Mangosteens at 60,000 VND

Farmers Market

Farmers Market

On the topic of fruit, I tend to like ‘exotic’ fruits more than our local varieties. If given a choice, I would prefer pineapples over oranges, mangosteens over plums, purple passion fruit over apricots and lychees over cherries. Unfortunately, shopping for exotic fruits can get expensive in YYC.

On my recent trip to Vietnam, I had the opportunity to shop at a few farmers’ markets. In Ha Long Bay for example, I had 20 minutes to shop at a huge local market. Vendors inside sold everything from stove elements to nuts and bolts, souvenirs and dried food, silk embroidery and wood carvings. Vendors on the outside sold fresh meats, fruits and vegetables.

 

When I came upon this stand, I was interested in one particular fruit. I had promised myself to look for this fruit in Thailand but there was no opportunity to stop and shop. Mangosteens are sold at the T&T Chinese , market in Calgary but at $5.99 per pound. For that price, you can buy about 4 of them. At this market in Vietnam, I pointed at the mangosteens and she spoke something in Vietnamese that I could not understand. I took out my wad of money and she picked out 60,000 dongs. She took a shopping bag and started filling it up with mangosteens. There was more than a dozen of fruit in the bag and it weighed about 5 pounds. Using a Dong to CDN converter, that came out to $3.18 Canadian.

Next time I have a craving for mangosteens, you know where I will be flying off to.

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Exotic Fruits

Exotic Fruits

Exotic Fruits

I’m glad to report that some exotic fruits have made it passed customs and into our supermarkets. Exotic fruits that I have tried in my travels and have fallen deeply in love with. They include a long list such as mangosteens, rambutans, yellow pitaya, passion fruit, pomelo, cherimoya, atamoya and creamy apple. If you haven’t heard about them yet, stay tuned.

The two fruits that seem to be available now are the yellow pitaya and purple passionfruit. The yellow pitaya looks like a thorny mini football with a soft skin. The skin actually looks rubbery. If you see any green leaves protruding from the top, beware. The leaves can be quite sharp because the fruit comes from a cactus like plant. I’ve heard farmers’ stories about how workers have had their arms cut off when picking these fruits.

The other fruit is a purple passion fruit. If you’ve been to Kauai or the Big Island Hawaii then you might have seen yellow passion fruit they call ‘lilikoi’. The yellow variety is more sour or tart. The purple ones are the sweetest varieties but less juicy. The yellow ones from Hawaii are more juicier but less round.

To eat either one of these fruits, take a knife and slice them in half. With the yellow pitaya, take a spoon and scoop out the flesh. It’s like eating a kiwi fruit. Both flesh and seed are edible. With the passion fruit, take a spoon and scoop out the seeds that are encapsulated with flesh. Again, both are edible. When eating the passion fruit, don’t worry about the seeds. Ignore them and try to enjoy the flavour. It is like eating pomegranates but you will find the flesh of the passion fruit is more pleasant and tastier.

Both fruits can be found at your local Superstore. Thanks to Superstore, they have imported both of these fruits from Columbia which I heard are available year round. The yellow pitaya’s sell for $4.98 each and the purple passion fruits are for $1.48 each. They are certainly pricey but if you are in ‘exotic’, I really recommend you try it. But one thing, don’t buy them all.

Little Mouths to Feed

Doctor Fish

Doctor Fish

When I was in Singapore a few weeks ago, I stopped by a foot spa on my way to the Singapore Flyer which turned out to be like the London Eye but over Singapore instead. There were a lot of commotion at this foot spa because people were crowding around a fish tank full of fish and a few people had their feet in it. What kind of foot spa was this?

It turns out that the fish is known to be of the ‘doctor fish’ variety and they like eating dead skin. People paid 30 Singapore dollars to have their feet immersed in a fish tank for 30 minutes. Once your feet hits the water, doctor fishes swarm to them and start eating. It’s like a scene from Indiana Jones with piranha fishes going at fresh flesh.

