Best Tropical Fruits to Try in Vietnam
Vietnam is one of the planet’s tropical fruit meccas. The sheer variety of juicy, sometimes sweet, sometimes sour, but always healthy natural goodness that you’ll find in pretty much any food market at bargain prices is impressive. Coming mostly from Vietnam’s ‘rice bowl’, the Mekong Delta, these delicious snacks are also sold by a plethora of street vendors.
It’s worth tasting all of them, as the exotic flavours and textures are something you simply won’t find back at home. In order to guide you through the wonders of Vietnamese fruits, we’ve put together this top five ranking of the most delicious fruits any Vietnam traveller seriously must try, along with helpful information about health facts, prices and seasons.
Fifth Place: Star Apple (Vú Sữa)
No, not star fruit, star apple. Cut this tennis-ball-sized fruit in half horizontally and you’ll know why it’s called that. The segments form a star-like structure. Its Vietnamese name, however, is much more accurate: vú sữa literally means “milk breast”. A bit odd, I know... However, this is the colour and texture of the juice you should expect. Vietnamese actually just cut in a hole and suck the nectar out!
Don’t worry, you can halve it and use a spoon, or cut the fruit in wedges and enjoy it like a tiny watermelon. The fun lies in both the taste and texture. There’s a sticky sweetness to it which, combined with the thick, milky juices that you simply must taste in order to appreciate.
Image source: ydvn.net
Vietnamese legend has it that at the witching hour, you can see the ghost of a mother feeding her baby roaming around its trees. Spooky, huh? So better let somebody else do the harvesting! You can buy a bagful from a street market when it’s in season in the late autumn and early winter months.
It’s easy to spot with its round, mostly purple skin. Some are green though, but this doesn’t mean they’re not ripe yet. Do softly squeeze it before enjoying the star apple to set free all the juicy goodness, and bring a wet tissue as your fingers are sure to be sticky after eating it!
Star apples can aid digestion, contribute to weight loss, are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, and strengthen your bones.
From October to December.
Around VND 30,000-40,000 per kilogram.
Where Does It Grow?
Fourth Place: Rambutan (Chôm Chôm)
The Vietnamese name is cute, right? It gets even cuter when you know what it means: messy hair! However, there is also a smaller kind with shorter hair which is called chôm chôm nhãn in Vietnamese and tastes a little sweeter.
The golf-ball-sized rambutan is a relative of the lychee, though the flesh is slightly more jelly-like. There’s also more of it! You might come across some sour specimens, but rambutan is generally sweet and extremely pleasant to eat. What’s more, it is also a convenient fruit!
Image source: giainhan.vn
You can use your finger to open and peel off the skin, but the most elegant way to do it is to cut the skin in half and pull off one hemisphere while holding on to the other. You can now slip them into your mouth as a whole without getting your fingers sticky. There is a seed though—don’t choke, please!
You’ll find them fresh from June to September on any street market. Alternatively, stop at one of the many vendors cruising around the cities on their bicycles. These vendors, however, tend to mark up some compared to the market prices as you’re likely never to see them again. Time to bargain!
Rambutan are great for weight loss, good for your skin and hair and have a lot of vitamin C. They also strengthen your immune system, prevent cancer and—allegedly—are even said to improve sperm quality.
The rambutan is a summer fruit that gets ripe during the rainy season. Harvest is from May to September.
Around VND 20,000-30,000 per kilogram.
Where Does It Grow?
The most well-known yields are at Binh Hoa Phuoc Village in the Southern Vinh Long Region. Yes, this is the Mekong Delta again. The area around Phan Thiet on the south central coast is also famous for delicious rambutan.
Third Place: Mango (Xoài)
All right, this doesn’t come as a surprise. But isn’t it true that the imported mangoes you get in non-tropical countries are not even close to being as delightful as the ones in which they’re grown? Vietnam is no exception.
On the street, you’ll mostly find green, unripe mangoes cut into sticks and sold with chilli salt, to a point that many tourists come back home saying that mangoes in Vietnam are terribly sour and unenjoyable! They couldn’t be more wrong.
The Vietnamese soil is so fertile that it produces an incredible number of mango fruits. You just can’t wait for them to be ripe or you’ll leave half of them rotting because, as good as they are, five per day are at least two too many.
So the Vietnamese have found ways to process them while they’re still green. Do not miss out on Vietnamese mango salad with fresh shrimp! It exemplifies the genius of Southeast Asian cuisine (you’ll find similar creations in Thailand).
