The pomelos from Ipoh are famed throughout South East Asia. A pomelo is a type of citrus fruit that has a greenish-yellowy colour that is similar to a grapefruit, only much bigger. They are the giants of the citrus world and can weigh up to two kilogram each.
Although you would think that such a large citrus fruit would be quite bitter, the pomelo’s white flesh is actually quite sweet, and they are not at all unpalatable.
I have grown quite fond of pomelos, and it is not because of their sweetness, but because I discovered another use for them.
The best pomelos are grown around Ipoh, the capital of Perak State in Malaysia. I learnt all about pomelos when I was fortunate to have dinner with the Perak Minister for Tourism. We started talking about pomelos, and at the mere mention of the word others at the dinner joined in to venerate this humble, but gigantic, fruit.
During the conversation, the Minister mentioned that, as a girl, she had enjoyed making pomelo hats. When I enquired as to her technique, a pomelo was summoned from the kitchen, together with a very sharp knife.
With great dexterity the Minister neatly plunged the knife into the skin right into the centre of the circumference. With nimble fingers she deftly made a slit around the pomelo and carved the pith away from the fruit so as to extract the skin from the top half of the pomelo.
When detached from the pomelo, the top half of the skin did resemble a shiny beanie. As the honoured guest it was my pleasure to wear the pomelo hat and to pose for photos with those who were present.
I have to say, that because the pith of the pomelo is so thick, it did indeed feel as if I was wearing a woollen hat, and it was not at all uncomfortable.
I left Ipoh the next day, but it is my understanding that a photo of my pomelo clad head did indeed make it onto the front page of the local Ipoh newspaper, although I doubt whether I am considered fashionable enough to influence others to adopt my cranial garb.
One of the things that I really enjoy about travel is that experiences, such as my pomelo hat in Ipoh, leave you with great memories of a place. Not so much of the sights that you enjoy, although that, too, is important, but of the circumstances you encountered when you were there, and of the fond memories of the people that you meet.
My pomelo hat was a completely unplanned, spur-of-the-moment event which left me with very pleasant memories of Ipoh and the yearning to visit Perak again.