Guide to durian

We get the experts’ opinions on how to pick the best fruits
Durian generic
By John Lim |
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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 Ong (founder of the Durian King TTDI fruit store), 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 Gasik (blogger behind YearOfTheDurian.com) 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 pale white 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.

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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.

durian
Photo: John Lim

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.

How to choose a ripe durian

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Smell it

Take a whiff along the seams or split lines of the fruit (not the base, which is where the skin is thickest), and you should get a light fragrance. If the smell is too overpowering, chances are the fruit is overripe, while a lack of scent indicates an unripe fruit. ‘You should experience a low level, earthy yet sulfurous smell, like fresh cut grass and scrambled eggs,’ says Lindsay.

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Look at the stem

Wiggle the stem: if it feels loose, comes off easily, or even breaks at the ‘bulge’ – known as the abscission zone – the durian is ripe. The colour of the stem also matters: when scratched with a nail, the brown stem should reveal a grass-green interior. Avoid fruits where the stem is missing, shriveled or dark brown throughout; chances are the fruit has been cut early.

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Shake it

Using a rag cloth (a Good Morning towel should be available at good durian stalls), hold the fruit to your ear and shake it. What you should hear are dull, subtle knocks; if it rattles around too loosely with no resistance, the fruit is overripe. Conversely, the absence of sound indicates an unripe fruit.

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Press it

Place your thumb over one of the swollen lobes of durian – in between the thorns – and press down at where the skin is thinnest. ‘If the durian is ripe, the shell will actually give a little under pressure, like a hard sponge. If it’s not ripe, you might as well be pressing on concrete,’ says Lindsay.

Where to eat durian

Restaurants

Durian King TTDI

icon-location-pin TTDI

Located in the carpark lot adjacent to the TTDI market, Durian King is where you’ll find an ample amount of chairs and tables occupied by large crowds when peak season hits. Aside from durians, the shop is also known for its generously sized durian cendol at RM15 a bowl.

Restaurants, Hawker

Donald's Durian

icon-location-pin Petaling Jaya

If feasting on quality durian over the blaring of police sirens by the roadside is your idea of fun, then Donald’s Durian is a must-visit. Due to the current low season, Donald’s Durian is expected to open towards the end of July, so durian lovers will have to wait a little while longer.

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Restaurants

Durian SS2

icon-location-pin SS2

This SS2 landmark is arguably one of the most organised durian shops in town, complete with online delivery services and its own collection of YouTube videos. Its tech-savviness aside, the shop has an exhaustive list of durians, including D2, Musang King, Durian Udang Merah and Durian Thraka.

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