The Asian Pear: A Fruit with Many Names:
Koreans call “bae” a “Korean pear” in English, but the fruit is also sometimes called Nashi apple, apple pear, Asian pear, Japanese pear, Chinese pear, sand pear, and bapple. I usually see them labeled as 'apple pears' in grocery stores in my neighborhood. It is not, as this name might suggest, a hybrid between an apple and a pear. It's a good descriptive name though, as their round shape, crunchiness, and texture do resemble apples.
The Taste of Bae:
Like apples, Asian pears taste best when they ripen on the tree and are ready to eat as soon as they are harvested. They do not to soften and get sweeter as Western pears do, so you do not wait to eat them. Asian pears are hard, crisp, sweet, slightly tart at the core, and very juicy. Because of their high water content, they are not generally cooked into pies or preserved into jams or jellies. In the Korean home, they are peeled and enjoyed raw as a dessert or a snack, are eaten raw in salads, and use as sweetener in cooking and marinating.
The Gift of Pears:
Growing Asian pears can be labor intensive and the fruit is bruised easily from rough handling, packing, or picking (they need to be packed with individual padding or in soft trays like eggs). Because of this, these pears can be quite expensive and, among Koreans and other East Asians, are given as gifts or served to guests.
Buying and Storing Asian Pears:
Asian pears range in color from green to yellow to brown. When you are buying them, try to find fragrant and firm fruit with little or no bruises on the skin. They keep well, and can keep for a couple weeks in a cool, dry place or for a few months in the refrigerator.