Archive for the 'Vegetation Profile' Category

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Vegetation Profile: Bamboo Shoots


Bamboo shoots are the edible shoots (new bamboo culms that come out of the ground) of bamboo species Bambusa vulgaris and Phyllostachys edulis. They are used in numerous Asian dishes and broths, and are available in supermarkets in various sliced forms, both fresh and canned versions. Bamboo is used in Chinese medicine for treating infections. It is also a low calorie source of potassium.

I encountered these giant fresh bamboo shoots, or măng as they are called in Vietnamese, during a morning stroll along Ton That Thuyet Street in District 4. My favorite Vietnamese bamboo shoot preparations are bun mang (noodle soup made with duck or chicken and eaten with rice vermicelli noodles) and canh chua (sour soup with fish and pickled bamboo shoots). Ga kho xa (braised chicken with lemongrass) is another popular Vietnamese dish that utilizes bamboo shoots, but chicken makes me yawn.

Whereas my family sticks to pork and shrimp when making banh bot loc (sticky tapioca cakes), Miss Adventure’s mother who hails from the central region of the country stuffs her banh bot loc with bamboo shoots. Check out the recipe here. My pal Wandering Chopsticks has a good looking recipe for Chinese hot and sour soup that calls for canned bamboo shoots.

So tell me, how do YOU like your bamboo shoots? Any preference for canned or fresh? My vote’s for canned, especially those longish brown ones with a nice snap to ’em.

Vegetation Profile: Calabash Tree Fruit

mystery fruit

Back in May, I posted this picture and gave the following description:

I encountered this vegetation in Ho Tram and have no idea what it is. I’ve asked a couple of locals, but they were just as clueless as yours truly. One guy said it was related to gac fruit. All I know is that it’s hard, larger than a softball, heavier than it looks and definitely not a pomelo. Can anyone identify what fruit or vegetable this is?

I received a number of guesses from helpful readers, but no one hit the nail on the head. That is until Anh chimed in. “It looks like Trái Đào Tiên,” she wrote. “It belongs to the same family with Pomelo. Vietnamese use it as a medicine.” Ding ding!

After a bit of research using this pertinent new information, I discovered that the scientific name for the tree is Crescentia and that it is “a genus of six species of flowering plants in the family Bignoniaceae, native to southern Florida, the Caribbean, southern Mexico, Central America and northern South America. The species are small trees growing to 10 meters tall, and producing large spherical fruits up to half a meter in diameter.” I also learned that the Vietnamese use the dried Calabash fruit to cure such ailments as asthma and diarrhea.

Thank you, Anh. I’m so glad we have finally identified this mystery fruit. Woot!

Vegetation Profile: Mangoes

One of the four major fruit crops grown in the Philippines is mango (Mangifera Indica). It has been considered as the national fruit of the country due to its several uses and rising importance and high potential both in the local and world market. Mangoes are eaten as raw, cooked, frozen, preserved or dried. Ripe mangoes are used for confectioneries, ice cream, sherbet, and bakery products while unripe mangoes (usually the Indian variety) are a good source of juice. The demand for processed mango is increasing, as seen in the proliferation of mango products in supermarkets and groceries.

There are several mango varieties grown in the country but Carabao mango, known in the international market as the “Manila Super Mango,” is the most popular. Piko and Indian varieties rank next to Carabao variety in terms of production volume and popularity.

The Philippine mango industry continuously to be one of the backbone industries of the country’s agriculture sector. The sector contributes an average of P14.9 Billion per year to agriculture GVA. It ranks 3rd as the most important fruit in the country in terms of volume of production and area after banana and pineapple.

Ranking only 7th among major mango producing countries in the world in terms of production volume, contributing 3% to the 27.7 Million metric tons world production. The Philippines is the 6th largest exporter of fresh mangoes after Mexico, India, Brazil, Netherlands and Peru.

With mango season wrapping up in Saigon, I was stoked to find an abundance of perfectly ripe Filipino mangoes while in Manila. Nina says that this variety is the most common in Canada. I thought it might get a little messy eating mangoes without a knife and plate in my hotel room, but that certainly wasn’t the case! They peeled so easily, but were mad juicy so I had to eat them over the sink to avoid soiling the carpets.

Filipino mangoes are divine—sweet, juicy, a bit firm. Ripe mangoes really are heavenly! Sigh… Can’t wait to taste India’s famous Alphonso mangoes to see how they match up.

Vegetation Profile: Kalamansi

Calamondin or Kalamansi (Tagalog: kalamansî) is a fruit tree in the family Rutaceae and a member of citrofortunella that was developed in and is very popular throughout Southeast Asia, especially the Philippines, where it is most commonly used for cooking.

The fruit of the calamondin resembles a small, round lime, usually 25-35mm in diameter, but sometimes up to 45mm. It has the inviting odor of a tangerine with a very thin green or orange colored peel. In spite of its appearance and aroma, the taste of the fruit itself is quite sour, though the peel is sweet. Kalamansî is commonly used as a condiment for dishes such as pancit bihon. Like other citrus fruits, the calamansi is high in vitamin C, and the juice can be a good vitamin source.

It’s impossible to delve into Pinoy cuisine without first introducing kalamansi. We found a little condiment dish filled with these sour orbs at every restaurant we visited during our week-long tour of Manila and Palawan.

Whereas the Vietnamese like to dip their chicken and seafood in a mixture of salt, black pepper and lime juice, the Filipinos favor a sauce of kalamansi juice, fresh chilies, soy sauce and white vinegar.

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