I realized the other day that I have not done a “food post” in a while, by now you have finished digesting that Thanksgiving spread, so let me fill you up with some interesting fruits you can find throughout Vietnam and southeast Asia.
A rare find anywhere in the States, rumor is you might find it in your local Chinatown…this juicy fruit was new to me. A few people in my group had been on the lookout for this elusive treat the first few days of the semester. Once they found it and shared it with the group, I understood what all their fuss was about. After you getting through the thick purple rind (either by carefully squeezing the mangosteen until it breaks at the mid-line or using a knife), at the center is a white sweet flesh that looks like a garlic clove. The consistency is grape-like but smoother and sweeter tasting.
Custard apple is light green and heart shaped with a bumpy rind, the ripe ones are slightly yellow with brown spots. First you have to peel off the thin green rind, the first layer of flesh is white, creamy, and sort of granular, the next layer are little juicy fruit segments with long black seeds inside. Though it was annoying to spit out many seeds, I found its fruit agreeable, though it was hard to keep it for many days after purchase. In Chile, I remembered beating the heat of Santiago’s sun with a custard apple (chirimoya) smoothie!
Where do I begin with the infamous durian?. There are many odd characteristics of durian, the outer layer is a green, spiky husk (got to have a knife with you to get to the flesh). It grows on trees too, so you do not want to catch up a durian tree when the fruits are ready to drop. Inside are lobes (picture lobes of a lung) of a yellow, creamy flesh. It’s not too sweet, and I really can’t compare it to any other fruit. All around Vietnam, you can find durian flavored ice cream, cookies, candies, durian cake fillings, and durian sweet rice. It’s the fruit of the south, I rarely saw it in the north. Oh, and don’t judge a fruit by its smell. The reaction to its smell varies from person to person, I find it tolerable but other people can immediately catch the scent from a million miles away. I’ve heard the smell being comparable to onions or smelly socks. I think my tolerance for the smell and taste has to do with growing up eating the fruit with my mom. Either you are going to love it or hate it, but please at least this “King of Fruits” a try.
No, it’s not a huge brown pea pod. Crack out the shell of the tamarind and you will meet a golden-brown prune/date-like consistency flesh with a sweet-n-sour taste.