Hong Kong

168 HKD/€20 for ONE strawberry?!

posted by Daphne February 6, 2017
Strawberry | Daily Delicious Eats

Hong Kong has an abundance of delicious fruits that are, and I mean this, better than chocolate: mangoes (the super sweet kind, not the shitty kind you get in European supermarkets), plump lychees and longan, tangy mangosteen. I’ll even give the deliciously stinky durian a shoutout.

I generally buy them at one of the many street markets, but supermarkets often lure me in with their convenience and air conditioning. However, there’s one supermarket where I’ve never bought fruit: the City’super. Frank and I do like their overpriced bottles of fresh juice, but I can’t get over how expensive everything is. And according to this article, I’m not the only one. Hong Kongers are currently outraged by their ridiculous prices and packaging: an elaborately boxed single strawberry for 168 HKD (€20), a 1488 HKD (€180) watermelon, 888 HKD (€107) for a bundle of grapes.

WHAT?! Who buys this?!

Considering how long City’super has been around, I suppose someone must be buying these €20 strawberries. In a place where supercars are a dime a dozen, expensive strawberries don’t seem so ridiculous. And hey, free publicity? But there might be more to this, so to Google I went. And there is!

Japanese fruit gift culture

City’super was founded by a Japanese retail manager who was working in Hong Kong, fell in love with the city and didn’t want to leave. The supermarket is specialised in imported goods, mostly from Japan, though I’ve also come across individually wrapped Dutch bell peppers. On a side note: really, of all Dutch things, bell peppers? Import Dutch canned whipped cream instead!

Fruit is considered a luxury item in Japan, where historically it wasn’t as essential to their diet as it was in the West – Japan has always had enough rain, good drinking water and plenty of vegetables as their main source of vitamins. Fruit is a common gift in Japanese culture, not only for special occasions, but also in a deeply rooted tradition where gifts are given to build (business) relationships and show appreciation. For example, it’s customary to bring a gift when visiting a friend’s house. Probably not €180 watermelons though.

Because of this cultural quirk, farmers take great care in growing fruit that looks flawless. Orchards are hand-pollinated. Cantaloupes are given little hats to protect them from sun damage and their less-perfect cantaloupe siblings are pruned until there’s only one perfect cantaloupe per plant. That also means that all the flavour will be packed into one cantaloupe, so yes, it will be ridiculously expensive, but it should also be ridiculously delicious.

Knowing this, I have a slightly better understanding of the €20 strawberry. But it’s still a single strawberry in a box and it probably didn’t even have a cool hat like the cantaloupes did. Maybe some day I’ll try one to quench my curiosity, and let’s be honest – I’ve spent €20 on dumber things before.

Tell me the dumbest thing you’ve bought for €20 and I’ll tell you mine!

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