Thousands of Vietnamese are making their pilgrimage to a special farm in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre to enjoy durian, a bizarrely controversial fruit, for one-fifth the market rate, as long as they’re willing to leave the seeds behind.
Regarded by many Southeast Asians as the "king of fruits", durian is known for its distinctively large size, thorn covered rind, and extremely controversial odor.
While some consider the fruit’s fragrance as pleasantly sweet, others find it overpowering and unpleasant. Some hotels even go so far as to ban the fruit from their premises’ to ensure the odor doesn’t linger, much like smoking.
In Vietnam, durian is consumed at all stages of ripeness to add specific flavors to a wide variety of savory and sweet deserts. The seeds can also be eaten when cooked.
Though it is loved by many Vietnamese, its high price makes it a rare luxury for local households.
|Customers eat super cheap durians at the seedling farm. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Hoping to draw in those Vietnamese who want to enjoy the fruit without breaking the bank, one seedling farm along Highway 57 in Long Thoi Commune, Cho Lach District, Ben Tre Province is offering the delicacy at only VND19,000 (US$0.82) per kilogram, a rock bottom price compared to the current market rate of VND70,000-90,000 ($3.01-3.87) per kilogram.
Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, the farm’s owner, said she began sourcing the fruit from the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak for VND40,000 ($1.72) per kilogram in order to acquire the seeds and start her own crop.
That’s when she realized she could sell the ripe durians at cheap prices, attracting customers who are willing to take on the burden of separating the seeds from the flesh as long as they could enjoy the fruit at low prices.
|Durian seeds left behind by customers. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
That business model is saving her a fortune, considering the price of durian seeds can sometimes reach up to VND90,000 ($3.87) per kilogram.
Approximately 1,500 customers visit Ngan’s farm, sipping hot and iced tea while separating the seeds and enjoying the meat.
“I did not expect so many visitors. There days when I have to close early because there are not enough ripe durians to serve customers," Ngan said.
|One of Ngan’s staff opens a durian for a customer. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Nguyen Van Chin, a Ben Tre local and durian lover couldn’t help but take his family to the farm to enjoy the fruit.
To him, it’s an inexpensive way to spend quality time with his family while enjoying his favorite luxury fruit.
“I’m a blue collar, so a penny saved is a penny earned,” Chin sincerely said.
Now, the farm is a hot stop for Ho Chi Minh City youth taking trips through the Mekong Delta province.
|Two staffs of the seedling farm help customers select the perfect durian. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|One visitor picks a ripe durian and asks a staff member to open it. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
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