Vietnamese Tropical Fruit (and how to eat it).
From left to right: durian, dragon fruit, jackfruit, star apple, custard apple, mangosteen, rambutan, lychee, langsat, and longan. Not that we needed this much fruit but once you get into a serious tasting, the tendency is to push it as far as you can. The only thing that really worried me was the durian. There is nothing in the world that tastes more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than durian, and I knew we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon.
Nhan (Longan): Longan means dragon’s eye; the reason becomes obvious as soon as you peel away the skin. The black seed is surrounded by a small amount of translucent flesh. Longan is a traditional fruit in Vietnam, closely related to the lychee, and grown in the Mekong Delta region. Peel open the longan using your fingernail (as if peeling an orange). It is extremely sweet, very juicy, and has a jelly like texture; like a very sweet, very soft grape. It’s no Buffalo chicken wings though.
Bon bon (Langsat): On first glance this fruit looks like a small potato – not the most appetizing appearance, but peel the skin back to reveal a segmented white translucent fruit. Some of the segments contain a small seed. The fruit has a delicious sweet and sour taste; like a sour patch kid, but the gummy kind.
Trai Vai (Lychee): Very juicy but without a strong flavour. It feels decadent to eat it. The taste is almost reminiscent of Turkish delight. To eat the lychee, dig your nail into the stem and peel the skin away. Don’t bite into the seed, as it is slightly poisonous. Eating nine of these babies will fulfill your daily vitamin C requirement!
Chom Chom (Rambutan): Chom chom means “messy hair” in Vietnamese. The fruit is native to Vietnam and closely related to the lychee. Squeeze it until the skin splits and the fruit pops out. Its flesh is a white translucent colour and tastes like a cross between a grape and a plum; the texture is closer to a grape. A sweet taste but there’s not much flesh on it. A large seed in the middle is covered with a papery casing. The best part of the chom chom is saying chom chom.
Get our free Ultimate Guide to Vietnamese Food.
Mang Cut (Mangosteen): Squeeze the fruit until the rind splits… or use a knife. The rind is quite bitter so be careful not to cut through to the fruit. Inside you will find a segmented white fruit reminiscent of a bulb of garlic. It’s like if an orange was an apple: it splits apart like an orange, it’s juicy like an orange, but it tastes closer to an apple.
Mang Cau (Custard Apple): Cut the custard apple in half and use a spoon to scoop out the soft flesh avoiding watermelon-like black seeds. It tastes like someone took an apple, dipped it in custard, and then a bully kicked sand all over it. If you can get past the gritty-yet-at-the-same-time-mushy texture, it’s pretty delicious. Maybe we just got a bad custard apple.
Vu Sua (Star Apple): Vu sua means “milk from the breast” in Vietnamese. This particular species of star apple can only be found in Vietnam and is grown locally in Can Tho. Massage the fruit around the edge and then use your nail to pierce open the skin. Pull it in half to reveal the lactescent fruit. Use a spoon to scoop and eat. The star apple tastes sweet and milky, nothing like an apple. I’d say it tastes like breast milk but I haven’t had it in a long time (14 days). The texture of the flesh is closer to an overly ripe pear.
Mit (Jackfruit): The largest tree-borne fruit. It can weigh up to 80 pounds, and measure up to 36 inches in length. Jackfruit vendors can be found around the streets of Vietnam, where they cut up the beast and sell it in more palatable sized portions. Jackfruit can cure ulcers and indigestion, and has cancer-fighting properties. When it is unripe, it can be used as a meat alternative in vegetarian cooking. Jackfruit is the closest fruit will get to having a superhero. Kind of like a cross between pineapple and banana. It tastes like Juicyfruit! “Jackfruit is gonna move ya, eat too much it’ll run right through ya.”
Thanh Long (Dragon fruit): The most bad-ass of the Vietnamese fruits: like something out of Super Mario Bros. To eat a dragon fruit, cut down the middle from top to bottom, scoop around the edge with a spoon (as if scooping out an avocado). It tastes very similar to a kiwi with the texture of a pear. Don’t worry, the seeds are edible.
Sau Rieng (Durian): Banned from taxis and hotel rooms across Southeast Asia. We were forced to eat it hanging out of our guesthouse window, like a couple of kids smoking cigarettes in their bedroom. The odour hits you first: it smells like someone bit into an onion, ate it, and then blew their breath back in your face. It looks like a soggy croissant, and it has the taste and consistency of a mouldy potato. For some strange reason, it was the most expensive of all the fruit we bought. An hour after eating it, the taste still creeps around my mouth like a recently divorced man in a nightclub.