|Dai Hoang king bananas (Photo: Ngoc Anh)|
Braised fish is one famous local dish. Another is Ngu, or king banana, a nature-bestowed specialty once used as an offering to the king.
According to locals, the name “king banana” has been in use since the 13th century. The story goes that every year the Tran king, accompanied by his retinue and officials, sailed from Thang Long Citadel to the Thien Truong royal stop-over palace in Nam Dinh province today to visit his father.
One day they stopped at the Tuan Vuong T-junction. People from the surrounding villages came to welcome them and brought them delicacies dedicated to the king. One very poor couple from Dai Hoang village had nothing to offer the king except a bunch of ripe bananas from their garden.
The king tasted a banana and found it sweet and delicious. He immediately rewarded the couple and asked Dai Hoang’s farmers to plant more of these bananas so people nationwide could enjoy them. Since then Dai Hoang bananas have been called “chuoi ngu” or “king bananas”.
There are 2 types of Dai Hoang king bananas, but the better one is as big as two little fingers stick together. Its pulp is as yellow as jackfruit segments and very sweet.
Tran Thi Ngan, Chairwoman of the village’s King Banana Association, said, “King bananas are small with a thin peel. When ripe, they have a dark yellow color with brown dots. They have a strong sweet taste and a lingering scent. King bananas never get overripe. They aren’t rotten even after a week. Dai Hoang king bananas have no pith. The pulp is viscous and delicious.”
|A banana garden in Dai Hoang village (Photo: Ngoc Anh)|
According to the locals, the quality of king bananas depends on weather and growing techniques. Gardens, they say, should be aligned in an East-West direction.
Bananas are ripened by steaming them with burnt rice husks in a closed oven. A family with a banana garden might have 3 ovens, each large enough to hold 20 bunches of bananas.
King bananas are grown in many parts of Vietnam but Dai Hoang village has the best king bananas thanks to its soil and climate.
Village elder Nguyen Van Tam told VOV, “The King banana’s special quality is due to the local climate and soil conditions. Nowhere else in Vietnam can compare to the quality of the soil here. Bananas are harvested all year round. Every 3 months there is a crop. Each tree turns out one bunch per a year. A banana tree is about 4 meters high. Each standard bunch has 7 to 8 hands.”
The Dai Hoang king banana is a popular favorite. Demand for the fruit has increased, especially during Tet and on the first and 15th of every lunar month. One bunch of king bananas costs about 1 million Vietnamese dong or US$44.
Ms. Ngan said, “Our king bananas are mainly consumed in Hanoi, Phu Ly, Nam Dinh, Hai Phong, Quang Ninh, Thai Binh, and Ho Chi Minh City. Overseas Vietnamese in Germany, Japan, Malaysia, and China have introduced our fruit to their host countries. Dai Hoang king bananas have been granted a trademark. The Dai Hoang King Banana Association only has 77 members but there are more than 1,000 households in the village growing the signature fruit.”
The Dai Hoang king banana is among the 50 most famous specialty fruits of Vietnam. Because of its beautiful color and shape, the fruit is often chosen as a special gift for far-away friends and relatives. It is also good for your health, being rich in vitamins, potassium, and minerals.
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