Pineapple peddler in Hanoi

by White on Rice Couple on October 2, 2008

Vietnam Pineapple Street Vendor

She is the memorable pineapple peddler in Hanoi. She stood out from most of the other fruit street vendors that we encountered because of her smile. Unlike many of the other mobile street vendors who were often older, rugged and worn from the toil of their meager lives, she was young, clear skinned, vibrant and always smiling. Her perfect set of teeth (which is often a rarity in ViệtNam’s poor population), warm smile, petite frame balancing two heavy baskets of pineapples and ease in navigating the congested streets had us mesmerized. “Quả dưá cuả chị bao nhiêu vẩy?” (Miss, how much are your pineapples?), I shouted above the clamor of city noise.  She burst out, “3,000 dong!”,  and she scurried across the intersection to greet us. To see her excitement at possibly making a sale, her precious load and her effortless ability to snake through the dense pool of scooters, we knew we had committed to buying something. Besides, at only about 20 cents for a pineapple, the deal was sealed.

Vietnam Pineapple Street Vendor

Her goods were small, sightly crunchy and super sweet pineapples,

and her hands were equally small, delicate and adept.

Continue reading…

Vietnam Pineapple Street Vendor

After a few downward swipes of her old, fiercely sharp knife,

the pineapple was peeled just perfectly, without fruit waste.

Vietnam Pineapple Street Vendor

Then we were fixated on her crouched position, her  slender fingers ,

her bruised thumb, and her quick, precise knife skills.

Vietnam Pineapple Street Vendor

Within seconds, she carefully sliced out the eyes of the pineapple,

all in a perfect line, giving the fruit a completely new personality.

Vietnam Pineapple Street Vendor

Before we could shoot any extra frames, her work was complete,

edible, delicious and worthy well beyond the scant 20 cents that she asks for.

Vietnam Pineapple Street Vendor

She is someone who, no matter how challenging her life may be, see’s beauty,

joy and integrity in everything that comes her way.

This is an example of an inspiring person.

The “Pineapple” word: Vietnam’s 3 major regions (North, Central and South) usually have different words to define “pineapple”: North (Quả dưá), Central (traí khốm), South (traí thơm). My family, scattered in all 3 regions, argue within each other what to call it. I don’t like to argue over silly, regional differences. I cherish each regions cultural uniqueness. Call it what you like, it’s all the same fruit. There is no “right” nor “wrong”. - Diane

Previous Viet-Nam posts you might enjoy reading and viewing:

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kitt October 2, 2008 at 11:24 pm

Beautiful! It’s wonderful to see such artistry where you don’t expect it.

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2 Happy Cook October 2, 2008 at 11:41 pm

I fully agee she has a warm and wonderful smile.
Yeah tru it is the same fruit so why one should arguee about it.

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3 Christie@fig&cherry October 3, 2008 at 12:40 am

Just gorgeous! I could do with some pineapple right now – sooooo hot in Sydney!

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4 Lori Lynn October 3, 2008 at 5:17 am

She is charming. I love the timeless look of your photo of her.
I’m looking forward to exploring your site, especially the posts and photography of Vietnam.
And thanks for visiting my blog. Your kind comment meant a lot to me.
Lori Lynn

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5 Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy October 3, 2008 at 5:59 am

She is lovely, and you captured her so beautifully in that top photo. It looks like it came out of Life Magazine!

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6 maybelles mom October 3, 2008 at 6:11 am

She really is a fruit artist.

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7 RecipeGirl October 3, 2008 at 6:12 am

And I thought I knew how to peel & core a pineapple!

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8 alexandra's kitchen October 3, 2008 at 8:04 am

great story. look at that knife! that is just awesome.

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9 Kate October 3, 2008 at 8:59 am

If you ever came to Mumbai … you’d find the exact same thing ! i mean it , i could pass these off as pics frm Mumbai , ofcourse we’d have to loose the lady with the tiny eyes :) lol ..

