The Indomitable Durian: 5 Facts You Should Know About the Fruit
- You know the durian is ripe once it falls from the treeYou know the durian is ripe once it falls from the tree
- There is a specific way to choose the right durianThere is a specific way to choose the right durian
- There are about 30 different kinds of durians in the worldThere are about 30 different kinds of durians in the world
- There are still durians out there for people who hate the tasteThere are still durians out there for people who hate the taste
- You can add durian to many mealsYou can add durian to many meals
Did you know that there are over 30 different kinds of durians out there and that there are many farmers who cultivate durians with different sizes and tastes all around Asia? Keep reading to find out everything you didn't know about the king of fruits
The moment many in Hong Kong have been waiting for is here (and no, it is not the end of 14 day travel quarantines—although that is exciting news too). Durian season is finally upon us. The season usually takes place from June to early October and it is typically a fantastic time with restaurants and hotels introducing a plethora of durian buffets and different sweet creations. If you can't get enough of the king of fruits, keep reading to find out some facts about this most divisive of fruits that you probably did not know about.
You know the durian is ripe once it falls from the tree
To know if a durian is ripe, you simply have to wait for it to fall from the tree. In fact, many farmers in the past used to sleep in their orchards just to hear the fruit drop. However, durians have become increasingly costly and precious over the years. According to Tommy Lin, a durian enthusiast who organises local tours and tasting sessions, fruits are now not allowed to drop to the ground as it will hurt their pricing.
"So now, farms install big nets underneath the trees where it is possible, while others deploy workers to climb and tie the strings to the durians stem so that when it ripens, it gets detached and drops but will not hit the ground and damage the thorns," he says.
That said, not everyone necessarily enjoys ripe durians. Mark Ng, a food experience partner from tour company Simply Enak, said: "In Thailand, some prefer unripe fruit mainly to make into durian chips [since] you need them to have a hard texture. So we harvest them when they are still on the tree."
There is a specific way to choose the right durian
When you go out to buy durians this season, make sure you remember some of these important tips to help you choose the best.
Firstly, ensure that you don't choose a durian with a cracked bottom. There is a "high chance that it will be watery and that fermentation might have started," according to Ng, from Simply Enak.
You should also give your durian a good shake and listen for a knocking sound. This will tell you if the flesh is dry or creamy or if it is too moist and soggy.
Finally, make sure that the stem is still attached to the fruit and that it is green and moist. This is how you can tell if the durian just fell from the tree or if it is old. The stem will look dry and dehydrated if your durian is not fresh.
Of course, ensure that your durian is also not infested with worms and remember that you should not be charged if you find worms in the fruit.
There are about 30 different kinds of durians in the world
When it comes to buying durians, we all know that there are a couple of popular varieties such as Mao Shan Wang and D24 that tend to go around. However, did you know that there are actually 30 recognised species of durians in the wild? Out of that, only nine are edible.
"There are many cultivators out there, which means durians are cultivated through cloning farming methods to get different looks and tastes," says durian enthusiast Lin. "They do this through trial and error naturally, but also through human intervention. There are many varieties in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore."
He continues: "Singapore has a few cultivators of their own. These are preserved in the Botanical Gardens and the NEA Nursery, but they are not made for commercial purpose so they are off-limits to the public."
However, as you might expect, it is the naturally grown ones that are more highly sought after—and as a result, most of Hong Kong's durians come from Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia.
"When it comes to Malaysian durians there are about 200 varieties that are commercially registered with MARDI which is the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute. Among these are the famous Mao Shan Wang (D197) and Black Thorn (D200)," Lin says.
There are still durians out there for people who hate the taste
If you are still reading this, you are likely a fan of durian. However, if you aren't, there are so many types of durians out there—even variations for durian haters.
In fact, this is one of the main reasons why Lin enjoys learning about durians.
"Just as there are many durian connoisseurs out there, there are just as many newcomers to the world of durians. From my past experience, I have encountered people of different nationalities with many preferences when it comes to the taste of durians. This is where my passion grew and how it became a hobby of mine to introduce new entrants to this mystical fruit," he shares.
Lin adds that his favourite way to introduce someone to durians is to let them try the Gang Hai durian, which he affectionately refers to as the "popcorn durian".
The reason for its name? "It’s because its seeds as small as popcorn, and I usually recommend that people try to eat it with one hand. Just pop the whole thing into your mouth and use your tongue to separate the pulp from the seed. It’s a good training exercise, similar to one we usually do when we tie a knot with a cherry stem in our mouths."
Lin describes the texture as paste-like with a taste that is mild and sweet, and does not become mushy even when left out for a while. Lin recommends refrigerating the fruit before consuming it.
You can add durian to many meals
Across Asia, durian has been incorporated into everything from pizza and steamboats, to cheong fun and more. It's fascinating to some and utterly gross to others.
"When it is in season, I like to add durian into my fried rice and serve it with sambal belacan. It goes pretty well together," quips Simply Enak's Ng.
You can even pair durian with a well structured white wine for the best flavours. Just remember not to overindulge with this combination as some people say that alcohol can prevent durians from breaking down in your body. This can result in a pretty bad hangover if you are not careful.