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Vietnamese coconut milk and flesh have great taste and are highly refreshing: A travel note
In Vietnam, coconut, one of the four major crops of the country, is grown abundantly across central and southern Vietnam. The Ben Tre province of the country is also called the "land of the coconut". The coconut, as a fruit, is sold by the road sides, near tourist sites and on carts throughout the country, which was noticed during my recent visit to the country.

Coconut water has been a popular drink in Vietnam for centuries. You won't see the packaged stuff, since it is drunk straight out of the coconut. The coconut water, here is grassier, sweeter, and more full-flavoured than the one found in India. The smaller coconuts are sweeter and re-hydrating than the larger ones.

In Vietnam, the vendors chop off the outer green husk and keep the small white inner shell, cut into a shape that won't fall over when put on a flat surface. A big machete is used skilfully to chop a hole in the top. They scoop out the tender coconut flesh with a sharp spoon for you to eat the fruit after you have drunk the refreshing milk with a straw.

I was surprised to know that some decades ago, there existed 'The Coconut Religion' founded by Monk Nam who was also known as the Coconut Monk and had established a floating pagoda in the southern Vietnamese part nicknamed as "Coconut Kingdom". It combined some Buddhist and Christian beliefs along with some the precepts founded by Monk Nam.

It was told that Monk Nam had consumed only coconuts for three years and practiced meditation on a small pavement made from stones. Nam usually sported a crucifix around his neck and dressed in traditional Buddhist robes. However, the administration deemed the practice as a "cult" and banned it in 1975.

In Vietnam, coconut is used to make coconut candy, caramel, jam and jelly. Coconut oil and coconut milk are used in cooking. Some deserts are also made from the flesh of coconuts here.

Coconuts are usually harvested when they're about seven weeks old with jelly-like flesh. The locals often advise you not to drink coconut water after 5 pm since coconut milk has diuretic properties and can delay your sleep. Most coconut vendors call it a day at five in the evening.

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