Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dragon Fruit (Thanh Long)

Dragon fruit (Thanh Long) have recently become quite popular in the western world despite a difficult cultivation process (the finicky cacti that bear these fruits bloom only at night and rely on nocturnal creatures for fertilization).  While beverage conglomerates have capitalized on dragon fruit infused vodka and fancy eateries offer the fruit in upmarket cocktails or as a post-meal delicacy, we eat it in Vietnam like a Washingtonian eats apples - amply and habitually.

Although they were originally a New World plant, they are now a staple in Southeast Asia.  In semi-arid regions of Vietnam (e.g. the coastal flat-lands of Binh Thuan province), farms are plentiful. Row upon row of the plump, magenta medallions hanging ponderously from razor-sharp cactus fronds can be seen from many of the main highways. 

If you are in a country where these delights are readily available, give yourself a pat on the back and head to the nearest fruit-bearing market.  Pick out a handsome dragon fruit and cut it in half.  Sometimes the meat inside will be bright pink, other times white.  Don't be alarmed at the amount of small black seeds inside.  Cut into slices and remove the skin, which should separate from the fruit quite easily.

Cut the spears into cubes and serve.  The taste might surprise you.  While their skins are bright and ostentatious, dragon fruit is subtly sweet, many would say even bland or insipid.  I like to pair it with cereal in the morning or throw some in a smoothie with a sweeter fruit, like a mango, to give some tasty substance and stave off the saccharine overload.  It's also a nice dessert - an effective palate cleanser.  A true gem this cactus-fruit. It not only throws some added zest into your fruit basket, but has a subtle complexity that is admired in this household.   

1 comment:

Carol said...

I can't wait to try this. I saw it at the Vietnamese Market here, but of course didn't purchase... not knowing how to cut it up! You give such good ideas Nellie.