I believe we have reached a consensus on the unidentified floppy objects. They look and, after our visit again today, smell like sea cucumbers.
After a long walk to check out monthly motorbike rentals, we ended up at the market again. This time we stuck to the fruit side of the street. I’m learning to identify most of the fruits we see, but the food is very seasonal here so it’s constantly changing. I read somewhere recently that the Mekong Delta provides about half the produce for all of Vietnam, so we are in a wonderful position to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
Many of the vendors set up their fruit baskets with a few sample items cut open in front. I can only imagine it’s for dumb foreigners like us, but maybe it’s to make them more appealing. One was obviously green apples. The other looked like lumpy green pears, but was pink in the middle. In front of these was a bowl filled with something red and yellow, crushed and grainy.
We pointed, shrugged our shoulders, and tried to ask the man what it was. Finally, I gave him my phrase book (over 90% of Vietnamese are literate) opened to the Fruit section. After much searching, some of it in the nearby Frog section (it has an alphabetical food section broken into categories. You don’t even want to know what’s in the Meat section,) he came across guava. Aha!
Then, with more hand signs and random English words, we somehow conveyed to him our ignorance on how to eat guava. He pulled out a knife, cut a sliver out of it, handed it to Jonathan and pointed to the box of red and yellow. This is when Jonathan, who is now reading “Catfish and Mandala,” remembers a reference to guavas and chili-spiced salt. We sprinkled our slices with the salt, and began to eat. I put way too much and the man and his wife, in her cone hat, chuckled in amusement as I coughed and fanned my mouth.
We bought a few, for his trouble and because they were delicious, and he included a tiny bag of chili salt wrapped with a rubber band.
Further down the sidewalk, we also fell prey to a kilogram of longan, a relative of the litchi/lychee, and a kilogram of rambutan (hairy cherries.) They are both fruits with shells. The longan’s is thin, brown, and crispy and rambutan’s is thicker, red or yellow, and covered with soft fleshy hair. You can break the shell open with a thumbnail or your teeth and the inside is sweet, juicy, and clearish white. Both have a decent sized pit in the middle to watch out for. I have a feeling we, once again, got charged the white price, but it still is less than we’d pay back home.