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10 Mike October 3, 2008 at 9:43 am

Sounds like a nice experience (and great photos). I had a similar one but with a coconut in India…just a nice thing to smile about in the middle of the day

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11 diane at napa farmhouse 1885 October 3, 2008 at 11:17 am

thank you for your beautiful stories..and amazing photographs…i truly enjoy your blog.
just wanted to let you know that i was so impressed with your fig/balsamic reduction i included it in my blog story this week on canning, preserving and “putting up”. of course, i credited you guys and added some link love..
my best,
diane

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12 Marvin October 3, 2008 at 11:24 am

Wonderful pictures Diane. Those pineapples look so petite! But I bet they had lots of flavor.

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13 Sandie October 3, 2008 at 3:14 pm

This post is proof that beauty lies in simple things and places. All we have to do is recognize it.

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14 Miss.Adventure October 3, 2008 at 3:29 pm

I totally miss eating fruit in Vietnam. I never ate so much pineapple in a 7 month span and it was always delicions and cheap!

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15 bee and jai October 3, 2008 at 3:34 pm

wonderful to see you blogging again, beautiful people. your vietnam series is enchanting. i feel a bit like how todd describes he felt – a outsider being welcomed warmly and graciously into your world. thank you.

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16 Christine D. October 3, 2008 at 6:48 pm

What a tiny little pineapple! I’ve never seen such a thing that small and ripe.

You guys have an eye for seeing the beauty in everyday life.

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17 Kirk October 3, 2008 at 8:55 pm

I was always amazed at the cutting skills of all the vendors in Hanoi….they could trim a pineapple in nothing flat…all of them…it was amazing.

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18 peabody October 4, 2008 at 12:46 am

What a great series of photographs. I usually end up stabbing myself when I cut pineapple so I am in awe.

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19 cindz October 4, 2008 at 6:05 am

hi! im a lurker of your site..i really enjoy reading your entries and i couldn’t resist but comment on how i think it is wonderful that you chose to feature this pineapple peddler. i would think that the sincerity of her smile and honesty of her trade made the fruit more delicious to eat :)

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20 Mollie October 4, 2008 at 9:50 am

That is so wonderful. What a great encounter. One of my favorite directors that I ever worked with back in my theater days used to talk about the guy who sold him his soda every day and how he was so joyful about his work. That is such a wonderful thing to see. It also amazes me that in the states, the idea of buying fresh fruit on the street, and having it sliced and prepared for you would be completely annihilated by health codes and incomprehension…

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21 Jude October 4, 2008 at 1:04 pm

Such a beautifully photographed and written post. Reminds me of how my mom used to prepare pineapples in the Philippines.

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22 Hélène October 4, 2008 at 6:59 pm

I enjoy reading this post. She is doing such a wonderful job.

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23 White on Rice Couple October 5, 2008 at 1:33 pm

Kitt- Yes, rustic artistry is abound everywhere. We just have to look for it.

Happy Cook – I agree. Let’s all love over food, constructively help each other understand and put all ego’s aside.

Christie – VietNam was hot, but we would love to head over to your territory to see how hot it gets over there!

Lori- thanks for visiting us and following our twitter. that’s how we found you!

Susan – wow, thank you. It’s amazing what photoshop can do!

maybelles mom- she , as well as many other vendors, are amazing artists. It was great to watch.

recipe girl – we’ll put a video of her up later for you to really watch her cut that pineapple!

alexandra – that knife was super, duper sharp!

Kate- We wanna go to Mumai and see the vendor there! Hopefully, one day…

Mike – Yes, it was a nice treat to see all this going around us all day long.

Diane – thank for the link and loving the fig balsamic!

Marvin – They are so small compared to the pineapples that we get in America and super sweet too.

Sandie – Recognizing the beauty around us makes life so much better and especially like you said, in all the simple things.

Miss Adventure – wow, months of eating pineapple! So lucky you Missy!

bee and jai- we feel the same way when we visit your site. We always enjoy reading and experiencing India through both of you!

