Ok, upfront I will admit it, I am no durian lover. In fact, my mum will attest that when I was a kid, she had to drop me and my sis across the road at the mee rebus store, while everyone else gorged on durians during a Malaysia holiday almost 40 years ago. Mind you, I don’t hate durians, but I am not one that will travel miles and kilometres to sample the fruit. My wife, C, on the other hand is a true blue, brought up in Malaysia, durian-lover. During our recent trip to KL, we made a 2 hour detour to Taman Melawati, a place where the durian lorry trucks gathered with the latest pickings from the plantations in Penang. This was where the wholesalers picked the best to sell at their respective stores in KL. The price differential at Taman Melawati was about half that in the city itself.

Durian, aka the King of Fruits in SE Asia, is a particularly unique fruit. The name Durian is derived from the Malay word “Duri”, which means thorn. Love it or hate it, it is simply unique in its looks and taste. The external shell, as we all know, is the hard thorny exterior. Heaven help the poor soul if a fully grown fruit should drop on your head. It is the fruit inside, which is the promised land, the nirvana of all local fruit lovers.

The botanist Alfred Russell Wallace (remember the Wallace trail in Dairy Farm?), once described the fruit of the durian as a rich yellow custard highly flavored with almonds. Yet, many different varieties have sprouted over the years, as locals tried to cultivate the ultimate durian, in terms of flavor, quality of meat and even to the size of the seed. From the district of Balik Pulau in the South-West of Penang, you have many different types of durians grown there, below is a list of them:

‘Number Eleven’ is a very popular durian in the 70’s. It has creamy yellow flesh with a pleasant taste and a subtle smell.

The D604 was first cultivated by the late Mr. Teh Hew Hong of Sungai Pinang, Balik Pulau. The flesh is quite sweet, and has some ‘body’ to it as the seed is small

This durian originates in Sungai Pinang in Balik Pulau. The flesh has a bittersweet taste to it, with a touch of sourness.

The flesh is darker than D600, like chrome yellow. Also slightly hard. Crispy, but the smell is not very strong.

Ang Sim (Red Heart)
Ang Sim is a durian with flesh which is quite soft and very sweet, and dark yellow in colour. It also has a nice aroma.

Khun Poh
This durian takes the name of the late Mr Lau Khun Poh, who first budded it. Khun Poh has beautiful orangey flesh with a slightly bitter-sweet taste and a heavy aroma.

Hor Loh (Water Gourd Durian)
The flesh of the Hor Loh is very soft, dry and quite bitter. It has a sharp smell to it. Hor Loh was first cultivated at the Brown Estate of Sungai Ara. It got its name from its appearance resembling a ‘Hor Lor’ pumpkin. If the durian hits the ground hard when it falls, the flesh tends to be bitter thereafter.

Ang Heh (Red Prawn Durian)
Ang Heh originates from Pondok Upeh, Balik Pulau, and has a round-shaped husk. The orange reddish flesh is highly aromatic, very soft with a bitter-sweet taste.

Xiao Hung (Little Red Durian)

Xiao Hung, whose name means ‘Little Red One,’ originates in Sungai Pinang, Balik Pulau. The flesh has a bittersweet taste to it, with a touch of sourness. There are only one or two seeds per section, but the flesh is thick.

Yah Kang (Centipede Durian)
Yah Kang is favorite durian of many. Although its flesh is whitish, the taste is superb, milky, like very sweet, melting chocolate. The name ‘yah kang’ means centipede, and accounts for the number of centipedes found at the foot of the tree, hence giving it the rather unusual name.

Bak Eu (Pork Fat Durian)
Bak Eu has a slightly acidic aroma. The flesh is whitish while the taste is quite bitter but nice.

The following are some of the durians at Peng Siew Durian Estate in Titi Serong, Balik Pulau .
D17 is dark cream flesh. The taste is slightly dry but sweet. It is a tasty durian.

This durian is gets its unusual name because it looks like two durians joined together, one big and one small. When split open, you almost thought the two halves belong to two different durians. Coupling has whitish flesh which is slightly dry but tastes good.

Ooi Kyau (Tumeric Durian)
The name Ooi Kyau (tumeric) describes the colour of the bright yellow flesh of this durian. It is very sweet and tasty.

Chaer Phoy (Green Skin Durian)
Chaer Phoy is shaped like a small canteloupe. The skin is bright green, giving it the name which means ‘green skin’. Chaer Phoy has creamy white flesh which is a bit dry, not too sweet but tasty.

Ang Jin (Red Yoke Durian)
As the name suggests, Ang Jin Durian has deep orange flesh. It is very sweet and tasty.

Lin Fong Jiau
This durian is named after Lin Fong Jiau, aka Mrs Jackie Chan. Named after the celebrities whose relationship can be best described as bitter-sweet!

We tried the Mao Shan Wang or Musang King Durian that day. Considered one of the highest quality durians around, it normall retails for about S$20 per kg in Singapore. At Taman Melawati, we were getting it at wharehouse prices, and were literally feasting on the King @ RM18 per kilo. The durian flesh from the Mao Shan Wang, pictured above, was a gleaming bright yellow. Removing it from the husk, It was firm to touch and yet not mushy in any way. There was a sweetness in the flesh with a hint of bitterness right on the palate right at the very end, The flesh was creamy (really like custard) and you could barely make out the fiber content within. The seed was amazingly small, only measuring about 2 cm in size. 4 seeds later, my tank was filled up. Mind you, this was after a heavy lunch at Taman Malim (more on that another day).
Durians are noted to be a rich source of Vitamin C, potassium, carbohydrates, proteins, fats and the amino acid, tryptophan. Not surprisingly, after we washed it all down with mineral water, we were literally sitting quietly, rubbing our tummies in gastronomic contentment! 🙂

We made our way back to Singapore after that. C was very pleased to have scratched her itch. All the way home, we were both burping durian breath. We even bought 4 fruits for her parents and my parents to try. Needless to say, Mao Shan Wang made everyone very happy that night.

More pics from our KL trip can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tanyongkuan/sets/72157627098100721/with/5950040734/