In Vietnam, as in most developing nations, you are cautioned against drinking the tap water. This extended to fruits that might be washed in tap water, so for the first few days I was there we avoided much of the vibrant looking exotic fruit that we saw. Then my friend Jeff pointed out that we didn’t have to avoid fruit that you could peel, and I’m so glad he did; one of the best foods I had in Vietnam was the longan fruit. I’ll never forget the sight of the hundreds of longan trees growing along the banks of the Mekong river, ready to be harvested. Luckily (for me), longans are available at fruit stands all over Chinatown here in NYC, complete with branches and leaves.
Once you pop open the brown shell you reveal the translucent flesh of the longan (similar to ganepas but with a higher ratio of fruit to seed). Longans have a high water content, and a taste and texture like an unpeeled grape, only chewier. More than that, they provide me with a taste of Vietnam.