The many fruit vendors in Ho Chi Minh City’s Ben Thanh market display a variety of tropical fruits in vibrant colors and unique shapes. Fruits such as durians, coconuts, green oranges, jackfruits, dragon fruits, mangosteens, guavas and milk fruits are very common in this part of the world, although they maybe considered exotic for people living in colder climate regions.
Jackfruit is the national fruit of Bangladesh and is widely cultivated in South and Southeast Asia. It is believed to be one of the largest fruits produced on a tree and can grow up to 3 ft long. The skin is uneven and rough as shown in the photo.
The seed of a jackfruit is surrounded by a yellow flesh which is its ovary. When at its ripest, the yellow pod has a starchy texture with a strange sweetness and is not juicy. Jackfruit is said to be great for health, it contains high amount of potassium and vitamins, helps cure indigestion and ulcers, and has cancer fighting antioxidants.
Dragon fruits formally know as Pitaya are watery with subtle sweetness. When choosing a dragon fruit, look for even-colored skin, and it shouldn’t be too soft or too hard when pressed by your hand.
When a dragon fruit is cut opened, the flesh can be white or red with sesame looking like seeds. Dragon fruit is low in calories and high in Vitamin C, minerals (such as calcium) and antioxidants. It is said to be good for the liver, helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Without chilling temperatures to turn the skin into an orange color, an orange can remain green even when it’s fully grown. It is the reason why you will find many green oranges in tropical climates like Vietnam. The one I had was perfectly juicy and sweet, but with many seeds.
Almost every fruit vendor in Ben Thanh market sells Mangosteens, a round, deep purple colored fruit, similar to the size of a regular apple with a smooth exterior. Mangosteen has a purple and reddish rind which is not edible. The flesh covering the seed (although sometimes seedless) is snow-white, juicy, tangy, delicately sweet and very delicious. Many Chinese believe mangosteen is a “cold” fruit which helps to cool down the body, that is why intake of mangosteen is recommended after eating heat-promoting food (food that causes inflammation in the body) such as deep-fried dishes, beef and durians. However, eating too many mangosteens at once may result in excessive cooling in the body, and this imbalance in serious cases may cause weakness and dizziness.
Guava fruit is another healthy tropical fruit. It has a round or oval shape with a green exterior. The flesh is white or pink and the seeds within the flesh are edible. The texture of a Guava fruit is not as crunchy as an apple. In my opinion it’s not very tasty since the texture is soft and the taste is very subtle and bland. However Guava is referred to as the “super fruit”. It contains 3 times the Vitamin C an orange does; it is extremely low in calories and is cholesterol free. It’s said to help prevent cancer and has anti-aging effects!
Milk Fruit, also called Cainito or Star Apple is a round and purple-skinned tropical fruit. The rind is bitter and is not edible, the pulp however is sweet when ripe. It releases a milky like substance when cut opened, hence the name milk fruit; the core of this fruit when cut in cross section has a star shape, hence the other name Star Apple. Milk fruit is said to have the effect of a relaxant, also it helps to ease inflammation in our body.
The word “Rambut” is a Malay word meaning “hair”, it is referring to rambutan’s hairy and soft spiny skin, which is safe to touch. Rambutan is similar to lychee and Longan in size but the skin is thicker than the former. Once you open the skin, the white flesh inside is sweet and delicious! The seed however is not edible and is considered poisonous when eaten raw. Rambutan contains good fat, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, however some believe that eating too much Rambutan at once can increase inflammation in the body.
Overall fruits are very healthy for us, it’s time to eat more of them, everyday!!!