The most common thing you’ll say as you walk around a Vietnamese market is “What is that?”
I lived in Vietnam for a year, and one of my favorite things to do was walk around the markets. It wasn’t until I met local Vietnamese friends who enjoyed taking me to markets, that I could actually get answers to that frequently asked question. That’s how I started learning about all of the different fruits in Vietnam.
I’m a fruit person…I love all fruit. It’s so refreshing to bite into a sweet, juicy piece of fruit when it’s always sweltering hot outside (as it always is in Vietnam)! There’s an immense amount of unique fruit in Vietnam that I had never seen before. I felt like each month I’d learn about and try another new fruit that was in season.
10 Vietnamese Fruits You Likely Don’t Know About
To assist you as you travel through Vietnam and SE Asia – here’s a little more information about the fruit in Vietnam that you’ll see. Don’t be afraid to spend the spare change, haggle on a price and try some of these delicious new fruits! (I’ve included the English and Vietnamese name on all of the items!)
1. Bumpy Apples: Mang Cau Tamg
I love Bumpy Apples! The hard outer shells are peeled off and expose a firm apple/pear like fruit that’s very sweet.
2. Mangosteen: Quả Măng Cụt
I’ll never forget trying my first mangosteen. I first saw them stacked high on carts along the road and wondered if they were plums. The purple-ish round fruit were completely foreign to me. My friends urged me to try on and I was hooked. You peel off the hard exterior and you’ll find white delicate (somewhat slimy) wedges of fruit with a pit in the middle. They are just the right amount of sweet and like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. And no – they taste nothing like a mango. You just have to try one to believe how delicious they are!
Mangosteens need lots of good sticky humidity to grow, so they are perfect for Vietnam’s climate.
3. Rambutan: Chom Chom
Rambutan look a bit scary, but they taste wonderful! It looks as if they live at the bottom of the sea, but they actually come from a tree. Break off the colorful, hairy outer shell and you get to sweet fruit inside that looks like a pear.
4. Water Coconut: Dua-Nuoc
Water coconut is a relative to the standard coconut. You find these in the Mekong Delta and they taste just like a regular smooth coconut! I have seen these around Saigon for a while now and never knew what they were! They look quite menacing, but don’t’ be afraid to give them a try!
5. Tamarind: Me
Tamarind is used for many things. You’ll often find it used for it’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s said to be goof to fight off cancer and diabetes in Asia. It can also be eaten plain as a fruit. You just peel off the hard shell and get to a soft, sticky, red fruit with a small pit in the middle. It has a bit of a sweet/sour taste.
6. Persimmons: Hong
Persimmons are filling the markets right now. They come from Dalat and are juicy and yummy! They can either be eaten raw, dried, fresh or even cooked. There are a few different varieties – soft or crunchy. I prefer the soft – the texture of a tomato, but taste much sweeter!
7. Longa: Nhan
For some reason when I eat longa it reminds me of the fall in the US; It tastes like mild cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Peel off the thin outer shell and eat the fruit inside. Good, small, sweet treat!
8. Durian: Sau Rieng
Durian, the king of fruit. You can read about my experience trying durian here. You can find it everywhere in the markets now – or should I say – you can smell it everywhere in the markets now! Eaten alone, in shakes or ice cream – the smelly and squishy fruit is an acquired taste for sure! And I never really acquired it. However, I gave it the old college try – I tried the ice cream, cakes, and tried it raw – and still wasn’t fond of it.
9. Coconuts: Dua
Ah – my favorite all purpose fruit! Coconuts are everywhere in Vietnam! Cold drinks, jellies, and shakes. Plus, you can’t beat the fresh milk!
10. Dragon Fruit: Thanh-Long
I still remember seeing endless rows of colorful, pink dragon fruit as I road the bus to Mui Ne. These fruit definitely have personality on the outside – pink leaves tipped with green, but I find the inside a bit bland unless they are eaten in season!
I never did figure out what this strange looking fruit was. Heck, I’m not sure it was even a fruit! Let me know if you see it or find out any more information on it!
Vietnamese Fruit Scavenger Hunt
Now since you know all of these new colorful fruits, why not make a game out of it when you are visiting Vietnam. Walk around a local market and see how many of these pieces of Vietnamese fruit you can find!
Then go a step further and buy and try each of them! And if you use the Vietnamese name when talk to the market vendor – you get extra points. The vendors will be so impressed and surprised they may even throw in a few extra.
After all, the way you learn about a new culture when you travel is by trying new things and interacting with the locals the best you can. In my experience, connecting over food is a great way to travel deeper into a country like Vietnam.