Rambutan is incredibly hard to find in the States, but elmomonster found some, at a rare fruit specialist in Little Saigon. Next to toothless old women selling CDs out of a shopping cart, right past the Buddhist monks, by the pho shops, is Ba Tu Trai Cay Ngon. “There are two women outside, each from competing stores, yelling at the top of their lungs like auctioneers or snake-oil hucksters, trying to do anything they can to charm passersby into stopping in and buying their wares.”
Ba Tu Trai Cay Ngon is a specialist in “fruit and produce indigenous of Southeast Asia—all that is weird and wonderful but are otherwise hard to come by the further north you go from the equator,” explains elmomonster. The place is full of bizarre fruits.
Here, finally, you can get rambutan, “a fruit that is as weird as the rest of the lot, perhaps even weirder. As ‘rambut’ means hair in Indonesian, the golf ball-sized are indeed hairy—furry, even—resembling the dangling testicles of a red, alien creature.”
The shop charges $7 a pound, which may seem a little steep, but this is the only store that brings you perfectly fresh rambutan. “The texture of rambutan, for those who haven’t had it, is exactly like a lychee. But the flavor is tangier, livelier, just like the Little Saigon street scene I bought it from,” says elmomonster.
Ba Tu Trai Cay Ngon [Little Saigon]
8920 Bolsa Avenue, Westminster