Thorny, nasty, pungent and all things ugly, the Durian looks and smells revolting to most but very much loved by the masses in South East Asia. Like bamboo shoots in Taiwan or smelly tofu in Hong Kong, it is somewhat an acquired taste for those who are not used to its putrid smell that can present itself a few hundred metres from wherever they are sold at. Ubiquitous during seasons, Durians can be found at most night markets, fruit stores and some local supermarket chains in South East Asia and occasionally in Chinatowns of foreign lands.
The Durian is known to most people in Asia as the King of Fruits due to its uninviting thorny husk, overwhelming odour and large size. Named after duri, which means thorn in Malay, what is under the prickly facade is actually an edible creamy, custard-like pulp encasing a brownish seed within. The taste of it however, differs from one end of the spectrum of bitter sweetness to another end of milky sweetness. With a wide palette of flavours, categories of Durians have been created over the years to cater to the ever growing demands of consumers. Malaysia recently exported 200 metric tons of frozen durian valued at US$5 million to China – in Malaysia as well as in the Asian region.
Walk by any fruit store in a night market in Malaysia and be bombarded by the Durian Connoisseur with claims of a Durian degustation menu. He can be easily identified with a white glove on one hand holding a Durian and a ‘parang’ knife or machete in the other offering you the different types of Durians such as ‘D24‘, ‘Mao Shan Wang‘, ‘Red Prawn’ or the ‘D101′.
The different names of Durians indicate the type of tastes one is looking for in a Durian. D24s are popular, however it is considered second tier in premium grades of Durians. The flesh of the seed is usually yellowish in color with a bitter sweet taste. Another Durian in the second tier is called D101with a sweeter taste than D24s but golden yellow in color compared to the D24’s creamy yellow. D101s would usually have a creamy, butter like flesh on the seeds.
The top tier in premium Durians are the most sought after Durians in the world called the ‘Mao Shan Wang’ and the Red Prawn. The ‘Mao Shan Wang’ a.k.a Cat Mountain King (in direct Chinese translation) has a buttery and almost cheesy textured flesh surrounding very small seeds. The Red Prawn is known as such because of its reddish hue in colour with creamy custard like flesh with a bitter sweet taste.
For starters, visitor could try various products that use Durians as the main ingredient such as the famous Durian Dodol cakes that can be found throughout Malaysia and are sold in a sausage-like packaging. First-timers can also try Durian flavoured sweets, puff pastries with durian puree fillings and durian ice cream for a toned down introduction to the fruit in preparation for the real thing.