Azim was a paid customer and had his feet photographed. I asked him how it felt and he said it tickles at first. There are literally hundreds of these fishes fighting to get the dead skin from your feet. You have hundreds of little mouths to feed and an endless supply of dead skin.

These foot spas are very popular in a lot of Asian cities but there are very controversial at home in Canada. FYI, they are illegal here to open and banned in Canada and the US.

Serving Civet Cat Coffee

Civet Cat Coffee

Civet Cat Coffee

When I was in Vietnam a few weeks ago, I had asked the tour guide ‘where to buy the best Vietnamese coffee from?’. He told me the best Vietnamese coffee to buy was the ‘weasel coffee’ which I had never heard of. Before visiting Vietnam, I had tried the Vietnamese iced coffee and liked the taste. I like the strong brew over ice and served with condensed milk.

He went on to telling me that the best coffee to buy was coffee that went through the digestive tract of a weasel. He meant ‘civet cat’ which has a liking for cherry coffee berries. The cat would consume these coffee berries and poo out the seeds (or beans). People would gather up the beans from the cat’s poop, clean the beans then roast them.

The end result is a highly prized, highly sought after coffee that is strong, smooth and unique. Our tour guide took us to the central post office in Ho Chi Minh City and introduced us to the owner of a little store on the right side of the post office. She had a shelf full of coffee containers and the one she recommended was in a wood barrel. There was even a picture of a civet cat over the cherry coffee berries. The price was rather steep but both the tour guide and the shop owner was raving about how good the coffee was. It was priced at 600,000 dong (about US$30) so we picked one up.

When we got home, I tried making a cup of coffee following the instructions of our tour guide in Vietnam. Three teaspoons with 8 oz of hot water in a french press. Let it steep for 30-40 seconds and mix condensed milk in it. I can tell you it was strong but very smooth. There’s nothing like it.

If you’re in the market for some civet cat coffee, let me recommend the Bean Stop in Eau Claire market. I heard a cup will set you back for $25 and 50g of the grinds will run you about $60. If that sounds high to you, don’t get tempted with eBay prices because there are a lot of counterfeit coffees out there.

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iDevice popular on cruise ships

iPad Class

iPad Class

It was standing room only at the ‘iPad, iPhone and iTouch’ orientation class on Celebrity Cruises’ Millenium ship, SE Asia Northbound trip. I couldn’t believe how popular this class was but a lot of people travel with their Apple devices, including me.

The instructor was Apple certified and he knew his stuff pretty well. I have been using iTouch, iPad and iPhone for a number of years but I managed to learn a few new tricks in this class.

They taught us how to “print screen” and why do it. They also showed us how to conserve battery power, how to use our device as a hotspot and share our internet connection and on the newer iPads and iPhone 5, “air drop” was demonstrated. Over 3 days at sea, they had a session at least once every sea day and every session was full house.

As long as I own Apple (AAPL) shares, I’m happy to see how popular Apple products are.

$20 for $40 worth of food?

Chicken Teriyaki

Chicken Teriyaki

I had a coupon to use up at Fuji Yama’s on 17th Avenue and 8th Avenue before it expired at the end of February. You know the type, pay $20 to get $40 worth of food. With this coupon, I had to give it to the hostess when I checked in. You also had to make reservations but I figured it was a good idea for a Friday night.

I have to admit that I’m always wary about giving up the coupon before ordering my food. How can I trust the restaurant? With a coupon at hand, would they cut back on my dish?

I ordered my usual which was the chicken teriyaki entree and a soft shell crab roll. My wife chose the salmon teriyaki and a sashimi salad. In my opinion, the teriyaki’s were worth the $13 – $15 price they charged. They were both tasty and satisfying.

The dinner  bill came out to a little over $50 for the two of us. With the $40 coupon, we paid $20 and walked out happy and stuffed. If you’re in the neighbourhood, call first and ask if they have any $20 for $40 gift cards left. If so, I would highly recommend that you buy them.
Fuji Yama on 17th on Urbanspoon