One of the great things about being in a tropical country is the ginormous variety of fruits that are available. If I didn’t like meat so much I could become a fruitarian. And it’s not just because I’m a bit of a mental fruit loop, either! It’s more like I’ve got the most incredible sweet tooth. Growing up in South America we were raised on lots of fresh fruits and fruit juices. Holy cow! Fresh made papaya or mango juice sure does make me a mucho happy camper!
Here in Vietnam fresh cut fruit is the dessert of choice and fruit juices are a more common beverage than soda. Every morning we’d get up and cut some fresh fruit for breakfast. Sometimes we had well known produce like apples or peaches, mango or pineapple. And sometimes we had exotic fruits not readily (or reasonably priced) in the U.S..
Here we’ve got a grapefruit that my friend Liem is holding in the picture above. In the photo at the very top of this post you can see the contrast between peeled versus unpeeled. On the left we’ve got the fruit with peel, on the right it’s sans peel. What a difference, huh? About half of the fruit is this big thick peel. And the grapefruit itself is the pale yellow that you see above. It has a really nice mild grapefruit flavor without any of the sour astringency that is typical of the a ruby or pink grapefruit. It’s quite delicious and addictive. I could eat about ten of these in one sitting. They’re that good!
This is thang long also known as dragon fruit. It’s got the crispy fresh texture and high water content of an Asian pear. It has a mild sweetness and the tiny black seeds give a poppy seed-like crunch.
Equally as popular as the more widely known pink watermelon is this yellow crimson watermelon which is slightly sweeter and more honey-like in flavor. It’s typically a smaller melon, about 12-inches long or the size of a football. Delicious! Doesn’t last long in our house.
Aaaah, the sapodilla, which reminds my friend Leah so much of her childhood in Guyana, South America. You only eat the center of the fruit at peak ripeness otherwise it’s too bitter. The easiest way to eat it is to slice it into wedges and scoop out the center with a spoon. There are several varietals grown in Vietnam, but the most popular is the white varietal shown here. There is also a yellow and purple varietal that are equally delicious. The purple, which is a dark violet, is especially pretty.
Rambutan also known as chom chom. The skin is this tough and spiny exterior that you peel away to reveal a sweet translucent fruit meat that tastes similar to lychee. This is a wonderful fruit to eat with a bunch of friends—you can sit, relax, peel and chat while you eat a big bowl. It’s best to eat these puppies the same day as they attract fruit flies like crazy.
One of my absolute favorite fruits is the waterapple, which comes in colors ranging from light green to dark red. It has a very high water content, similar to the asian pear but even more so, and a light Granny Smith apple taste. Because they’re so light and mostly water it’s easy to chow down on these puppies. They keep for a long time and are perfect for road trips in the tropics.
Guava. Most commonly seen throughout the U.S. is a pink guava. The most common varietal in Vietnam is the white guava, which is a little less sweet and more tart, but equally delicious. When you order fresh guava juice don’t be surprised when it’s white or creamy.
These are mangosteen. The outer shell is a dark brown/burgundy shell that protects a segmented soft white fruit meat that is super sweet. Because the most common way to eat it is to slice off the top to reveal the fruit it always makes me think I’m eating a little candy brain. Gross, I know. But dude, it looks like a little brain in there, doesn’t it?
Here we’ve got the sugar apple also known as sweetsop. It has seeds or kernels similar to that of a pinecone or ear of corn that are individually encased in a white fleshy fruit meat that is soft and just a little sour/sweet. There are two varietals grown here: the soft and the firm. It makes a very popular pureed fruit juice, but make sure to consume it within 3 to 4 days as it goes bad quickly and attracts fruit flies.
Finally we’ve got the green orange. Funky, huh? It tastes like a cross between a tangerine and an orange. The exterior is that dark hunter green. Makes a fantastic orange juice!
I could go on and on with the list of exotic fruits grown and eaten here, but there’s just not enough time. Next time you’re in the tropics don’t be afraid of buying some fruit and just trying it whether you’re familiar with it or not. Chances are you won’t go wrong.