There are so many. We get you started with a half dozen. But we, of course, encourage you to be adventurous, and try as many as possible.
Browsing the aisles of any market, one will certainly be amazed by the incredible variety of Vietnamese fruits on sale. The usual suspects are there, of course: coconuts, pineapples, mangoes and oranges (which are green here!)
However, while in Vietnam chances are you’ll come across strange fruits you’ve never seen back home. A lot of these are exciting to try because the exotic fruits in Vietnam are delicious and you’ll experience amazing tropical flavors and textures.
These are some of the most interesting ones, that any travelers to Vietnam should absolutely know and try.
Phat thu (Buddha’s hand)
Season: October through January
The Buddha’s hand is the most alien fruit on this list… This kind of citron’s unique shape gave it its name because it’s divided into finger-like sections. While it does look like a hand, some have compared it to a shuttlecock or Medusa’s head.
In Vietnam, this fruit symbolizes happiness, longevity and wealth and is often given as an offering during Tet (the Lunar New Year celebrations) along with apples, oranges, watermelon and green bananas.
The Buddha’s hand is rarely eaten raw. Its flavor is akin to that of a lemon peel, but with a hint of sweetness and no sour taste or bitterness. Its texture is strange because the fruit is all rind, with no flesh, pulp or seeds inside. It produces no juice as you would experience with other fruits. That’s why it’s more commonly used in cooking recipes instead of being eaten raw. It’s also a great table centerpiece as it has a very strong but pleasant aroma. Great conversation starter too!
Sau rieng (Durian)
Season: May and August
It’s easy to see why durian is nicknamed the “King of Fruits”. It’s humongous! When you see them in their trees, you’d think someone hanged a spikey grey watermelon… The durian is equally praised and despised in Vietnam. Those who like it appreciate its strangely gooey flesh that tastes a little like honey. It’s an amazing source of vitamins, potassium, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
Then they are those that dislike it because of its smell. Yes, you read that right. Durian smell is horrible, akin to rotting gasoline. You will know a store sells durian simply by walking by it.
The durian outer shell is extremely hard and covered with sharp thorns. You will need a sturdy knife for cutting the shell along the seams. You then pry apart the shell. Inside are layers of shiny yellow pods that you can take out with your fingers. Eat the pods while being careful about the seed inside, it’s the size of a date and uneatable.
Qua nhan (Longan)
Season: September to November
The longan, also called dragon eye, is a small and round fruit with a pale brown fragile skin. Inside you will find a white, almost transparent flesh with a black seed in the middle. When cut in half, it does look like an eyeball, hence its surname. It is also nicknamed lychee’s little brother, because of the similarities between the two fruits. The longan is just a little bigger than olives.
The flesh of the longan is juicy and deliciously sweet, with a musky flavor almost similar to that of grapes. The white pulp is rich in proteins and the longan is harvested by cutting the branch instead of pulling the fruit from it.
Mang cut (Mangosteen)
Season: May to August
If the durian is the king of fruits, then mangosteen is most certainly the queen. It was considered a noble fruit in Vietnam’s feudal times and reserved for rich families. The mangosteen has a dark-red, violetish rind that’s not much to look at, and has the tendency of staining your fingers when peeling. It’s as big as a tennis ball and inside is a very tangy white flesh that is slightly fibrous and very juicy.
You better use a knife to pierce the skin, but be careful to not cut too deep or you’ll lose all the tasty juice. The inside pulp is separated into big segments. The tangy flesh is soft and a perfect balance of sweet and sour. It’s like eating an orange, a strawberry, and a peach all at the same time. The juices add a freshness that is unequaled and will keep you coming back for more.
Chom chom (Rambutan)
Season: June to September
The rambutan is the longan and lychee’s hairy brother. The translation of its Vietnamese name is “messy hair” because this fruit, the size of a golf ball, has a red skin that is covered with yellowish and green prickly pokers. The flesh is white and the fruit has a big black seed in the middle, similar to the longan.
The rambutan has a sweet creamy rich flowery taste and is very refreshing. It has a more jelly-like texture than the lychee but is also sweeter and has more flesh.
The Vietnamese have a little technique to eat this fruit without getting their fingers sticky: They use their fingernails to cut the skin in half and pull one of the hemispheres while holding on to the other. As tasty as it is convenient.
Vu sua (Star apple)
Season: October to December
To understand its name, just cut the star apple in half. It will reveal the asterisk-like structure of the flesh segments that radiate from the central core. The Star Apple itself is a tennis-ball-sized fruit with a mostly purple skin. The pulp is soft, milky white and so is the color and texture of the juice, hence its Vietnamese name means breast milk.
The taste is very sweet and to enjoy it to its fullest, cut the fruit in half and use a spoon to scoop out the white pulp around the “starburst” core. It can also be enjoyed cut in wedges like watermelons (albeit much smaller!).