Exotic jack fruits are seen in every Vietnamese market
Five years ago two of my clients of Vietnamese heritage visited us for a weekend at our home near San Diego. They came baring gifts of strange looking fruit with wonderfully exotic aromas. One of them was jack fruit…and it was love at first bite. The two women friends intermingled stories of their families’ escape during the Vietnam War with heart-warming accounts of eating jack fruit back in Vietnam as small children. While not yet available in traditional supermarkets in California, this fruit is sold in many Vietnamese food stores in California’s urban centers with large Asian populations.
So what is jack fruit? The flavor is an addictively delicious symphony of pineapple, banana, mango and apple. While the fruit is used in Vietnamese desserts such as puddings and cakes, I prefer the raw version where I can taste every one of its special notes. Perfectly ripe jack fruit is like no other fruit you will ever taste. The texture is also unusual---somewhat fibrous, it is an excellent source of dietary fiber ( as well as high in protein, potassium and vitamin B). Jack fruit is also the largest tree-borne fruit in the world growing up to a ginormous 80 lbs, and as much as a yard in length.
Although Vietnam is one of the largest producers of jack fruit, this delectable edible is widely cultivated throughout Southeast Asia. Archaeological findings indicate that it was cultivated in India as long as 3,000 to 6,000 years ago. Jack fruit is also grown in Brazil.
The inside of the jack fruit is very unusual. It looks to me like something from another planet...somewhat alien. The first time I saw it sliced open I was shocked. There's no way to actually describe it.
Hard to imagine that something this strange could be so yummy
Those of you who are coming with us on next February’s culinary tour of Vietnam will see jack fruit throughout the country---I even saw a tree growing in the downtown of Hanoi. Every outdoor market we visited on the 2014 tour had them. In Saigon there was a woman selling bite-size morsels of jack fruit in a handy take-out container…luckily her small stand was stationed just outside my uber-modern spa hotel located in the heart of the city. I was a BIG customer of her products for the several days I spent in this fascinating French-inspired metropolis.
Jack fruit morsels ready for plucking
For more information about the 2016 foodie’s tour of Vietnam check out the upcoming trip: http://www.wineknowstravel.com/Vietnam_itinerary.htm
For a slideshow of the much-loved 2014 Vietnamese tour with Wine-Knows, don’t miss this slideshow of how we ate and drank our way across this mesmerizing country: