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milk fruit



Along the road bordering the southern moat of Angkor Wat, we found a stall with fruit in white and purple clusters at the size and shape of an orange, with creamy white flesh. These are milk fruits.

Milk fruit is known to be a popular tropical fruit indigenous to Cambodia (phlai teuk-doh koh) and Vietnam (v sữa). The underbelly of the leaf is a greenish purple hue, while the top is a deep green. The smooth, round plant contains sticky white latex and can grow to about 200 grams in weight. There are two types of milk fruit: purple and white. The exterior of the compound fruit is either white or deep purple when ripe and light green when unripe. A creamy white flesh lies beneath the skin and tastes juicy and sweet.

Their fragrantly sweet white flesh to taste and milky white juice (a little like congealed milk) are probably what gives them their name, although the skins of the young fruit oozes a milky sap when cut.

Despite it being a great favorite with locals and most of the foreigners who buy it, growers don't plant this tree widely as it takes one tree seven to eight years to mature and bear fruit and the surface root system takes up a lot of land, preventing any other crops from growing beside it or near it. Even with a good yield, though, growers can only make between $25 to $35 from each annual harvest. A cluster of a dozen costs between 4500 and 6000 riel, or around a dollar to $1.50. So there are obvious reasons why milk fruit was much rarer than other fruits such as mango or jackfruit.

The most popular way to enjoy the fruit is to squeeze the tough fruit until it becomes tender, so that the juice mixes with the meat of the fruit. A small hole is then cut at the top so the juice can be sucked out. While enjoying the fresh food, be careful not to eat the few seeds imbedded in its flesh.

Next time you come to Cambodia, make sure to ask for phlai teuk-doh koh and taste some.


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Additional Photos by Ngy Thanh (ngythanh) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 472 W: 128 N: 2358] (8576)
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