Christine D. – Hope you get to try these great pineapples one day!

Kirkk- yeah, they are super quick, arent they? did you get any pictures at all? it was tough for us, so we had to buy a second pineapple just to get the shot!

peabody – LOL! we’ll show the video soon and you can maybe learn something from her! ;)

cindz- welcome! glad you enjoyed this post.

mollie – thanks for the great story. we always feel a connection with many of the wonderful vendors.

Jude – thank you. so glad to know that your mom prepared them in the same way, she’s an artist too!

Helene – thank you!

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24 CB October 5, 2008 at 4:41 pm

I grew up watching my mom clean pineapples this way and so I do the same. :-) Yummy w/ salt and chili sauce.

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25 shayne October 5, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Thank you for this post. for some reason it made me cry.

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26 noobcook October 5, 2008 at 7:38 pm

What a beautiful write up. You guys not only take the most awesome photos, but write so beautifully as well. Enjoyed reading your travelogues :)

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27 Chez us October 6, 2008 at 3:14 pm

What a fantastic photo of her – WOW! You really caught the moment.

I remember the pineapples over in Asia to be the best … not like the ones here, in Hawaii or Mexico. Just sweet and bursting with juices and flavor!

Thanks for sharing your trip with all of us!

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28 Cynthia October 6, 2008 at 9:29 pm

This is what I like about travelling… having these encounters and making these connections. They make our lives richer.

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29 Tony October 6, 2008 at 11:24 pm

D&T these are some top notch photographs!! those pineapple cutting skills are impeccable… I can never do the swirl properly to remove all the eyes and I end up hacking away half the fruit :-\

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30 White on Rice Couple October 7, 2008 at 11:40 am

CB – Oh you are so right! We love them in the chili salt, too.
shayne – She was touching for us too. We had to share.
noobcook – Thank you. We’ll keep them coming.
Chez us – It was fun to see the differences in the fruits. Although the white pineapples we had in Hawaii were pretty damn tasty, too.
Cynthia – Indeed they do. We never come home from a trip like this unchanged. And always more appreciative of the world and its people.
Tony – She did it so fast we were barely able to get any shots off. We got a bit lucky on this one. She definitely had mad knife skills.

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31 Melissa October 7, 2008 at 12:18 pm

My dad cleaned toilets for a while, as a second job, when I was in my early teens. I remember asking him if he minded and he told me something I’ve (obviously) never forgotten. That whether you’re an executive or a physicist or a janitor, you should always do your job with integrity and pride. And those toilets were the cleanest they could be. :)

This woman exemplifies that (Eastern) philosophy and her skill is admirable. What a lovely story.

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32 Precious Pea October 7, 2008 at 5:25 pm

Ahh..it requires skill to cut up a pineapple perfectly. I can never do that. Beautiful post!

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33 courtney October 10, 2008 at 2:45 pm

What a great post. I need to make more of a effort to visit here . Wonderful writing and pictorials.

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34 Bren@Flanboyant Eats October 11, 2008 at 8:38 am

what an absolutely beautiful woman and picture of her. it’s wall frameable.
i can’t wait to spend a couple of hours sitting back and catching up on your wonderful trip to Vietnman!!

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35 Bren@Flanboyant Eats October 11, 2008 at 8:39 am

what an absolutely beautiful woman and picture of her. it’s wall frameable.
i can’t wait to spend a couple of hours sitting back and catching up on your wonderful trip to Vietman!! And .20 per pineapple! Wow. That’s a deal to make you want to smuggle 10 lbs back!

I’m so glad you had a chance to go back and visit! how incredibly special. I’m going to Cuba sometime in the next 5-6 months and I can’t wait!

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36 Jade*ndGinger October 19, 2008 at 12:03 am

Oh this blog is sooo romantic! ugh! Everything is so beautiful and sweet in honestly brought tears to my eyes. What a perfect food blog! The love is just overflowing on the pages which means your food is probably magical! hehe. I’m glad to have found this site. I look forward to visiting!

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