Dalat might be the opposite of what you imagine when you picture Vietnam. The trees are pines, not palms. There’s no sticky, oppressive tropical heat, and the air is crisp, fresh, and wonderful. The mountainous city of Dalat is Vietnam’s agricultural center. Its year-round temperate climate has earned it the nickname of “the City of Eternal Spring,” and for good reason. Dalat’s farmers grow everything from artichokes, 咖啡, and strawberries to tropical fruit like bananas and passion fruit. Its bell peppers, 花卉, and preserves are sold around the entire country. Tourists take home Dalat’s harvest by the box-full. “When in Rome” is the quote, so take a wander around the markets, and savor something with that tasty Dalat flavor.
Originally from Mexico and one of the most versatile fruits available. The Avocado is perfectly suited to Vietnam’s climate. It is grown mostly in the southern and central regions, and several varieties can usually be found during the season. It is easy to prepare, just cut it in half, remove the seed, and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Then the choices are seemingly endless. Eat it as it is, a spread with crackers and black pepper, add it to a Thai salad, pair with prawn, meat and tomato on toast, make a prawn and Avo sandwich with black pepper and fresh lime juice, or as a classic dip. One of my personal favorites here in Dalat, is the Avo smoothie, a taste sensation! At around 40,000Vnd a kilo, it is a super fruit in its own right., high in antioxidants, potassium and unsaturated fats.
It’s difficult to resist a perfectly ripe strawberry, but did you know just how good they are for you? Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamins C and B6 as well as providing a good dose of fibre, folic acid, manganese and potassium. Choose berries that are firm, plump, unblemished and free of mould. Look for those that have a shiny, deep red color and bright green caps attached. Once picked, strawberries do not ripen further so avoid those that are dull, or have green or yellow patches. The strawberry is one of the most popular berry fruits in the world. There are more than 10 species available and they differ in flavor, size and texture yet they all have the same characteristic heart-shaped, red flesh and seeded coat together with small, regal, leafy green caps and stems that adorn their crowns. Like many other fruits, strawberries make their claim in history as a luxury item enjoyed only by royalty. It has been alleged that newlyweds were entitled to strawberries with soured cream as a wedding breakfast, believing them to be an aphrodisiac. In Dalat you can find Korean, New Zealand, and Japanese varieties.
It would be good if visitors were more familiar with persimmons, since the Latin word for it means “food of the gods.” Persimmon can be either round or in the shape of a heart. Persimmon fruits are divided into two kinds: bitter and sweet. Bitter persimmon fruits are edible when they are green and hard, but is very sweet when the fruit is ripe. The fruit of sweet persimmon are always sweet, even when green and hard. Persimmon fruit is a golden yellow, round or oval, flavorful, smooth textured delicacy from far East Asian origin. Its sweet, delicious flesh is packed with several health promoting nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants vital for optimum health. Have a hunt around the markets in Dalat, and you will be pleasantly surprised with the flavor.
Today, Vietnam boasts 28 different varieties of banana from plantains (used in cooking) to the dwarf bananas (finger size), known in the West as lady fingers. Banana is one of the most ancient of food plants, cultivated at the dawn of recorded history. It is a most important traditional fruit of Vietnam, both in terms of historical and economic significance. Commercial annual production in Vietnam is over one million tons, not including home gardens, which almost always grow bananas for personal and local use. They can tolerate low temperature quite well, thus can be grown on the highlands in the South (for example in Dalat at 1500 meters). Each plant (stem) produces a single bunch of fruit. After the fruit has ripened and been harvested, the stem is usually cut down allowing the follower stem/sucker to produce the next crop of bananas. Bananas grown in Dalat, (it must be the climate that does it), especially the small ones, are just so sweet, and in smoothies, are something special.
Visitors to Dalat can buy the local products native to this highland city, and the local peach is one of them, albeit a touch smaller than the ones in the west. So sweet, and true to the freshness and gentleness of Da Lat. Peaches are plentiful in the market and with their bright color are hard to miss. Wonderfully delicious peaches are low in calories (100 g just provide 39 calories), and contain no saturated fats. Nonetheless, they are packed with numerous health promoting compounds, minerals, and vitamins. Peaches are made into a variety of useful products such as Jam and even tea, but my favorite has to be eating them fresh, with the juices overflowing. Some peel them, others eat them whole, furry skin and all, like an apple. This is a heavenly fruit.
Considered a delicacy by many, the Jackfruit (Quả Mít) is a native to Asia though known to originally come from India. It could have many shapes and sizes, but generally, they are oblong or pear shaped. A single jackfruit can grow up to 90 cm long and can weigh up to 44 kg. Its exterior is usually green, and gradually turns yellowish as it ripens. To eat the jackfruit, a knife is needed to cut the big fruit in half or in much smaller parts. Once open, the inside yields numerous golden yellow bulbs, each enclosing a single brown pit. The pulps are the meat itself, very sweet with just a little hint of tanginess to it. Jackfruit is among the most tempting of fruits, both in smell and taste. Though it’s good to eat this fruit as it is, the best way for me to have it is chilled a little bit. If you are around the markets, the vendors will generally have sliced one open for you to taste.