11/15/2012

Simple Fruit Delights Many Tastebuds

A common urban tree in Hanoi bears a simple, yet popular fruit both to locals and tourists. The fruit, called, quả sấu, sour in taste and is known to create delightful soup recipes and beverages. Among a common favorite by locals is a drink made from the fruit combined with jasmine water. This refreshing treat is abundantly sold on sidewalk stalls especially during summer.

Quả sấu can be eaten fresh with fish sauce mixed with sugar and chili. When added with fish sauce, it is great to enjoy with meals. Some people prefer it plain in a cold beverage with sugar. The most popular dishes of sau are ô mai sấu (salted dry dracontomelon or sugared dry dracontomelon), a simple and cheap but delicious specialty of Hanoi.

Whether green or ripe, locals are so accustomed to eating the fruit. Green quả sấu is a popular ingredient in soups and drinks. When using it to create basic sour soup, simply boil water spinach and add some quả sấu. To make it tastier, boiled pork or fish is added along with onions and herbs. Though tamarind is a known ingredient to sour soups, the unripe quả sấu, often as large as the tip of a thumb and with a very soft seed, exudes a more distinctive taste and fragrant which it lends to the soup, making unique hearty bowls of sour soup.

Quả sấu can also be consumed in many other ways. When its peel is shaved off, it is cut into strips and soaked in sugar water, and some crushed ginger is added to conjure up a slightly sour and sweet taste. This can be added to water and some ice to get a sour, fragrant, sweet taste.

When ripe, it arrives at a deliciously sour taste that is good for creating drinks, foods, and snacks. The ripe quả sấu is soaked in salt and sugar to make drinks. The soaking process also helps preserve the quả sấu for a longer time to allow consumption even up to a year when properly stored.
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Another popular process is to soak the quả sấu in sugar instead of salt. This is done by shaving off the peel, soaked in lime water for a while, removed and cleaned with cold boiled water. They are then placed in a jar. Boil sugar water and crushed ginger, allow it cool and then pour into the jar with quả sấu. Then they are stored into the fridge after two days. This results to a unique drink with a sweet taste from the fruit and a little spicy and fragrant due to the ginger.

How it can be preserved for a long period makes people appreciate this simple fruit even more. Sau season lasts from June to September in Hanoi. Many tourists are seen buying in bulk to take back for their families and friends as gifts.