Unripe mangosteen new US craze at $120 per kg

By Vi Yen   May 20, 2023 | 04:32 pm PT
Unripe mangosteen new US craze at $120 per kg
Vietnamese chicken salad with mangosteen. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Thuy
The Vietnamese community in the U.S. loves their homeland’s unripe mangosteens so much they’re willing to buy it for $120 a kilogram.

The increasing popularity of Vietnamese chicken salad, in which unripe mangosteen is a main ingredient, has the fruit making waves at US markets frequented by the overseas community.

Recently, a Vietnamese produce merchant in Houston, Texas sold peeled unripe mangosteen for $182 for 3.3 lbs (1.5 kg).

Despite the high price, many shoppers are buying out of sheer curiosity. Supermarkets in the U.S. don’t sell the fruit and many have never seen it before.

However, the high price has also halted some potential buyers in their tracks. Hong Hanh in Texas said: "Although I’m curious, this trend is too expensive for me".

According to U.S. sellers, the unripe mangosteens are brought directly from Vietnam. They are not frozen but are instead peeled, put in vacuum bags, and stored in ice to keep them white and fresh. Customers then use them to make salad or to be eaten as a refreshing snack dipped in salt.

Screenshot of a person selling unripe mangosteen on a Vietnamese group in the US.

Screenshot of unripe mangosteen sold in a Vietnamese group in the U.S.

In Canada, unripe mangosteen is also shipped from Lai Thieu, Binh Duong province, and sold for $25 unpeeled, and $60 peeled, per kilogram. Customers have to pre-order the fruit.

Vietnamese chicken salad has been a Binh Duong specialty for a long time. It is usually only available by traveling directly to orchards in the province, between mid-April and the end of June, the which is mangosteen harvest season.

The reason unripe mangosteen fetches a high price is that it is complicated to process, and it produces only very little flesh. Compared to ripe mangosteens, unripe ones are harder to peel, and also need to be carefully preserved as they will become black, soft, and lose their crispiness quickly.

Each kilogram of unripe mangosteen produces only about 250 grams of flesh, depending on the fruit.

In HCMC, unpeeled unripe mangosteen goes for VND80,000-130,000 ($3.4-5.5) a kg, while peeled kilograms fetch VND350,000-550,000. The fruits have been flying off the shelves recently so supply is currently scarce

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