Dis­cern­ing duri­ans

John Lim gets the ex­perts’ opin­ions on what to ex­pect for this year’s durian sea­son and how to pick the best fruits

Time Out Kuala Lumpur - - Food -

JUNE AND JULY TYP­I­CALLY HER­ALD THE PEAK SEA­SON OF DURI­ANS IN MALAYSIA, but sea­soned fruit hunters will tell you that this year isn’t like pre­vi­ous years. Not only has there been a no­table lack of duri­ans on the racks, but prices have also sky­rock­eted to ridicu­lous lev­els.

To shed some light on what’s go­ing on, we spoke to two peo­ple: Erik Ong, the founder of the Durian King TTDI fruit store, and Lind­say Gasik – au­thor of the up­com­ing book ‘ The Durian Tourist’s Guide to Pe­nang’ and blog­ger be­hind YearOfTheDurian.com – who has based her­self in South­east Asia and re­searched and stud­ied about duri­ans since fall­ing for the fruit in 2009. Duri­ans are in short and stag­gered sup­ply this year. The long rainy sea­son this year has re­duced durian yield in two ways: first, by de­lay­ing the durian flow­er­ing process (which typ­i­cally re­quires two weeks of drought) and sec­ond, by knock­ing off the flow­ers be­fore they can be pol­li­nated.

‘ There is less durian over­all, but the big­gest thing we’ll ex­pe­ri­ence is that all the

durian won’t drop at one time, which keeps the prices a bit higher and make it feel like there’s a scarcity,’ says Lind­say. ‘ The Jo­hor/ Pa­hang sea­son is de­layed un­til mid-Au­gust or Septem­ber, while Pe­nang will fin­ish by mid-Au­gust. So there won’t be the “glut” or over­sup­ply that nor­mally hap­pens and drives the prices down.’

Be pre­pared to fork out two or three times more for

durian. ‘ We’re only ex­pect­ing about 30 per­cent of the sup­ply we had com­pared to last year, and even if there is sup­ply, half of the fruits go to China and Sin­ga­pore,’ says Erik. ‘As a re­sult, our costs have dou­bled or tripled, and even the kam­pung duri­ans that last year cost RM3 a fruit are now sell­ing at RM9 or RM10.’

He does hope that when the durian sea­son hits its peak dur­ing Au­gust, the price of duri­ans like the Mu­sang King will drop down to about RM60-RM70 per kilo­gramme com­pared to the early sea­son rates of RM80RM85.

Ex­plore va­ri­eties be­yond the Mu­sang King. Durian novices are usu­ally drawn to the Mu­sang King, which is known for its sweet flesh, dry tex­ture and less in­tense aroma; but given its ridicu­lous prices, it’s best to ex­plore other op­tions that might taste just as good, or even bet­ter.

‘I’d rec­om­mend the Black Thorn, which is one of the top-sell­ing fruits,’ says Erik, adding that it might be priced about RM50 per kilo in KL, de­pend­ing on what the sup­ply is like. ‘It has a bit­ter-sweet flavour with a wine af­ter­taste – it’s not for your av­er­age Joe, but those who have eaten duri­ans for a while will fall in love with it at the first try. The other durian I’d sug­gest is the XO, which costs about RM30-35 a kilo. It has a more bit­ter, al­co­holic taste to it.’

An­other un­der­rated va­ri­ety that de­serves at­ten­tion is the Capri, which ac­cord­ing to Lind­say can be found at Eng Hoe Durian farm, north of Batu Fer­ing­ghi in Pe­nang. Iden­ti­fied through its un­usu­ally large and wide-based spikes, the durian has a pale­white flesh (hence, its lack of mar­ketabil­ity) that car­ries a dis­tinc­tive whisky-ba­nana rum flavour. Hard­core durian lovers will grav­i­tate to­wards the Hor­lor, which sits pretty high on the bit­ter scale with a flesh that clings to the mouth like thick peanut butter.

Keep an eye out for the Mu­sang Queen. Ex­pect durian sell­ers to cap­i­talise on the Mu­sang King’s pop­u­lar­ity by hawk­ing off the ‘Mu­sang Queen’. This isn’t a new de­signer breed of duri­ans, ac­cord­ing to Lind­say, but a re­nam­ing of the Tekka durian, which is a favourite among the durian lovers who are par­tial to its bit­ter-sweet taste.

Peo­ple around the world are eat­ing duri­ans in

dif­fer­ent ways. ‘ The weird­est thing I’ve seen is bar­be­cu­ing whole duri­ans over a fire. It black­ens the shell and when you open it up the durian is oozy gooey and hot, a bit carmelised and cus­tardy,’ Lind­say says. She her­self has also pre­pared durian in sev­eral ways – she says cook­ing un­ripe duri­ans make good curry. In the Klang Val­ley, pop­u­lar durian sell­ers like Durian King TTDI and Durian SS2 will serve durian cen­dol or ais ka­cang, which has a dol­lop of fresh durian (usu­ally Mu­sang King, but it varies ac­cord­ing to the sea­son’s sup­ply) at the very top.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.