When you want to say it’s good but…

I invited M&A over once I brought the durian home. I couldn’t wait to share my bounty (wouldn’t you like to be my neighbor?). But as it was all a bit last minute, only M could come as A had another appointment. Very well, all the more for the rest of us.

The durian had been at room temperature for a few hours after the purchase, payment and pickup, all because I had an appointment at Louisa Coffee which I couldn’t miss. The fragrance was beginning to escape the bag and out of courtesy to the other clients of Louisa Coffee, I hung it outside the glass side door. Still within visual range but not within nasal olfactory range. Not that I needed to worry too much, the coffee shop was well ventilated and generally smelled of… coffee.

That evening, when M came over, I pulled the durians out of the fridge.

Each segment in its own bag

Taaadaaa” I said with a flourish, putting the bag of stinky fruit on the table.

M’s eyes pretended that she was only moderately interested but I could tell from the way she sat down that it was heavy with expectation. She then proceeded to tell me that she’s never had anything but Thai durian and she wasn’t able to tell the difference between a mao shan wang or anything else.

When I untied the top of the bag, the immediate gaseous escape of the distinct aroma flooded the room. If there was a way to colour the aroma we would have seen purple and orange swirls reaching out like growing tendrils searching for the next branch to cling on to.

I’d give it about 7/10 for satisfying smells. Now came the other sensory stimuli… the visual, the taste, the texture on fingertips.

A little bit too mushy

Unpacking the durian was a coordinated effort. We each grabbed a bag and rather unceremoniously rolled the fruit out onto a waiting plate.

We started with the durian with a little less colour and scent. It was… very dull…. almost as if the flavour of it was just a durian that was unripe. So what do you do? a) Force yourself to eat it or

b) Move to the next one

Tell me your answer in the comments below please.

Me: I’ll have one more seed and then move onto the next.

SW: I’ll just try the other one right now…

M: I think this one is not bad actually…

Can you distinguish the shade difference between the two?

The more intense yellow of the two durians did have better texture and a more robust flavour. But it was still nothing compared to the Malaysian musang kings. The seeds were also not quite flat and deformed enough to convince me that it was the right hybrid. It was more like a not so great D24.

Well, you can try fooling the chinese market but let’s see how long for. As a friend in the fermented grape juice biz told me…like good wine, you always need cheap, so-so quality wine to break into the nascent market. Then cash in on the desire to upgrade to the next level.


Face-sweating hunt for Durians in Taipei

The worldwide epidemic has forced us to temporarily seek refuge in Taipei where schools are open and life has been relatively normal for the last few months. We are mandated to wear masks by the government but I see that as a very good rule. It forces a person to keep all your nasal and oral bacteria contained to yourself (you pay more attention to your oral hygiene as you can smell your own bad breath) and limits also the dust from the street getting into your lungs. So far, the only reason why I don’t enjoy wearing them is face-sweating. My face skin has never perspired so much on a short walk to the supermarket. It feels just like I’ve had some sort of a steam facial every time I step out of the house.

But does a mask help with filtering out the wafts of ripe durian as you walk through the market?

In the various local fresh food markets, I’ve seen durian for sale at every corner. What kind of durian? I hear you ask. Well… it’s all called “Jin Jen Tou” otherwise known as the Golden pillow or Mon Thong from Thailand. Nothing special. Inferior to most Malaysian durians.  No smell at all. That’s what most Taiwanese know as durian. There clearly is a fascination with it as market vendors stock it amply.

On my twice a week market walk, I noticed that one stall had a few different looking durians. These durians didn’t have the yellow tinge and “bulging muscle” husk morphology. These durians were more lush green, a lot smaller and were less symmetrical. HMMM. Pause. Let’s take a closer look.

I leaned over the makeshift table under the sunbrella.

“What durian are these?” I said, indicating towards the smaller green ones.

“These are Mao Shan Wang” came the stall keeper’s reply.

“Really… where are they from?”

“They are from Thailand” 

“But Thailand does not have Mao shan wang” I continued

“This one is from Thailand” he said confidently,” If you like you can look at the box”.

“Why is there no smell?”

“What do you mean no smell? Is your nose stuck or something? It’s very strong!!”

Sure enough, the box indicated that it was Mao Shan Wang, exported from Thailand. This was really quite an exciting find. I’ve heard before of a lookalike mao shan wang from Thailand and never seen it until now. I pulled down my mask and asked to have a sniff.


No distinct smell even though it was ripe and starting to split open (without mask). It had a the triangular thorns but they looked quite wispy towards the tips. The base didn’t look exactly like a mao shan wang at all, but when it came to the relative color of the flesh, it was the closest thing to a mao shan wang.

