Rob and I flew into Ho Chi Minh on August 1st. I was expecting to be disappointed, as we were really late for the reported season, in June, and I’d heard that Vietnam only grows Monthong anyway. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Vietnam has an estimated 20 unique varieties, undiscovered and unnamed treasures that I hope will survive the insidious encroachment of Monthong and Musang King.
The word for “durian” in Vietnamese is Sau Rieng (pronouced Sow-Ree-Eng). Its literal translation is “one’s own sorrows” or “private sadness.” The story goes that a long time ago, a Vietnamese solder went to war in Thailand. There he met a beautiful girl and married her. She loved a fruit called “durian.” Unfortunately, something happened to her and she died. When the soldier returned to Vietnam, he brought with him her beloved fruit.
When Is Durian Season in Vietnam?
Vietnamese durian trees bear fruit only once a year. The season in the lowland provinces starts in May and peaks in June, although when we visited in mid-August there was still plenty of durian. The highland season peaks a few months later, in late August or early September. You can expect to find durian in Vietnam anytime between May and September.
Where to Get It
Durian can be purchased anywhere in Vietnam, but it only grows south of Hue. Surprisingly, the humid flat lands of the Mekong Delta are a major production area. Here’s a list of the major growing areas where durian canbe easily found: Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Ben Tre, Bin Thuan, Tra Vinh, Dong Nai, and Lam Dong.
Most Popular Varieties
The most popular varieties are Ri6 (pronounced Ree-sow), which has an intensely yellow interior, and Chin Hoa, which has enormous arils. For the wilder, highland Kampung durians, head north into the Central Plataeau.
Durian is most expensive in the large cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. In Ho Chi Minh, a durian will cost 40-50,000 dong per kilo. In the production areas the price averages around 30,000 dong/kilo, although the cheapest durian, Kho Qua Xanh, sells
for as low as 15,000 dong per kilo.
Durian is purchased by the kilo and packaged in styrofoam on the spot, unless you request otherwise. When buying durian, the vendor will give you an entire piece to taste before you buy. If it doesn’t taste good, you may reject the durian. Remember to check all sides for worm entry sites. Tell the vendor whether you would like a bitter or sweet durian using the words below.