Burst of tropical flavors: 11 Vietnamese fruits that rule them all
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.
6. Thanh long (dragon fruit)
Dragon fruit has a beautiful pink skin with a few green scales. Although the skin looks soft and juicy, it is inedible.
In Vietnam, the flesh of this fruit can be either white or red. It is soft and very juicy, with a lightly sweet taste and has no smell. The little black seeds, like sesame, are edible and said to be good for digestion.
The fruit is mostly planted in Binh Thuan Province, home to the resort town of Mui Ne. It is so popular you can buy it anywhere now.
It is quite easy to cut open a dragon fruit. You can then remove the flesh by peeling the skin or simply scoop it out with a spoon.
7. Mít (jackfruit)
Although jackfruit looks somewhat similar to the prickly durian, its has a more pleasant smell.
The sweet taste of jackfruit can be addictive, but remember not to eat too much as it may cause digestion problems.
In Vietnam, there are several varieties of jackfruit, but the most popular one is the crunchy and dry jackfruit, as opposed to a variety that is very sticky.
Street vendors usually give you small boxes containing ready-to-eat bulbs. Some still leave the large seeds inside, but all you have to do is to remove them from the yellow flesh.
If you buy a whole jackfruit, it can be a real headache.
When cut, the fruit releases latex and it can’t be easily rinsed off. Rub your hands and the knife with oil before cutting, or wear disposable gloves. Cut jackfruit lengthwise and then remove the core and the fibrous strands. Voila, those delicious fleshy bulbs are ready.
8. Bòn bon (langsat)
Langsat is one of the lesser-known fruits in Vietnam. These small, translucent, orb-shaped fruits can be quite sour before ripe, but are perfectly sweet and juicy when ripe.
Langsat is sold in bunches. Just peel the skin and you will see the very soft flesh. Remember to discard the seeds, if there are any.
The fruit may be a bit sticky as there is latex inside its skin. You should be careful not to let the latex touch your clothes.
9. Vải (lychee)
Summer is the season of lychee.
Although lychee is mostly cultivated in the north, you can easily buy it across the country.
The fruit is extremely juicy, sweet and easy to eat. Just remove the crispy red skin with your fingers, as if you are peeling an boiled egg, and then suck the tasty white flesh.
Lychee cannot be kept long, so you’d better store it in the fridge. If the skin has dark blotches or turns pale, it is no longer fresh.
10. Na/Mãng cầu (custard apple)
Custard apple is very popular given its tastetiness and health benefits.
When a custard apple is ripe, its skin becomes soft and easy to peel. Then you can bite directly into the white sweet flesh, or scoop it out with a spoon. Remember to spit the hard black seeds out. There will be many seeds in one custard apple.
If a custard apple is hard, it means it is not ripe. Wait for a few days in room temperature and it will get soft and ready to be served.
Custard apples do not stay fresh for very long. Treat them like how you treat bananas.
The flesh is thick and creamy. It is this custard-like texture that gives the fruit its name.
Many Vietnamese people believe the best custard apple is the one with big scale-like sections on its skin. They call those green lumps “eyes” of the custard apple. They say a custard apple is ripe when its “eyes” are wide open.
11. Hồng xiêm (sapodilla)
Sapodilla is a popular tropical fruit, especially in Southeast Asia. This round or oval-shaped fruit is very soft and sweet. But if it is not ripe, the latex inside the flesh makes the fruit inedible. This kind of latex is called chicle – a natural ingredient used in making chewing gum and other products.
Usually a sapodilla is ripe when it turns soft. If it is hard, keep it in room temperature for a few days until it gets soft.
Covered by a thin skin, sapodilla is easy to peel. The hard black seeds inside the flesh are inedible.
When you buy sapodillas, you should pick the ones with brown yellowish skin, not the green ones, unless you can wait for a few days.
Because of its thin and soft skin, it does not have a very long shelf life.