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.

Cora’s for Fruity Magic

Fruity Breakfast at Cora's

Fruity Breakfast at Cora’s

Many of us don’t have enough fruits and veggies a day, including myself. And maybe that is why our friends, Bruce and Lise insisted that we meet at Cora’s for breakfast.

After a year, I can now thank them for introducing Cora’s to us. Before then, I was not a huge fruit lover but now, I enjoy having fruit with my bacon and eggs.

That’s the trick here at Cora’s. You can still have your traditional bacon and eggs, waffle or crepe type breakfasts but you will also get a good serving of fruits too.

Cora's Breakfast & Lunch on Urbanspoon

It’s a popular place for breakfast and lunch. If you don’t get there early, prepare to wait in line for about an hour. Most Cora’s can accomodate big families and the turnaround is pretty good. They will have people turn around pretty fast and have you seated in no time.

What’s my favourite? Hmmm, it’s hard to say. Their menu is huge and there are a lot of choices. Just look to the next table and see what your neighbours are having. That’s the only way you can see what the popular dishes are. If you are looking for something light, try the Fruit Magic or the Samira Wake-up. Both of these are a light serving of fruit. Something interesting would be to try their crepe omelette combination. I’ve not had this yet but it looks pretty filling.

In YYC, I know there are 3 Cora’s. If I’m wrong, please add a comment and tell me where there is more. The downtown one is in the Bow Valley Square. The NW location is in Northlands Mall and the SE location is on 130 Ave.

Getting Prickly

Meat of Prickly Pears

Meat of Prickly Pears

I am on my way out to Superstore to pick up more of these prickly pears. Have you tried them yet? If not, I urge you to read a blog on squidoo about the prickly pear. I did and look at me, I am hoarding them wherever I see them because they are good.

At Superstore, they sell them for 58 cents each or 50 cents each if you buy them in multiples. After reading this post on Squidoo, I decided to try it.

The sound of watermelon and bubble gum had me excited so I decided to pick some up. With a glove and knife, I peeled back the skin and the red fruit appeared. It had the texture of a pear but colour of a really sweet watermelon.

I cut it up into pieces and tried one. Interesting. It was like biting into a pear but it tasted like a watermelon. It would be been better if they came seedless because the seeds are a pain in the you-know-what. They say you can swallow the seeds but they do get in the way.

I sliced open a second one, hoping to find a way to remove the seeds. It was tough but possible. Another variation is to juice it. Put the whole thing in a juicer and extract the juice which will dye your clothes if you’re not careful. It can even dye your hands if you’re not wearing gloves. The juice is nice and light and reminds me of a watermelon slush. And strangely enough, the bubble gum taste is there too.

Fruits Galore

Fruits in Hawaii

Fruits in Hawaii

After spending two incredible weeks in Hawaii, I miss the island life. It’s not just the weather that I miss but it’s access to fresh and exotic fruits such as rambutan, yellow dragon fruit, white pineapple, lilikoi, papaya, apple banana, ice cream banana and cherimoya.

When we were on the Big Island, we frequently visited the farmer’s markets and eagerly picked up fruits. It was a bit like a treasure hunt, looking for our favourite, mine being the yellow dragon fruit and my wife’s papayas. In between, we were picking up rambutans, star fruits, passion fruits which they call lilikoi’s (3 for $1) and a new fruit that we recently tried, the cherimoya.

Last year, our visit to the Big Island introduced us to the sweet tasting yellow dragon fruit. Unlike the pink dragon fruit that is sold in Canada and is awfully bland, the yellow variety is full of sweetness. The meat is white with black seeds and has the same texture as the kiwi fruit. ($5 per pound and is worth every penny of it.)

