Sunday, June 21, 2009

Durian, you either love it or hate it

Durian(榴莲), or King of the fruits, is scientifically known as Durio zibethinus, some identified it under Malvaceae family. The durian is a large size, oblong to round shape, thorny fruits with strong unique odour. It is green and turn yellow brown when ripen. The flesh is from light yellow to golden yellow. There is one durian species found in Sabah, the flesh is red color. Durian is popular in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia.

The name durian, is Malay word "duri", which literally means thorn, but when duri + an, which become a noun "durian", which means something which is thorny. Durian fruit in Malay is called "Buah Durian", fruit with thorns. "Buah" is fruit in Malay,but people in their daily usage, usually use the short form "Durian" ......without the word "Buah".

In Chinese,it is called liu lian“流连” (榴莲), which means stay behind. There is a folk story that the Chinese coolies who left their homeland of China, looking for good life in Malaya, called Nanyang. But many never return to their home, the words describe the none return, is "liu lian wan fan(流连忘返)"(staying behind in foreign land and forgot to come back to homeland). Some said it is because of the love of durian they stay behind. Noted durian (榴莲)in Mandarin is same sound as staying behind or forgot to come back(流连).. Some use the words to say it is because of durian, they foget about taking cooked rice from home(榴莲忘饭), "fan"(饭) in Mandarin is cooked rice, both "return"( 返) and "cooked rice" (饭) sound alike in Mandarin.

There is a very common saying in Malay, that when in durian season, they prefer to pawn their sarong( a type of expensive traditional Malay dress which is used for ceremony) to buy durian.

The two stories reflected how strongly the feeling of the Malay and Chinese on durian fruits, they just love durian....

In Malaysia, people normally buy fresh durian from the road side durian stalls , durian stall near the market, or durian stalls near the orchard, or even visit the durian orchard itself . The frozen durian or well packed durian flesh can found in supermarket, but it is not fresh. The best durian is still the fresh durian with the strong odour,not the frozen durian.

The photo above was taken of a durian fruit stall near the Air Itam bridge, Penang.

Durian seller along the road to Balik Pulau, near the orchard

There are many types of durians, mainly divided into durian kampong(durian from the village ), and hybrid durian(durian which are cross hybrid and normally produced commercially for export or domestic sale in supermarket). The kampong durian has better odour,they are normally planted by small holders or village. Farmers has now given brand names to their durians. Thailand is very successful in durian export, but mostly cross breed durians. The small holders are also planting cross hybrid durian now. The original durian, is reported to be the rare small thorny durian, only can be found in the jungle, but sometime the fruits are found by the orang asli (Malaysian native tribe)and selling them along the highway in Pahang.

The yellow flesh from durian fruits is having strong odour; for the first timer, either you love it or you hate it. It smell like hell ,but taste like heaven, as some said it.

In Thailand, the durian are commercially produced, the farmers can plucked the unripe durians and sent it for export. The Thai durian can be easily open, and for the frozen one, the husk may have already open when it reach the ultimate consumers. For Malaysia and Singapore, consumers liked durian with good odour and thick golden color flesh. The durian in Malaysia cannot be harvest from the tree, it must wait until the durian fell from the tree. They will not buy durians which have cracked, they prefer the fruit to reach the stage that it is ripe but where the husk is not cracked open. Any durian which has cracked will be used only to make durian cake. The cracked durian will not have odour as strong as the just ripen durian, and it become creamy, slightly alcoholic and may be turn sour. Durian sellers will not sell durian which are more than one day after fallen from tree, no body will buy it unless it is selling at a very cheap price , just profitable to make durian cake(durian kueh).

Travel and food writer Richard Sterling says:
... its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia.

To choose the ripe durian need experience; if not you will experience the frustration of buying an unripe durian. To open durian need an effort, after you open it, you discover the durian is not ripe or they called it Sang Fan Si or literally it means " raw potato". The normal advice to select the ripe durian are (i) to examine the quality of the stem or stalk of the durian. The stalk loses moisture as it ages. A big, green, solid stem is sign of freshness, (ii) to shake the fruit and listen to the sound of the durian seeds moving within the fruit. The moving sound will indicate the durian is very ripe,and the pulp has dried up, (iii) to smell the durian, a ripe durian will have strong smell of ripen durian (iv) to check that the durian has not been attacked by the worms.

Durians are not only loved by man; their lovers included fruit bats, squirrels, birds, bees, insects, and worms.....some said good durian are the one which have attacked by worms, as they must be you believe?

To open a durian, you need to learn the tactic. The video show you how a vendor open the durian. They are professional.For a dummy or first time durian lover,you need to find a line and cut along to open the durian.

After eating the durian, you need to take something to cool your body. Durian is consider heaty fruit. Normally the local will take salt water with the durian shelf. Another alternative is to take mangosteen fruits after eating durian. But please do not take wine or alcohol after you have taken durian, as it may resulted in death. Durian contained very high protein content.

Durian is prohibited in the airplane, hotel and other places.....

Durian will not ripe in the tree. It will fall from the tree when ripen. To see how a durian orchard owner pick the fallen durian, is another experience. How they tied the net so the durian would not fall elsewhere.

It is good experience to visit the durian orchard.....Durian of Balik Pulau is the most famous in Malaysia, there are people come all over Malaysia and Singapore, just to eat Balik Pulau durian. Now is the season...

Today is durian season, it is durian day.........let us go to Balik Pulau, Penang. But please don't stay behind, and remember to return......

There is a song by Ah Nieu(阿牛), a Malaysian Penang singer, popular in Malaysia, China and Taiwan, Singapore who composed the song about durian, but it is in Mandarin. I hope the readers can feel the heat and smell of durian from the song...


词:阿牛 曲:阿牛
Oh Sayang 的爸爸
Oh Sayang Sayang的家
Oh Sayang Sayang的爸爸和妈妈

Related articles on durian:-

1. with the title "- very good article about durian , it also give you the nutritional value according to Chinese medicine, but in Chinese
2. - this article is in English

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing all this information! Appreciate it. i wish that I spoke Chinese so I could understand the song