Once ripe and light yellow in colour, Vietnamese mangoes are delightfully sweet and full-bodied. The texture of the ideal mango is only slightly firm to the bite and so flavour-bursting that you won’t want to stop eating them!
Image source: kul.vn
As tempting as an American-football-sized mango might be, it’s usually better to pick the smaller but fragrant ones. While on the market, take them in your hand to test if they have a slight softness to them. If so, and if they’re not too green, you’re likely to have found one you can eat right away.
As they have a massive pit, use a knife to cut off one slice on each side of it. You can then either make them into sticks or into cubes (the trick here is not to cut through the skin).
Mangoes may help to prevent cancer, lower your cholesterol, are beneficial to skin and eyes and boost the immune system.
Mangoes grow from October to July, but taste best in the early summer months.
Around VND 10,000-15,000 per fruit.
Where Does It Grow?
Mangoes are mostly grown in the Mekong Delta. There are several kinds, the most famous of which is the Hoa Loc mango from the commune formerly called that, located in Tien Giang Province.
Second Place: Langsat (Bòn Bon)
Unlike other fruits (think: dragon fruit), langsat are neither world-famous nor appealing at first glance. They actually look like little potatoes. However, we’ve ranked them second-best. Why? Open one and you’ll know!
Another member of the same family as the rambutan, the flesh of this small fruit (roughly the size of a large quail egg) is translucent and soft, with several segments carrying a seed. You can chew and swallow the smaller seeds to avoid spitting out every two seconds. It won’t spoil the taste, promise!
Image source: healthbenefitsfruit.blogspot.com
What taste is that? As sweet and succulent as its Vietnamese name (bòn bon) announces, with a subtle hint of sourness that reminds one of a grapefruit. It’s also called dâu da đất in the North, but it’s nothing like a strawberry (dâu)—more like a juicier, more intensely flavoured lychee.
You won’t be able to avoid using your hands to peel it, which will leave them so sticky only several hand-washings will help. Better not let it touch your clothes!
You’ll usually buy them on branches. Make sure not to confuse them with longan, which are also great, but not as great. Longan are round while langsat look more like a drop of water.
Langsat help reduce weight, prevent cancer and improve digestion. They are also a source of carbohydrates. You can also dry the peel and burn it to repel mosquitoes!
Harvest time is in late summer, between July and October.
Around VND 40,000 per kilogramme.
Where Does It Grow?
In Quang Nam Province, the south central coast region that is also home to Hoi An.
First Place: Mangosteen (Măng Cụt)
Hands down, this is the best fruit in Vietnam, and perhaps in the world. Back in the good old feudal days, it was famed as a noble fruit in Vietnam and offered to the royal family—and for a reason!
It doesn’t show its greatness at first sight. You have to cut it along the equator of its dark red rind to unveil the milky-white, segmented core. It is said the more segments and the less seeds a mangosteen has the better the taste is. And what a taste that is!
Image source: kenh14.vn
The tangy flesh perfectly balances sweet and sour to first surprise, then delight you. Imagine biting in a strawberry, a peach and a clementine at once. Its juices give it an unheard-of freshness that just makes you want more and more.
You’ll have to indulge within the borders of the country, though, as there are restrictions on imports and exports of mangosteens.
And there’s another downside to it: as the Vietnamese say, buying mangosteens is like buying a lottery ticket—you can never be sure what you’ll get. Often, more than half of the purchased fruits are discarded as you shouldn’t eat them when they’re interspersed with yellow or purple fibres. But that should definitely not keep you from taking your chances.
Mangosteens are very popular in Vietnam and can be found pretty much anywhere from the grocery store around the corner to the major street markets or a legion of street vendors on bicycles. Note that, perhaps due to their royal past, mangosteens are a bit more expensive than other fruits.
Mangosteens have a lot of antioxidants and vitamin C, reduce cholesterol, are anti-inflammatory and have an anti-ageing effect.
The mangosteen season is short, just about two to three months from May to August.
Around VND60,000-70,000 per kilogramme.
Where Does It Grow?
Lai Thieu mangosteens from a little town in Binh Duong Province north of Ho Chi Minh City are said to be the best of the best.
Don’t agree with our ranking? Discuss with us in the comments section below or in our Facebook group!
Banner image source: cooky.vn