This year, we tried the cherimoya which is the green fruit pictured in the right hand corner. Cherimoya’s range in size, from a small tomato to a small watermelon. They need to be soft and almost mushy before eaten. When sliced open, the cherimoya is white with black seeds which are to be discarded. The meat is like custard, smooth and silky and really,  really sweet. Almost like honey sweet. The meat is custard like and you can almost eat it with a spoon. Its origin is not from Hawaii but from Brazil. Same goes for rambutans where the origin is from Thailand. (4 for $1)

On our second week, we flew to Kauai and found all the farmer’s market locations. Lucky for us, there was one happening every day but in different parts of Kauai. There, rambutans were plentiful and fresh as can be. The freshly picked rambutans are soft and sweet, unlike the ones that are imported from Thailand and sold in Canada. Have anyone tried the white pineapples before? If not, try one next time you run into one. We did and was pleasantly surprised that a white pineapple is less acidic.

Apple bananas and ice cream bananas were also new to our palettes. Super sweet and firm. Now, do you know why we miss Hawaii so much?

Fresh Rambutans available

Rambutan

Rambutan

I love summer across Canada because of all the available fruit. Among the local fruits, I enjoy shopping at T&T in the NE for exotic fruit. This week, people are scrambling and loading up on rambutan.

Rambutans are from Thailand and are hairy looking fruit. To eat it, you have to peel away a shell to reveal a white skinned fruit. It’s a lot like lychees, another exotic fruit but from China. The rambutans are more firm and less sweet. Some people rather have rambutans than lychees but I think it’s close.

This time of year, we are lucky to have these fruits flown in fresh. Most of the time, they are only available frozen. It’s not bad eating rambutans that way but fresh is always better.

 

 

Buy Groceries at Sobey’s and Fly Business Class

Sobey's at Strathcona

Sobey’s at Strathcona

One of the best ways to fly internationally is in business class. There you are invited to the front of the plane where individual pods are assigned to travellers like you. It’s nice on a long trip to be treated like royalty or you can adjust your seat and convert it to a bed. You can either sit up and watch your personal entertainment device or lie back and sleep the miles away. Have I convinced you to fly business class? If so, sign up.

The place to sign up is at Sobey’s in their club Sobeys program. Every time you shop there, you can earn Aeroplan points. The thing I like about shopping at Sobey’s is when they have promotional days such as their Dollar Days. I have to admit, I hate broccoli, however for a buck a bag, I can stomach that. It’s actually pretty good in Chinese dishes like Beef and Broccoli or a hotpot with chicken, tofu, celery, green onions, carrots and mushrooms.

Many times a week, Sobey’s will have sale days where they will encourage some bulk buying on your part. As a reward, they will give you additional points. Last week for instance, I purchased two bottles of salsa verde (to make chili verde with pork). From that purchase, I earned 25 points. If you like tea, they were giving you 100 points if you bought 4 boxes. My pantry is full of tea and coffee so I skipped this deal. Bottom line is that everyone needs groceries and a vacation. It makes perfect sense to shop for groceries, earn your Aeroplan points to fly business class on your vacation.

Persimmons at Superstore

'Jiro' Persimmons

‘Jiro’ Persimmons

I’ve learned that some people have never eaten a persimmon. But then again, a lot of us haven’t eaten a durian including myself. Persimmons on the other hand are more popular with the asians but I’ve also learned that persimmons are now grown in Italy and other Mediterranean countries, Middle East and in the US. Originally, persimmons were cultivated in Japan then in China. When persimmons are ripe, they are very high in glucose content.

The ‘jiro’ persimmon can be eaten at any time but are not as sweet as the ‘hachiya’ persimmon. The meat of the ‘jiro’ persimmon is more firm like a green apple. It is slightly sweet and quite pleasant. The other persimmon is only sweet when the fruit is ripe. A ripe persimmon is one with a clear almost cracking skin.

Persimmons are not popular until October when they can be purchased for as low as 50 cents per pound. They are at its premium at the moment, sold per unit. But for persimmons lovers, the ‘jiro’ variety are available at Superstore for 88 cents each when bought in pairs, otherwise $1.28 each.