Strange Orange Fruit. What the ?!? – Momordica Cochinchinensis

Momordica Cochinchinensis , monordica, vietnamese guc fruit

Story originally published in 2008.

What the heck is it?! Scientists call it Momordica Cochinchinensis from the family, Cucurbitaceae. Common name is Monordica. Vietnamese call it G?c. We call it the funky, spiky, orange thing-y. To make it even more cool, but confusing, it’s related to cucumbers!! This amazing specimen of a fruit looks like a blast from the pre-historic, dinosaur age past. If displayed in the Smithsonian science museum and exhibited as “orange yada-yada-saurus dinosaur egg”, visitors probably wouldn’t doubt it’s credibility. But if labeled as “first course” on the dinner table, diners just might call the Chef crazy. So is it an animal, vegetable or mineral? Depending on how this orange thing-y is de-constructed, it could fall into all 3 categories.

As a vegetative specimen, Monordica boasts brilliant hues starting from green on the vigorous growing vine, to yellow, to orange to a bright red when fully ripe. The densely spiked exterior skin looks untouchable at first, but after petting it, the firm, prickly spikes don’t bite back or pose a threat.

Upon cross section, the fleshy rind encases a hollow center filled with round, flat, fleshy, membranous discs. Inside the discs are the hidden jewels: a hard, flat, plastic-like black seed that has grooved etchings similar to that of a turtle shell. Like an animal’s interiors, the guts of this peculiar fruit bleed a crimson red, thick juice and the rest of the enclosed membrane and discs feels like soft, slippery, fleshy offal sliding through the fingers. To top it all off, it’s not even eaten as a fruit!

Though it’s not a naturally occurring substance formed from a geologic process, it could be considered a mineral because of it’s specific red chemical composition (this could be stretching the definition a bit, but we’re trying to complete our analogy). This fruit has relatively little flavor (maybe slightly grassy like) to no flavor and sweetness at all (although some claim to tasting a slight nuttiness). In Northern Vietnam, Monordica flesh is used primarily for it’s rich, red hues as a food coloring for a sweet, sticky rice dish known as “Xoi G?c”. The bright red/orange coloring of the Xoi G?c rice make it visually spectacular amongst the standard muted colors of other sticky rice dishes. When asked amongst die hard Xoi G?c addicts (Dad) to describe the flavor appeal , he answers as “tastes like sweet sticky rice”. So pops, “If you were color-blind would you know the difference?”. He answers as , “tastes like sweet sticky rice”.
Outside the Vietnamese culinary use, the pharmaceutical industry has found Monorica to be chemical rich in Beta Carotene and other vital anti-oxidant properties. It’s contribution to science seems extraordinary, making it even more appealing. So we’re planning on growing it next summer to share the love and curiosity of this spectacular looking fruit. That’s why we love G?c, Monordica or like we call it: the funky, spiky, orange thin-y.

Other great resources:

*Note- This site references the Viet name for this fruit as “Gac”, instead of “Guc”. We are not sure of the accuracy of “Gac” because all references that we’ve found refers to Monordica as “Guc”.


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Mark

    Thanks for your article. I am in Thailand and they are grown here. They call them what sounds like “fuccow”. They tell me they have no flavour so mix them with pineapple.

  2. rusl

    Tnx for the info! While walking home, we saw a plant of it (actually, a vine) and we picked it. But what we have is yellow in color, I think it is unripe

  3. QuyenHoang

    Dear Todd & Diane,
    I’ve been following your site for a long time, but haven’t gathered enough bravery to post a comment – until now.
    I’m a 17-year-old Hanoi girl, and Gấc (Ga^’c) is the only name I know of it. Xoi gac, the sweet sticky rice dish, is perhaps the most commonly associated with this fruit. However, it can be used in many other dishes as well, adding lovely color, delicate flavor and also rich nutrients. There are bánh chưng gấc, bánh rán gấc,… It can also be used to make Western baked goods like baguette or muffin. I am including a link from a Vietnamese food blog with recipes using gấc, hopefully you will enjoy it.
    Best regards,

  4. Dormin

    Dear all,
    “Gấc” or “Gac” is exactly Vietnam’s name of this kindly fruit. It is the one thing that I’ve ever known which is richest Beta-Carotein in over our whole world. In Vietnam, they extract its oil then make oil capsules and many people use it as a supplement of pre-Vitamin A (don’t easily got side effects when you go overdose like Retinol) and Lycopene… In Vietnam, you can buy this supplement at retail drug-stores.
    P/s: Nowaday, “Gac” is the universal name of this fruit, and cause it’s a Vietnamese name, Vietnamese fruit, I proud of it. Just type “gac” and google it by image, then you’ll see.
    @Anisa: It’s often use as a natural color make our food more colorful and delicious.
    @Jonathan: Quả Gấc or Qua Gac means “Gac fruit” or “a Gac”, (qua or trai means fruit in Vietnamese when it stays before a fruit name, qua or trai is an articles word just for fruit, for example: [an orange = quả cam] in Vietnamese.)

    For more information, ur welcome to contact me via email:
    Best regards!!! (^_^)

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Thanks Dormin,
      Looks like at some point the letters with diacritics in the post and comments were replaced with ? marks. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

      1. Dormin

        Oh, cause I typed in Vietnamese with Unicode font. I don’t see any diacritics, maybe you need install Unicode Fonts on your OS or try another browser and you’ll see my font in correct form, correct Vietnamese words. Do you use Firefox?

        1. White on Rice Couple

          Sorry, we meant our diacritics. Not yours. Your show fine!


  5. trevor johnson


  6. Anisa

    where was it found cool so it has No taste?!

  7. Jonathan

    I have no idea which is more correct, but my VNese tutor from central Viet Nam calls it qu? g?c. Sure is pretty!

  8. Christine

    Thanks for pointing this out to me. It’s so fascinating this fruit. I must say, I love the photo of the hand holding the slimy, gory seeds – muhuaaa.

  9. Di?n

    Gac’s (Monodica fruits) science name is Monordica cochichiesis (lour) Spreng.
    – Gac is a kind of the best natural material medical. Those fruits contain Benta caroten and have 15 times higher than carrots, 68 times higher than tomatoes, Lycopen, Alphatocopherol and many fat vegetal substances.
    – Monordicas are manufactured into food, drugs which support human immune, prevent oxygen process, aged process, specially they are made to protect your skin to get a white, spring and young skin. if you want to import monordica products, please contact me via
    Best regard

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