With Tet approaching, Vietnamese families traditionally make a “five fruits” offering or the “Mam Ngu Qua” along with other Tet goods to their ancestoral alters. These well presented bowls of fruit consist of interesting and odd shaped Vietnam-grown delights. It is thought that five fruits could symbolise the five elements – metal, wood, water, fire and soil. Or it could be that the fruit repesents the families hardwork and are an offering of thanks to ancestors. Either way, you will see a lot of fruit over the Tet new year. Here are a few interesting Vietnamese fruits that you may not recognise from your local grocery shop…
Lady finger bananas
These small bananas have a very thick skin, revealing a sweet flesh inside. They are not often eaten on their own, instead turned into sugary desserts.
The bright pink shell of a dragon fruit is a costume for the rather bland flesh inside, similar to an unsweetened melon. The flesh contains thousands of tiny seeds, similar of a kiwi fruit.
A rose apple is an almost savoury fruit, with a flavour similar to pear. It has a thick yet edible bright red skin and porous flesh. Rose apples are in actual fact a berry, and have a very high liquid content compared to other fruit.
Longans (a member of the lychee family) are a small round fruit that needs peeling, grown across the northern part of Vietnam. The juicy sweet flesh contains large seeds at random, so be careful when eating them. However the flesh is semi-transparent and the pip is black so they are easily identified. A bit of a fiddle but well worth it!
Rambutans are grown across the south part of Vietnam and have a spiky red shell revealing a sour soft white flesh.
Jackfruit, a large fruit with a flavour somewhere banana and mango, is found growing from tree trunks all over Southeast Asia. These small boulders, when opened, contain many small orange segments which are slightly rubbery to the touch. The taste is sweet but not overpowering and slightly perfumed.
Durian is famed throughout Southeast Asia and is often smelt before you see it. The smell has been narrowed down to a mixture of caramel and vomit, with hints of cheese and rotting onions. Don’t let that put you off though! Take off the outer shell and a yellowy flesh is revealed with a flavour combination of custard and almonds. A true Asian delicacy!