Vietnam's Coconut Kingdom

Nga Do
Get away from busy life and indulge in the real life of the "coconut land" people. Explore the small village in Ben Tre by cruising along the river and small canals, biking on village lanes and staying overnight in a local farmer's house.

Coconuts can be found anywhere and everywhere in Vietnam. The fruit’s versatility is renowned. Juice, candy, rice and meat dishes are all immensely popular, but only in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre can you find the Green Xiem coconut. It’s so special that it was recently granted a certificate of Geographical Indication.

Vietnam's Coconut Kingdom
Photo by Hoangvantoanajc
Whenever I think of coconuts, Ben Tre Province immediately comes to mind. Though coconut trees can be found nearly everywhere in the country, only in Ben Tre can you find the special species of palm tree that is characteristic of the region.

Located in the southwestern part of the Mekong Delta, about 90km west of HCM City, Ben Tre has ong been famed for its delicious variety of coconut dishes. Travelling from HCM City, you will soon notice the shadows of coconut trees as you cross the Rạch Mieu Bridge over the Tien River linking the two Delta provinces of Tien Giang and Ben Tre.

All around you are lush, verdant paddy fields and boats quietly gliding on waterways, a perfect gateway to a relaxing vacation or weekend retreat away from the big city. One of the area’s most famous products is keo dua (coconut candy), a favorite treat of southerners, closely followed by banana candy. The two traditional candies originated in Ben Tre.

Vietnam's Coconut Kingdom 1
Photo by Neweco
Twenty to 25 years ago, when Vietnam had not integrated with the world, coconut candy production was limited. Made simply with only coconut milk and sugar, it was momstly for domestic use only. But now, coconut candy makers have added durian and pandan leaf, and even roasted peanuts, to their products which are sold both in Vietnam and abroad. 

However, when it comes to coconut candy, I’m a purist since I have pleasant memories of the taste when I was a child. The durian flavour, to me, is so strong I can’t tell if I am eating durian or coconut! However, peanuts and coconuts are a fine combination. In the past, the outside paper would often stick to the candy, but now the makers double-wrap the candy, with edible rice paper and an oily paper on the outside. Problem solved.

The candy, one of the most traditional items in the Mekong Delta, is so common here that many tourists can easily find workshops to view the processing and making of coconut products. Ben Tre authorities are well aware of the revenue that such handcrafted candies and cakes can bring to locals. They have maintained the working culture and tradition, and have promoted tourism activities to attract more visitors.

Although today you can buy Ben Tre candy anywhere in the province, the product first appeared sometime before the 1960s in Ben Tre’s Mo Cay District. Called Mo Cay candy, it included sugar, coconut milk and malt, skillfully mixed in the pan by stirring. The maker did not use any kind of mold, and the mixture was chopped up into small cubes and wrapped.

A trip to discover Mekong Delta do not forget to enjoy this famous coconut candy. Its sweet flavor will make you 'haunt' when it comes to Vietnam

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