Last week’s post was pretty heavy. So today let’s do something completely different. It’s time to play Name That Fruit! One of the first things we noticed on hitting Asia in 2012 was that the produce on this side of the world tastes amazing, much better than back home. It turns out there’s a reason for that: America just doesn’t care much about flavor when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Korean produce was pretty good compared to Milwaukee. But so far, Việt Nam is the hands down winner.
And many of our current favorites were entirely unknown when we arrived. We weren’t even sure how to eat some of them. So we thought we’d share the weirdest and/or most delicious fruits we’ve encountered in Saigon. Whether you’re planning a trip to Việt Nam or just want to show off your fruity prowess, this post is for you.
Let’s start out easy:
I'll give you a hint. Tourists typically enjoy these with a straw, while sitting on a beach, under an umbrella.
They're COCONUTS. Green coconuts, in this case, which just means they're at a different developmental stage from the brown shells you're used to. In many tropical countries, you'll find vendors selling these to beach goers. Hack off the top, slide in a straw, and have a nice sip of the juice.
Let's try another easy one.
Yes, these are YELLOW MANGOES, or locally, Xòai. They're just as vibrant inside as they are outside, and the taste is tongue-blastingly sweet.
But those were too easy. Let's do something harder. Here's a fruit that's getting a little trendy, depending on what wine you drink (that was a hint, by the way).
And this is a slightly more close up shot taken by someone else. And before you guess, no, it's not a grapefruit.
Give up? It's POMELO, aka (and I'm not making this up) Citrus Maxima. It's big (think soccer ball) and tastes like a mild, sweeter grapefruit.
How about something a little more exotic-looking?
You're looking at the DRAGON FRUIT, or PITAYA. They're also sometimes called strawberry pears, though I think they're more like oversized kiwi. The grey-white flesh is the only part that's edible, and it tastes fresh and mildly sweet. It's actually one of our favorite fruits at the moment.
Our next entry is one we've flirted with before.
Yes, that's DURIAN, aka "The King of Fruits." The outer shell is like a big nut. It hides a yellow, edible flesh that smells like Hulk Hogan's knickers after a Wrestlemania match. It's supposedly amazing, but we've never tried it for obvious reasons.
These are BUDDHA'S HAND. Yes, that is their actual name, after the distinct, fingerlike growths. Surprisingly, more people use these as an aromatic than a source of food. The clean, citrus smell lightens a room quite nicely. The skin is also often used as a spice, like lemon zest. They can be eaten - they don't have much in the way of pulp. But more often than not, they're just pleasantly smelly.
Still with me? Try this one.
That's the JAVA APPLE or WAX APPLE. They're about the size of a pear, with an inner flesh that tastes like a mild apple. The core has a texture like cotton candy, though it's the outer rind where all the flavor is.
Last one. Ready?
I know, I know. They look like nuts, but I swear they're a fruit.
You're looking at LONGAN, aka Dragon's Eye. They earned that nickname because, when you shell them, a black pit shines through the translucent flesh like a creepy eyeball. But despite appearances, they're sweet, and surprisingly addictive. We eat these by the handful, until our house looks like we're a couple of pistachio addicts.
And that's your tropical fruit quiz of the day! Did we hit all the delicious fruits Việt Nam has to offer? Of course not. There are dozens more we haven't even begun to try, like Star Apples, Mangosteen, Rambutan, and Papaya.
But that just means it's time to go to the store.
-Sam and Erin
Got two fruits going on here. Any guesses?
TRICK QUESTION! They're both Momordica, just different branches.
On the left, MOMORDICA CHARANTIA, aka bitter melon. Most often used in Chinese medicine. Potentially helps regulate diabetes, though more study would need to be done.
On the right? MOMORDICA COCHINCHINENSIS,aka red melon or baby jackfruit. Also bitter, gac fruit is typically served around Tết and other holidays.