Sunday, 18/06/2023 08:16

Bình Dương’s fruit orchards: A day tour

A tourist picks rambutan at an orchard in Bình Dương Province's Lái Thiêu Town. VNS Văn Châu

BÌNH DƯƠNG – Việt Nam is famous for its wide variety of tropical fruits such as dragon fruit, durian, coconut, mangosteen and many more, and it is certain that all visitors have tasted these fruits while visiting the country.

However, if one has never personally picked fruit at an orchard and enjoyed it, a visit to fruit gardens in Bình Dương Province on the occasion of the Đoan Ngọ Festival to try out this activity will definitely make for an unforgettable experience.

The Đoan Ngọ Festival, held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (which falls on June 22 this year), is a widely celebrated event among the many traditional festivals of Việt Nam. The festival, traditionally called “Tết giết sâu bọ” (pest-killing festival), comes from the old practice of catching and killing pests that harm crops.

On this day, people often cook traditional dishes and prepare trays of fresh fruits to offer to ancestors and pray for bumper crops, good business, and good luck in the new season. 

The Đoan Ngọ festival is also the season for specialty fruits such as durian and mangosteen from Bình Dương’s Lái Thiêu Town, making this a great occasion to experience the best of what the province has to offer.

Lái Thiêu Town is next to the Sài Gòn River, and is famous for being one of the largest fruit-growing areas in the province. Specialties, like durian and mangosteen, have become the soul of local agriculture.


Many farms and orchards here have integrated their products into agritourism, helping visitors to participate in actual farm work and understand a little about the daily life of farmers.

Trần Văn Chiến, the owner of an orchard in Lái Thiêu, happily talked about the birth of this tourism model: “In 2014, we invested in a farm growing fruits like durian, mangosteen, rambutan and grape. One year later, we established Sol Retreat farm, and opened some new services, such as sightseeing tours, and experiential tours to immerse into rural life.”

Nguyễn Thanh Thủy, a tourist from Hà Nội, shared her feelings after visiting Sol Retreat: “At Sol Retreat, my family and I are truly immersed in nature, getting rid of all the stress and worries of daily life. The feeling of being transported to the orchard by electric vehicles, picking ripe fruits, and enjoying specialty fruits are very interesting.”

The unmistakable sweetness of Lái Thiêu mangosteen is the crystallisation of soil and the hands of farmers. These specialty fruit gardens are concentrated mostly in An Sơn Commune, Lái Thiêu Town, Bình Nhâm and Vĩnh Phú wards.

Unlike most fruit trees that produce all year round, Lái Thiêu mangosteen has only one season, starting from May through June.

A family of tourists explores a fruit garden in Lái Thiêu. Photo

​Taking advantage of local advantages, farmers owing large orchards have built an eco-tourism zone, in which many cooperatives in communes and wards connect with each other to form tourist stops. Visitors may experience fruit picking at gardens, and enjoy dishes made from mangosteen, such as mangosteen chicken salad.

Every time the mangosteen season comes, the orchard of Trần Minh Văn, in Bình Nhâm Ward is always crowded with tourists.

“The family has more than 5,000 square metres of gardens under fruit trees such as mangosteen, durian, strawberry, jackfruit, and bonbon. We have 10 garden huts for visitors' dining, relaxing and fruit picking," Văn said.

"Unforgettable experience'

Visitor Robert Thompson from the US, said: “I have been to Việt Nam three times and I love Vietnamese fruits very much. I have enjoyed a lot of Vietnamese fruits, however this is the first time that I personally pick the fruit and enjoy them right away. Eating fruit you pick yourself seems to taste better than buying them at supermarket. This is an unforgettable experience for me.”

Trần Kim Oanh, a tourist from HCM City, shared: “I have heard about Lái Thiêu mangosteen for a long time. In the peak season, I always go to orchards to buy Lái Thiêu mangosteen and enjoy dishes made of mangosteen. I am attracted by the authentic taste of mangosteen here, and by the simplicity of the local people to visitors."

Ingredients needed to make the famous mangosteen chicken salad. VNS Văn Châu

​In addition to eating mangosteen directly, local people have created the famous mangosteen chicken salad.

Foodies from all over have flocked to Bình Dương to try mangosteen chicken salad (gỏi gà măng cụt in Vietnamese), a specialty of Lái Thiêu District, which is considered the biggest and most tasty mangosteen region in Việt Nam.

They say the dish is best in Bình Dương between April to June. Many families are planning to visit its mangosteen groves to take in the stunning scenery and sample the region's mangosteen chicken salad during this time.

'King Salad'

Locals call it "King Salad" for its special fragrance and deliciousness.

The most important thing is to use mangosteen that is not too young or too ripe because this stage decides 80 per cent of the dish’s special flavour. Chefs often choose green mangosteen, which turns light yellow, as it is less sour but sweet enough and easy to peel off its skin.

Mangosteen chicken salad is a must-try dish for tourists visiting Lái Thiêu's orchards in Bình Dương Province. VNS Văn Châu

​The peeled mangosteen is cut into pieces, each looking like a blossoming flower. Apart from mixing with chicken, the fruit can be mixed with boiled shrimp and pork belly cut into thin threads.

Gourmets like to enjoy the dish with fried prawn crackers.

The dish’s aromatic flavour brings an unforgettable feeling thanks to its juicy mangosteen slices, cool, slightly sour and sweet chicken, carrot, and onion, dipped in minced chilli and garlic fish sauce topped with roasted peanuts, cilantro, and fried onions.

Visitors can enjoy this dish at about VNĐ600,000 (US$25), at restaurants around Lái Thiêu Town such as Vườn Măng and Vườn Xưa restaurants on Lê Hồng Phong Street, Thuận An City.

Roasted chicken seasoned with rich and creamy durian flesh is another Lái Thiêu specialty. VNS Photo Văn Châu

Potent smell, but nutritious

Mangosteen chicken salad is not the only creative dish using fruits that the people of Lái Thiêu have come up with. There are also roasted chicken or quail with durian, which is a large fruit that has strong smell, but is extremely rich in nutrients.

The meat is carefully seasoned with durian flesh and spices, roasted to a mouth-watering golden colour, and usually served with stir-fried sticky rice. The durian used to cook this dish needs to have a soft texture and a rich taste. 

Any diner would be smitten by the dish's strong yet pleasant aroma, and the rich, sweet flavour of durian seeping into the tender chicken or quail. The sticky rice, also containing the light, tasty smell of durian, is also great to have with the savoury meat.

Lái Thiêu Town is only about 30km from the centre of HCM City, so its delicious fruity dishes and fun fruit-picking activity are only an hour drive away. – VNS

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