Memos from Asia

Durian: The King of Fruits from Malaysia

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When you think of the word “fruit,” the things that often come to mind are “juicy,” “colorful,” and “delicious.”

But what if we told you that one of the most famous fruits in Malaysia is a large, spiky, green-colored fruit?

We call it the ‘king of fruits’ for its massive size, luxurious flavor, and premium price. It’s none other than the Durian!

The Durian is commonly grown in Malaysia and Thailand, with over 100 variants in Malaysia. The name ‘durian’ comes from the Malay word, ‘duri’ which translates into thorns, which completely covers the rind of the whole fruit. Typically, the Durian weighs about 2 to 7 pounds and reaches about 12 inches in height.

Thanks to the tropical climate of Malaysia, durian trees are evergreen and grow all year long! Durian orchards can be found everywhere in Malaysia, owing to Malaysians’ obsession with the fruit.

Fresh Durians (Durio zibethinus) king of tropical fruits hanging on brunch tree in the garden

Despite this, there are peak seasons when the durians are especially ripe and grow in large numbers at once. Peak season would usually start in June and will continue until August. During this time, it would be normal to see many hawkers set up small stalls on the side of the road or at markets for people to easily enjoy the fruit, with the hard skin conveniently peeled and the flesh of the fruit packed in styrofoam packs.

Durian fruits and durian musang king pieces in the boxes
Luala Lumpur malaysia. March 16 2019. A view of a durian stall at the famous night food market Jalan Alor in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia

The Durian comes in many shades, shapes, and sizes. The scary-looking outer skin of the fruit conceals the luscious, yellow flesh of the Durian. The taste of the flesh is one of a kind. It is a strange but tasty combination of creamy, sweet, and savory all at once, so it is definitely an acquired taste. It is literally an explosion of flavors!

Some say that it has subtle hints of chives sprinkled with powdered sugar, while others say it tastes like garlic dipped in caramel. Regardless, it is a delicacy that Southeast Asians are obsessed with! It is impossible to simply describe the taste with words, so you would need to try it out yourself.

But be aware, there is a specific odor that the Durian gives off. For some, it may come off as foul-smelling. Westerners often describe it to be similar to the smell of rotting flesh or onions, but Malaysians find the smell fragrant and enticing.

Durian’s price may vary, with more common durian species being on the cheaper side, while rare species of Durian would have premium prices. A single durian could cost as low as $8, or go as high as $30! In fact, the most expensive Durian ever sold, according to the Guinness World Record, was auctioned for $47,000!

The most delicious and premium species hails from the Malaysian state Kelantan, and is called ‘Musang King.’ It has an extremely decadent golden yellow flesh, that tastes creamier and more scrumptious than the typical Durian. Malaysians are willing to queue in long lines for hours just to get their hands on the first few batches of ripe Musang King durians.

Musang King durian

Local Malaysians are in love with the fruit as it has been ingrained in their lives through many different snacks and dishes which use Durian as a base ingredient. Some of these are durian ice cream, durian chips, durian crepes, durian pancakes, durian porridges, durian gravy, durian fritters, the list goes on and on.

Durian ice cream
Durian chips

There are a multitude of other, unique tropical fruits grown in Malaysia, such as the rambutan, mangosteen, langsat, and duku, so even if the Durian puts you off, don’t forget that there are these other wonders as well!

Malaysian tropical fruits such as the Durian, mangosteen, rambutan, and jambu

Don’t let the scary outside appearance of Durian fool you. This fruit is truly a treasure of Malaysia, and you are missing out on it!

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