…. I’ll be making it again next year.

  23. jere7my says:

    That’s the Buddha’s hand? I guess that explains the old koan:

    “What is the sound of one hand clapping? BOOYAGH! BLAGH! OOGEDY OOGEDY BLLLAARGH!”

    “Aiyee! Get it away! Get it away!”

  24. Anonymous says:

    I have thought for a while now Taste Test is really the wrong name for this feature as no one actually seems to taste the food, particularly no one who has not tasted it before, and there is no real commentary on the taste but rather just describes how it is eaten around the world.

    Its me being pedantic over descriptions yet again, but it bugs me.

    • jenjen says:

      While I agree that I’d like to see the author actually try to describe how things taste, I usually get a pretty good idea of taste and how to use it from other commenters. Perhaps that is the point – “discuss amongst yourselves.”

  25. redhead says:

    we have them in markets here, but I call them Cthulhu fruit. Tastes like old ones?

  26. Ivan Sputnik says:

    If it was up to me, I would call this “Jesus’ bed head”.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I wonder how it would work for cranberry-citrus mix on Turkey. Currently I use a 12 oz. pack of cranberries and 1 whole orange and the skin from a tangerine. I will have to give this a shot next year.

  28. Teresa Nielsen Hayden says:

    Buddha’s Hand tastes and smells like citron. It makes great marmalade and candied peel.

    Keep it clean and dry, and use it soon after you get it, because it doesn’t keep well. The minute it starts getting mushy and discolored in spots, pare away everything that isn’t healthy flesh, and cook or process what’s left.

    One useful trick when you’re candying it: get a very sharp knife or a mandoline, and slice the fruit perpendicular to its central axis. The slices come out shaped like mutant stick-on daisies.

  29. jennyj says:

    I like the idea of these “taste test” posts, but they seem to stop short of actually describing what the foods taste like. Maybe you should call them “meet some produce” or something.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I’m wondering, though – if there’s nothing inside, how is it useful (to the plant) as a fruit? A big Lovecraftian beard of pith and rind can’t be very helpful in reproduction.

    recaptcha: whether is. WHETHER IS FRUIT PLS HALP?

  31. Anonymous says:

    why does this tentacly thing inspire fear? oh ya…the hentai…