Venturing to a country that is almost a third smaller than the state of California and yet has three times the amount of coastline poses a unique gastronomic challenge for me. For all 30 years of my life, I have lived by one simple motto when it comes to the cuisine that I eat: “if it is from the sea, it is not for me.” Short and cheesy, but for me, 100% true. I do not eat fish of any sort, nor shell fish, nor seaweed. This may stem from growing up in a land locked community where fresh fish was hard to come by, but even when fishing in the mountain streams as a boy, I was strictly a catch and release sort of kid.
The Vietnamese diet has maximized on the country’s coastline and has developed a brawny love of the fish taste. Vietnamese fish sauce (my idea of a cruel joke) has allowed them to change other meat dishes into fish tasting meals. I soon realized that just because it said “chicken” on the menu, did not mean that the dish would not taste like fish. It almost certainly would. What would I be eating for the next 5 weeks? It seemed that I would finally lose those 10 pounds that me wife wanted me to. While contemplating my up and coming 40 day fast, I happened to stumble upon the open air fruit market and found that Vietnam is a fruit paradise. What tremendous luck!
I love fruit in all varieties and Vietnam has some crazy varieties! For the low cost of 1 USD, you can get a kilo of rambuton from a motor scooter vender or for 5 USD at the market, you can scoop up 7 kilos of mangosteen, lychee, mango, dragonfruit, asian pear, custard apple, longan (dragon’s eye), jack fruit, green coconut, papaya, water apple, the intimating ultra-fragrant durian and western favorites such as banana, pineapple and watermelon.
From the bottom of my heart I would like to thank Vietnam for these tasty treats! I just might come home a fruitarian.