The very first thing Pablo Salvatierra did after landing in Hanoi in the summer of 2018 was quench his thirst with a freshly pressed cup of sugarcane juice from a street stall in the Vietnamese capital.
Salvatierra’s trip to Vietnam was just one of many stops the 28-year-old Argentinian has made on his quest to taste every fruit on Earth. Luckily for Salvatierra, the Southeast Asian country has no shortage of tasty tropical delights.
In Hanoi, where fruit vendors pedal carts with bamboo trays and baskets filled to the brim with fresh produce, Salvatierra spent days sampling dragon fruit, mango, rambutan, lychee, longan, and star apples.
“I had tried each of these fruits in other Southeast Asian countries before arriving in Vietnam, but the fruit I tried in Vietnam blew my mind because of their great quality,” he told Tuoi Tre (Youth) Newspaper via email.
No match for durain
Salvatierra had spent nearly four years sampling fruit around the world before the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to return to his home city of Buenos Aires; but even today he can’t help but reminisce about his experience trying the ‘King of Fruit’ – durian – in Vietnam.
Though durian is undoubtedly one of the most popular fruits in Southeast Asia, many consider too odorous for their senses. In fact, durian has such a strong smell that many hotels ban it from their premises. Still, Salvatierra is proudly a member of Team Durian, a fruit he describes as “sensory ecstasy.”
“Durian can be a great challenge, so you have to try it with an open mind and give it several opportunities since there are many different varieties and each one has a different flavor and texture,” he shared.
According to the fruit enthusiast, there are other fruits that challenge the polarizing smell of durian.
“I also find Noni a great challenge because of its intense blue cheese aroma and spicy flavor, but I love it,” he told Tuoi Tre. “Cempedak can also be a very challenging fruit because it’s extremely sweet and chewy, but it’s also delicious.”
Noni, a fruit grown in most of the Pacific, is known for its strong smell and bitter taste, while cempedak is native to Southeast Asia and shares the same genus as breadfruit and jackfruit.
|Pablo Salvatierra happily holds a durian. Photo: Instagram/sweetconscience|
A change of diet
Salvatierra has been documenting his fruit-tasting journey using the Instagram handle @sweetconscience, where each photo he snaps is accompanied by a detailed description of the fruit’s flavors and tastes. His quixotic quest to savor every fruit in the world was also featured in a story on Atlas Obscura, a food and travel website, in October.
According to the article, his desire to taste all the world’s fruit was the result of a visit to the doctor in 2015, when the then 23-year-old Argentinian who had been struggling with psoriasis was told to refrain from eating solid food for four weeks and make drastic changes to his long-term diet.
Salvatierra did as told and was shocked by the results.
“After 26 days of leaving bed only to go to the bathroom, get some sun, and be checked, he tasted solid food again: He ate some fruit. And decided to never stop doing it,” Atlas Obscura reported.
Atlas Obscura notes that no one should change their diet without first consulting a physician. “Modern medicine has not found any one diet that prevents the immune-system problems behind psoriasis, but some studies suggest a link, and many patients try changing or improving their diet,” it elaborated.
With his skin problems behind him, Salvatierra decided to take a journey to try all the fruit Earth has to offer.
In four years, he has visited 15 countries and tasted nearly 300 different kinds of fruit. In every place he visits, Salvatierra enjoys both the local fruit and the unique bonds between people and their environment.
|A screenshot of from Pablo Salvatierra’s Instagram account|
Vietnam: A fruit heaven on Earth
As for his Vietnam trip, Salvatierra published more than 100 short video clips from his time in the country.
Asked what he had expected before visiting Vietnam, Salvatierra said, “I went with the expectation of trying an abundance of mangoes and sugar cane juice, and I did it. Vietnam exceeded my expectations in terms of fruit quality and abundance.”
While there are many photos and videos featuring Vietnamese sugarcane juice on Salvatierra’s Instagram page, the most remarkable photo involves him making a toast with a local man in Hanoi.
In the photo, Salvatierra is holding a cup of sugarcane juice while his friend is holding a can of beer. “There was nuoc mia in every corner, what a blessing!” he said in the email to Tuoi Tre, calling his favorite drink by its Vietnamese name.
|Pablo Salvatierra makes a toast with a local man in Hanoi. Photo: Instagram/sweetconscience|
In late October, Salvatierra hit the road again, this time for Río de Janerio. “Now, in times of pandemic, I'm going to dedicate myself to travel around Brazil and sample amazing fruit,” he wrote to Tuoi Tre from the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte, where he tried jabtheuticaba, a species of grape native to the American continent.
“For me, its flavor is like a concentrated grape juice with hints of cherry,” he told his 13,700 Instagram followers.