Sunday, September 13, 2009

Destination Vietnam #4: Fruit in Southeast Asia

A fruit seller in Thailand

For all the agrotechnology we have in this country, it's amazing to think we can't produce fruit as delicious as in tropical areas. Of course, barring considerations of growing conditions and transportation, American fruit is mediocre at best. Especially after my move from California to New York, I realized I lucky I was to have the plentiful produce of sunny Cali. But still, California's got nothing on Southeast Asia in terms of fruit.


In Hanoi's old district, the streets are still known by the commodity that they sell. All the metal workers gather together and make a tin street. A little further is the leather street. Got an itch for stone Buddha statues? There's a street for that too. For the more food inclined, I'd suggest searching for the fruit "smoothie" street.

As you can see, they are not exactly smoothies. It's just a collection of fresh tropical fruit with crushed ice and condensed milk. I'm not sure what it is with Asians and condensed milk, but we love the stuff. Milk teas, mango pudding, toast, we'll eat it over anything. In this case, the milk just adds to the well-documented Vietnamese sweet tooth.

As far as eating fresh fruit on the street with questionablely produced ice, I'll again say that I ate without getting sick. And given the cheapness and abundance of tropical fruit, you'll really miss out if you neglect the street.

For the actual fruit, there is papaya, watermelon, dragonfruit (probably the coolest named and looking fruit, though incredible bland), mango, rambutan, longan and tapioca. Though you could certainly go to town on the fruit plain, the milk and ice made a pleasant dessert to cut through the sweltering heat of Vietnam.

The following are photos of fruit I encountered throughout the trip.

Rambutan, the most alien looking fruit. Tastes extremely similar to lychee.

Smoothie lady on street in Chiang Mai. Select the cup with the fruit, she blends it with ice and hands you a straw. Delicious.

My friends' first encounter with durian. Amused Vietnamese in background not pictured.

Most set meals finished with a dessert of fresh fruit like this pineapple and watermelon.

This was one fruit I had not encountered before the trip. I was determined to buy and try one of these mangosteen.

Mangosteen tastes like lychee too, though it has a certain tartness similar to cranberries. Be careful, it stains.

Miniature watermelon. Who knew?

Custard apples were more custard than apple. They have a soft, fragrant flesh like durian without any offensive odor.

Fruit seller in floating market in Thailand. From left to right: longan, starfruit, pomelo, custard apples, and a fruit I could never identify that looked like small hair yams.

Dragonfruit. I'd compare it to kiwi, but more like kiwi's plainer cousin that nobody asks out. Don't get me wrong, it's an awesome looking fruit, but doesn't taste like much. Wandering Chopsticks grew dragonfruit.



ila said...

mangosteens always kinda creeped me out. have you had a cherimoya yet?

gourmetpigs said...

custard apple! I always wondered what that was called in English, ppl told me it was cherimoya but it's really not ...
I also didn't think much of dragonfruit before, but earlier today had one in Bali and it was surprisingly good.

mattatouille said...

i'm amazed by all the fruit here in indonesia. the reason why california doesn't have these fruits is most certainly because of the climate. ours is much more arid compared to the humid climates of southeast asia. consider their location on the globe, it's much closer to the equator. i think florida has a much better chance than california, but it's still a far cry from the soil and weather produced in this area. i'm not a huge fan of salak, which snakeskin looking fruit, but i love mangosteens and durians. i haven't had cherimoya here yet. you can get excellent cherimoyas in cali though.

glutster said...

dude, I'm living out your post right now!

also have had a fancy for snake skinned salak and tomatillo-like Jambu.

Dragonfruit can be good, just depends on your luck, down in South Mexico (Puebla, Nayarit, Yucatan), they sell it, most of the times sweet. But yes they can be bland. the heck out of US fruit!


It`s look very delicious. ehmmm., may be some day I will tasted.

Look on my country, " Indonesia Java Destination ",