Burst of tropical flavors: 11 Vietnamese fruits that rule them all (Part 1)

By Thuy Hang, Thanh Nien News

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Vietnam, especially the southern region, is definitely the heaven of tropical fruits.
The all-year-round heat nurtures and sweetens so many kinds of fruits that are different in colors and favors.  
Here is a special list of 11 fruits that are much loved by locals and by a lot of foreigners who have a chance to taste them. 
All of the fruits can be easily found in supermarkets, wet markets and grocery stores.
There are also many street vendors who push small carts or use carrying poles to sell the fruits around most cities.
1. Xoài (mango)

There are quite many varieties of mango in Vietnam, but the most famous is probably Hoa Loc mango from the Mekong Delta. It was originally grown in a small commune formerly known as Hoa Loc in Tien Giang Province.
Hoa Loc mango is usually 350-450 grams in weight. It has an oval shape and the skin is light yellow when ripe. The flesh is also bright yellow, firm and smooth. It is sweet and has a nice fragrance.
When you buy mangos, you should pick the fragrant ones, not the big ones. And remember to wash mangos and peel them. The skin is edible, but it can be a bit chewy. 
2. Măng cụt (mangosteen)

Mangosteen is actually named purple mangosteen as it has a purple, hard rind.
Some may find it difficult to crack open a mangosteen. There are two ways to do it: soften the rind all around with your fingers and palms and then you can easily split it, or cut it with a knife.
You should make an incision along the equator, but be careful, because you don't want to cut into the lovely, soft flesh inside.
This juicy and tangy white flesh is the only edible part of a mangosteen. The flesh usually tastes sweet, but sometimes a little sour.
A good mangosteen is the one with more segments and less seeds.
In Vietnam, people usually say that buying mangosteens is like buying lottery -- you can’t never be sure what you will get. 
But there are still some tips. For example, pick the ones with green, fresh stems, as this means they are new. 
Mangosteen is among the most sought-after fruits in the summer. Mostly because its season is very short, usually from May to August. So go and get some now!
3. Vú sữa (star apple)

The name “vú sữa” literally means “breast milk” in Vietnamese because of the white and milky juice coming out when you squeeze the fruit and spoon out the flesh.
It is interesting to eat a star apple: you should squeeze it all around with your fingers to soften it first, then cut it in half, scoop out the white, sweet and juicy flesh and serve.
When removing the flesh, try to avoid getting the bitter latex of the rind.
If you do not squeeze the star apple well before eating, it may be a little bitter and you may taste the unpleasant, sticky latex.
Many people have actually argued over how to cut the fruit.
Cut it in half horizontally to see the beautiful star pattern -- but chances are that the knife will hit the hard seeds. Or cut it from top down and then into smaller wedges. Or simply cut the top to create a hole big enough to spoon out the flesh. 
The skin can be green or purple, and it does not mean it is not ripe when it is green. In Vietnam, the most famous variety is Lo Ren star apple from Vinh Kim Commune, Chau Thanh District, Tien Giang Province.
4. Sầu riêng (durian)

Durian is not a fruit for everyone -- you either love it or hate it.
If you like it, you will worship it. But if you don’t, you surely will have to cover your nose up whenever you see it.
The distinctive smell and the strangely gooey flesh make this divisive fruit unique. The best durian will have no or very few seeds, and the flesh is soft, sweet and have a fresh, buttery color.
The two most famous varieties in Vietnam are Ri 6 and Cai Mon, from the Mekong Delta provinces of Vinh Long and Ben Tre.
Durian should be eaten at home, not in a public place given its strong smell. 
5. Chôm chôm (rambutant)

It may look like a hedgehog, but the inside is what matters right?
The white flesh is very juicy with a light sweetness and a subtle sour taste. 
The skin, and the green spines, are actually quite soft and can be removed easily. If you need to use a knife, make sure the cut is not too deep because you don't want to cut into that translucent flesh inside. 
The next step is to eat the flesh around the seed. Avoid biting into the tough, papery skin surrounding the seed.
Some people hold the rambutant by their fingers and nibble. Others pop the whole thing in their mouth and spit out the seed, but as always, be careful of choking hazards. 
There are several kinds of rambutant: the normal rambutant is called chôm chôm in Vietnam and it has red, leathery skin and long, thick spines. It also tastes a little sour and is as big as a golf ball.
The other kind is chôm chôm nhãn, which is smaller has fewer and shorter spines. Chôm chôm nhãn also tastes sweeter and it is easier to remove the seed from the flesh. It has a hue that is more yellow than red. 
Check out the second part to see even more exotic fruits that you would want to try in Vietnam. 

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