09/09/2009

Fruits of Viet Nam: Papaya (Ðu đủ)

A fruit that grows in the country throughout the year, the papaya, like most fruits, appears green when young but turns amber or orange as it ripens. This is one of the many fruits that originally grow in Central America but are now popularly cultivated throughout the Southeast Asian regions. With shapes varying from long pear-shaped to round squash-like appearance, a single papaya fruit could weigh up to 9 kilos.

The flesh of the papaya may be yellow, orange, or red-orange and has the consistency similar to a very ripe cantaloupe. It has a delectable sweet taste, yet, it is best to consume the fruit fresh and while it just had ripened since it could easily turn mushy and too soft when overripe while its taste becomes overly sweet and gradually sours with a disagreeable smell to it. To eat it, divide the fruit in half, take a spoon to scoop out the seeds, then serve in long boat-like slices for its flesh to be scooped from the skin with a spoon. Yet, an easier way to eat the papaya is to peel the fruit out after removing the seeds, then diced or sliced into desired sizes and shapes.

Papayas are popular desserts in Viet Nam. The "gỏi đu đủ bò khô" is also a known salad-like dish in the country using green papaya and shredded beef jerky eaten with a special hot sauce. One of the most popular varieties of papaya in the country grows in the Mekong Delta Region. Their papaya is known for its red, thick pulp with a distinct appetizing smell and is less sugary. Papayas are also grown in the country’s northern regions but the colder climate takes a longer time for the fruits to ripen.

Papaya and the old Viet Nam life also play the main role in the movie “The Scent of Green Papaya” (Tran Anh Hung, 1993)