A toad hopping through Lựơng’s aunt’s house in the Mekong Delta.

Toad Bumps

When my husband was in middle school, he tried to get the neighborhood boys to help him catch toads to make toad soup. The other kids were scared to touch toads because they thought they would get warts. I heard that myth growing up, too. But in Vietnamese the word for warts even has toad…

Instant Weasel Coffee

Instant Weasel Coffee

When we went to visit my in-laws, my brother-in-law offered us some of his coffee. It wasn’t ordinary coffee, it was Instant Weasel Coffee. Instant Weasel Coffee seems like an oxymoron since weasel coffee (or civet coffee) is made from coffee beans that have gone through the digestive track of a small cat-like animal called the civet.…

Lượng’s mother holding a rose red bellfruit she split open. The spongy flesh inside holds seeds.


  “Well, they’re not really plums,” my husband, Lượng, said about the fruit that grew on the trees in the back of his house in the Mekong Delta. When he got to America, another Vietnamese immigrant had called them “plums,” and Lượng didn’t know any other English name. An Internet search on their Vietnamese name, “mận“, brought up…

A package of wrapped dried salted pitted plums and an unwrapped one.

Chinese Medicine Balls

When I see the blue and white wrappers peeking out from the basket behind the rice cooker, I think it might be some Chinese White Rabbit candy. Not that my husband buys milk candy. He sees me looking. “That’s what medicine balls are like,” he says. Medicine balls like the ones the Chinese doctor used…

Fruit from a mangrove apple (cheap tree).

What Is a Cheap Tree?

Ever since my husband first started telling me the stories of his childhood in Vietnam, he talked about cheap trees. When his family flees to Ship Island (Cồn Tàu) after the Tết Offensive: “Má points to an island in front of us that’s surrounded by cheap trees. The trees look like they’re growing out of the…

Dangling Squash

Dangling Squash

Mướp squash grew over the water coconut leaf roof of the hut my husband’s family fled to during the Tết Offensive. Because he was small enough not to crash through the leaf roof, Lượng could sit up among the mướp squash watching the U.S. planes and helicopters retaliate by attacking a Việt Cộng base in…

Slicing young banana trunks for salad.

Eating Banana Plant Trunks

When we went to visit my in-laws for Christmas, they showed me a young banana trunk that they planned to make salad with. My husband’s aunt sliced it into tissue—thin pieces using a knife he made. I have eaten banana flower many times before—my husband often puts it in Vietnamese sour soup—but I don’t remember…

Rambutans or chôm chôms in Vietnamese.

Steal Steal Fruit

Rambutans—Their Vietnamese name, chôm chôm, means “pointy” for the soft spines covering them. My husband says chôm also means steal. Growing up he thought the name meant “steal steal.” “Steal steal” is the perfect name because that’s how good they taste.