You either love it or hate it. That’s our Malaysia’s King of Fruits “THE DURIAN”. Majority of locals simply love it and the aroma (or pungent smell for those who can’t stand it) ; the stronger the better. But the Mat Salleh’s, Kwai Loh’s or the westerners would balk at its smell, let alone eat it. So it’s truly a one man’s meat is another man’s poison. However, if one is able to overcome the aroma and taste the thick creamy, fine textured meat, you’ll be hooked for more. Depending on your preference, their flavours range from the honey sweet, sesame taste to one with a tinge of bitterness.
In my childhood days, we only know of wild and kampong (village) durians. The wild species have longer and sharper thorns, much stronger aroma but hard to come by. My mum loved durians especially the wild ones and each time when it was in season, we would scout the market for this delicacy. I remember those days durians were seasonal and available only twice a year. And many of my relatives who craved for this fruit would buy by the baskets and eat them as their main meal! They practically go bananas over it. Warning though Make sure you keep your distance when they burp.
Today, durians are so cultivated that they are available almost all year round. I also noticed that the wild species seemed to have gone extinct while the kampong durians have evolved into numerous species with code names such as D24, D7 or what have you. And apparently the latest “trend” (mind you durians are becoming like fashion too) and craze is for “red meat” durians – not literally but rather orange-yellow. In fact I only found this out few weeks ago during my outstation trip down south with my colleague. She was trying to buy some of this new species from the orchards. Finally we managed to get a few from a stall at a rest place along the highway. But I didn’t find it so special. Anyway, I still prefer the original yellow species.
Besides the fruit, even the way durians are retailed has changed over the years. Traditionally, they were sold along the five-foot way, open air markets and in make-shift sheds along the roads leading to orchards. People buy by the whole fruit or baskets. Today, they are sold by fruit, by weight, by trays with the thorny skin removed and packaged, and made available even in air-conditioned stores like the hypermarts.
Initially only Thai durians were sold in the supermarkets because they practically don’t smell at all. But I believe locally, we have also researched into cultivating durians with less pungent aroma to cater to those who love the fruit but not the smell, and also to tap into the foreign market. In fact I heard of one Japanese who fell in love with the durian during his posting here. He actually came up with an innovative way of packing the durians to seal in the odor so he could bring them back to Japan. Unfortunately, the cost of the packaging outweighed its practicality.
Well, if you’re not local make sure you don’t miss out on this subtle King of Fruits when you visit Malaysia & you may end up craving for it. For the durian connoisseurs who are game for something even more exotic, it would interest you to know that recently a retired teacher has researched a few varieties of durian with orange and purple colored meat! To read more on this breaking news click Exotic Durians Keep Farmer Up All Night