Durian: 5 Fun Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About The Fruit
The moment many in Malaysia have been waiting for is here: durian season is finally upon us.
If you can't get enough of the king of fruits, here are some fun facts about it that you probably did not know.
1/5 A durian is ripe once it falls from the tree
To know if a durian is ripe, you only 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 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 how high they can be priced.
"So now, farms install big nets underneath the trees where it is possible, 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 said.
That said, not everyone would enjoy ripe durians.
Mark Ng, a food experience partner from Simply Enak, a food tour company based in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, said: "In Thailand, some of them prefer unripe fruit mainly to make into durian chips. Once it is ripe, the flesh is soft. So, to make it into chips, you need them to have a hard texture. So you harvest them when they are still on the tree."
2/5 If the stem is dry, the durian is not fresh
When you go out buying durians this season, make sure you remember some of these important tips to help you choose the best durians.
First, 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," said Ng.
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; remember that you should not be charged if you find worms in the fruit.
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3/5 There are 30 different kinds of durians in the world
When it comes to buying durian, 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 actually edible.
"There are many cultivators out there which means durians are cultivated through cloning farming methods to get different looks and tastes. They do this through trial and errors naturally and also by human intervention. There are many varieties in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore," said Lin.
He continued: "Singapore has a few cultivators of their own actually. 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. "When it comes to Malaysian durians there are about 200 varieties that are commercially registered with the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi). Among them are the famous Mao Shan Wang (D197) and Black Thorn (D200)," Lin said.
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4/5 There are durians 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 this much.
"Just as there are many connoisseurs of durians eaters out there, there are just as many newcomers to the world of durians. From my past experiences, I have encountered people of different nationalities with different 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 shared.
He added that his favourite way to introduce someone new to durians would be to let them try the GangHai durian which he affectionately refers to as the "popcorn durian".
When asked why he calls it that, Lin said: "Well, it’s because its seeds are small enough to be the size of 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 described the texture to be paste-like and not offensive when it comes to taste. In fact, it is mild and sweet, and does not become mushy even when left out for a while. Lin recommended refrigerating the fruit before consuming it.
5/5 You can add durian to many meals
In Singapore, many people have combined durian with pizza, steamboats, chee cheong fun and more. It's fascinating to some and utterly gross to others.
In fact, Ng likes to add durian to his fried rice dishes. "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," he quipped with a laugh.
You can even pair durian with a well-structured white wine for 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 give you a pretty bad hangover if you are not careful.
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