Given its location and climate, the Southeast Asian region is blessed with abundance of fruits; some are unique to the area. As such, fruits make popular snacks among the locals. They are cheap and easily available year long, healthy, and can be refreshing treats especially in the middle of the day in a hot, tropical weather.
You can get the fruits either at a traditional market, the more modern supermarket or convenient stores, or from streetside vendors. Just like buying fruits or other fresh produce anywhere else, you should pay attention and make your selection carefully to make sure you get the fruit at the right level of ripeness. This can be tricky, especially if you’re getting some fruits that are unique to the region and you had never seen or tried before. In that case, you may want to get assistance from locals who know better about the fruits to help you pick the right ones.
When you’re getting fruit from street vendors, chances are they’ve already selected the fruits that are at the right level of ripeness to be enjoyed immediately. You do want to pay attention to the hygiene level of the vendor and how he/she handles the fruit before serve them to the customers. When we were in Bangkok, Thailand, we got some fruit snacks at a vendor in a night market. There she actually cut the fruit to pieces to order, and the utensils she used seemed clean. Also, the fruits served were the ones familiar to foreigners (like pineapple, mango, and watermelon). When we were in Cambodia, Kristi got some pineapple from a vendor at a market. There, the whole pineapple had been cut up in large pieces and put inside a plastic bag.
Yet in some other places, the fruits have been cut up, and in some cases, are mixed with some local spices or flavor enhancers. That you may need to be careful with, not so much because those are bad, but because your body may not be used to the spices or even the taste of the fruit itself that you can get bad reaction from it. I’ve heard of stories of adventurous traveler who ended up spending several days of his trip with gastrointestinal problems after eating what seemed to be delicious local fruits.
When we were in Hanoi, on the way back to the hotel after watching the water puppet show, we passed the night market area again and Kristi spotted a fruit vendor. She was curious looking at some fruits that the vendor had on display, as those didn’t look familiar to us. So she did get a bag full of little fruits that were similar to plums or cherries. The fruits were served with a typical condiment in Southeast Asia, a mix of salt and chili powder. When we tasted the fruit, it was sweet and sour. It tasted even better when we added the salty and spicy condiment. It was good, but I could only have them in small quantity as I think I would get stomach upset from having too much of the very acidic fruit.
On the photo below you can see the vendor and her fruit selection at the night market in Hanoi. The ones that we had were the reddish fruit in front of the lady in the middle.