Pomelo à la carte

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The fruit is made into wine and a delicious variety of dishes in a village in Dong Nai Province near Ho Chi Minh City

Chicken and pomelo leaves steamed in a pomelo whole peel served at Huynh Duc Hue's garden in Tan Trieu Village, Dong Nai Province / PHOTOS: TAN TOI

Situated on an island some 40 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City, Tan Trieu Village has for long been known for its pomelo.

It has nearly 10 varieties of the fruit, but the most famous is bưởi Ä‘ường lá cam (pomelo with orange leaf), which is sweet and slightly sour.

The variety, which was registered by the National Office of Intellectual Property of Vietnam last year, has a thinner peel compared to others and ivory yellow flesh.

In recent years Tan Trieu has become well-known since locals have begun operating ecotours of their pomelo gardens.

While there tourists can take part in farming activities like picking pomelos and rowing fishing boats besides watching performances of nhạc tài tử (traditional folk music), which is popular in southern Vietnam, and enjoying wines and an array of foods made from the famous fruit.

The best time for visiting the village is obviously the fruit season which starts in the eighth lunar month and ends in the last. The eighth lunar month started on September 5 this year.

So I recently made a trip there and visited a two-hectare garden owned by Huynh Duc Hue some eight kilometers from Bien Hoa Town.

It has 500 bưởi Ä‘ường lá cam trees from which he makes rượu bưởi (pomelo wine) and many foods.

One of the first producers of rượu bưởi in Tan Trieu, Hue told me it is made from newly ripened fruits, whose flesh is placed along with sugar in layers in a jug or wooden box.

After a month the now fermented flesh is processed into juice and mixed with rice wine. The mixture, after being filtered, is stored for three or four months until its alcohol content is around 15 percent.

According to Hue, rượu bưởi should be aged for more than a year to achieve a desirable tone.

The drink has become well-known in the north in recent years, even more than in the south, he said, adding that his sales increased by around 30 percent annually.

At Hue's garden, I was also treated to various foods made from pomelos, besides the traditional chè bưởi (sweet soup with the pomelo's white rind and mung beans) that can be found almost everywhere in Ho Chi Minh City and gỏi bưởi (salad of pomelo flesh with prawns and carrots) that is common in Vietnamese menus.

There was a dish called chạch lấu nưá»›ng ống tre tươi in which a kind of eel, young leaves of pomelo, and Vietnamese coriander were placed in bamboo stems and grilled over charcoal

GETTING THERE

Tan Trieu Village is situated in Vinh Cuu District, Dong Nai Province.
 
From Ho Chi Minh City, go along Hanoi Highway to reach Bien Hoa Town, Dong Nai. It is around 30 kilometers from there.
 
From Bien Hoa, get on a boat to reach Tan Trieu, or go along National Highway 24 for three or four kilometers.

The pomelo leaves and coriander got rid of the fishy odor, while the resin from the bamboo was absorbed into the eel's flesh, creating an irresistible flavor.

It was delicious when dipped into a mixture of salt and chili.

Then gà tre a kind of small chicken that is famous in the Mekong Delta for its meat and shredded pomelo leaves were steamed in a pomelo whole peel.

Once again the fruit's extract helped enhance the taste of the meat.

Even the pomelo rind is cooked by being cut into long pieces, rolled in flour, and deep-fried, making for a tasty a snack.

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