The trend of eating durians for cheap without the seeds, which began in the Mekong Delta and the Central Highlands, has now come to Saigon. A long line of people craving the fruit is a familiar scene every afternoon on Su Van Hanh Street in District 10.
The price tag for durians here ranges from VND30,000 to 40,000 ($1.30-1.72) per kilogram. Sales start at 1 p.m. Returning the seeds is compulsory. People can take the durian home, but have to make a refundable deposit of 30 percent of the bill. The deposit is returned once the seeds are.
“The demand for durian seeds is very high this year and the price for a kilogram is four times higher than last year, from VND30,000 to 120,000. So we use this way to collect the seeds and grow durians for our next season,” said Le Hong Long, the shop owner.
About 500 kilograms of durian are transported from Dak Lak, Lam Dong and Dak Nong Provinces in the Central Highlands to this shop in Saigon every day and they are sold out in just one afternoon. The owner said that the durians here are naturally ripened; that no stimulant is used for early harvest.
“The durians are cheaper, at half the current market price since we collect the seeds. But we still make a profit even if it’s not much,” Long said.
The shop allows only 10 people at a time to enter and pick the fruit. Hundreds await their turn, patiently.
“I bought a few kilos here because the price was much cheaper than durian in the markets, and I’m happy to return the seeds anyway so the deposit is fine by me,” said Tien, a 21-year-old customer.
For the first two days after the shop opened, customers had to eat the durian right on its premises and return the seeds. However, because space was limited, the shop began allowing customers to take the fruit home as long as they made a deposit.
The customers have two days to return the seeds and redeem their deposit. The seeds are considered unusable after two days.
The shop collects about 50 kilos of seeds every day. These are packed and sent to the farm right away.
Because of high demand, customers have to wait for nearly an hour to get their durians. The owner said he plans to get a bigger space for customers to eat the durian at the shop itself.
Watch people eat and leave the seeds at this stall in Ben Tre Province in southern Vietnam: