The coconut palm's exotic heart

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The coconut tree not only yields the delicious and versatile nut, but also other parts that go into some amazing dishes
 Rice pancake and the coconut palm's heart

Known as the land of coconuts, Ben Tre Province in the Mekong Delta evokes a rural image of the palms fluttering in the wind and girls with long and beautiful hair.

The land also knows how to take advantage of its coconut bounty to produce interesting specialties like candy and wine, which are all the rage not only locally, but also around the country and even in neighboring countries.

Among other specialties is the heart of the coconut palm, a favorite among locals and a tasty treat that tourists should not miss while visiting the land.

The apical buds of adult palm are considered a rare delicacy since harvesting them kills the palms. In fact, if a palm tree is split, at its heart can be found the soft white core.

Salads to which the hearts are often added are sometimes called the "millionaire's salad."

The heart of palm is known to be nutritious because it does not contain cholesterol or saturated fat unlike the nut. It is also rich in fiber and minerals.

It is up to one to eat it raw or turn it into a salad or soup. But it is not a good idea to eat a lot of it raw because it can cause indigestion.

Coconut delicacies

The older the coconut palm is, the more delicious the heart. That is why locals often choose old trees besides ones with few nuts and of poor quality to extract the heart.

The heart is white, fresh, cool, and sweet. One can use it to make many delicacies such as heart of palm stir-fried with chicken tripe or shrimp or cooked with shrimp and meat or with meat balls.

But possibly the most delicious is a mixed salad made with the heart, shrimp, and pork, which is often served as an appetizer.

To make the dish, soak the cut or threaded heart of palm in ice water with a little lemon juice to keep it white and crunchy. Mix it with garlic, chili, lemon juice, sugar, and fish sauce before adding boiled black tiger prawn and slices of meat.

Some skillful cooks add Vietnamese coriander, threaded chili, onions, and fried shallots on top to make the dish more colorful.

The salad is served with shrimp cracker and a dipping fish sauce with chopped chili, garlic, sugar, and lemon juice.

The millionaire's salad is so popular and easy to make that it is available in many restaurants in Ben Tre Province and even Ho Chi Minh City.

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