A little negotiation took place. I reasoned with the stall owner that his durian was looking rather ripe. Would he sell it a little cheaper? How about if I bought two could he give me a special price? We finally agreed on TWD 850 (RM 125) for the two durians, which I think would’ve cost me a fraction of that in KL or Singapore. It would be that price for the real Mao Shan Wang durians in Singapore and KL.

I told the stall owner and his wife I didn’t have my wallet on me but I’d be back to collect them. They cheerfully agreed and started opening the durian and packing it into small individual plastic bags which they then dropped into a box. While they think this is a very hygienic method of packaging, the process by which they get the durian into the bags is far from an aseptic method.

Consuming durian is best done with friends. I called up M & A who had let on in a previous conversation how crazy they are about durian but had never had a Malaysian one before. We planned a durian tasting session that night.


Stinky Spikes New Vocabulary: Durianopathy

du.ria.nop.a.thy | \ (/ˈdjʊəriənπᾰ́θοy)

plural durianopthies

Definition of durianopathy

: any period or length of time where durians have been lacking in one’s diet causing a stressful craving disorder that can cause a person or group of people to seek any type of durian and dream or imagine eating them.


1: Over the last few months, I’ve been suffering from durianopathy.

2: Durianopathy made me pay more than double the price of what I would normally pay in Bentong.

3: This durianopathy has gone on long enough, you get out of bed and I will find you some durians!


Did you think I’d given up on this blog?Well, NO…! I’m just trying to find a way to find durians wherever I am. It’s not easy but its never far from my mind either. Last year and this has been a tumultuous time in Hong Kong, from the situations on the streets to the unrelenting death, disability and disruption by Covid19.

Hong Kong was challenging from the durian enjoyment perspective. Durians are expensive passengers and demand to be flown and not placed on ocean going ships. Then there’s the issue of pre-flight clearance procedures and packaging.

By the time the durian comes around, it is pricey, not very fresh and usually in other states apart from its natural one (ie. frozen rock solid, mashed into a mushy pulp or in some state of decomposition). I have the occasional treat when durian parties are organized but by and large those are fairly few and I have long durian droughts.

I am in Taipei and on the hunt for durians this summer. My basic research so far (shopping in markets) has indicated that the durian market here is largely dominated by Thai varieties, some masquerading as Mao Shan Wang in order to squeak out a slightly higher selling price. More on this in a later post….

There are Malaysian durians but they are considerably more expensive and only sold at very specific shops or the most premium supermakets.

I hope you will join me on this Taiwanese expedition.

Scientific publication on the nutritional value of du du du durian

It’s not very often that scientific articles about durian get published. The fruit is not the easiest subject to work with.

It’s glove-piercing thorns and distinct odor present some initial challenges. The fleshy interior goes through a change of state during ripening, from rubbery and unyielding to a slippery and flaccid yet flavorful fruit. Imagine opening 50 durians for research and resisting consuming them all… if I were behind the bench, I might be in the dangerous position of only doing research on the durians unworthy of consumption.

Several friends have asked me before if eating durian yields any benefit for health. Yes, I say. It contains a tremendous amount of fibre, protein and carbohydrates. Eating a whole durian is a meal. Just make sure you drink lots of water.

We can refer to the several publications on durian that have quantified these important nutritional constituents.

In this review article, the authors cite the proportions in the following order:

1) carbohydrates 27%

2) dietary fat 5.33%

3) fibres 3.1%

4) proteins 1.47%

Then there are the vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, folic acid, niacin, vitamin A, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc etc.

I’m not sure how much of these minerals and vitamins is contained in durian (in terms of the RDA) but I wouldn’t recommend eating durian for every meal... mostly because very few people would want to hang out with you!

My recommendation is to have it seasonally and only pick the best, make each bite or lick count.

Go…Go…Go.. Durian Omakase!

I love this wonderful marketing strategy by 99 Old Trees in Singapore. Durian omakase (colloquially termed Sukawa by 99 Old trees.. a very Singlish phrase) is such a fabulous idea… it means you show up and the vendor picks a variety of the best fruit for you to sample (in unlimited supply). A few innovative companies in Hong Kong (that are from KL) have started doing this at sit down events, but no one has thought to coin it an “omakase” as it’s much more of a durian tasting of different varietals than necessarily the BEST of each one.

Check out this article about what 99 Old Trees is doing and do watch that video with Genevieve Loh, she’s superbly funny 😆.

I really miss being in Malaysia for durian season… is anyone coming to HK from KL/SG and can bring some omakase up for me? I miss having other varietals. In HK they only bother bringing in Musang king and maybe black thorn. Sometimes the Musang king is only so-so. I miss a good Tekka!

Ps. For the foodie uninitiated (from Wikipedia): Omakase is the Japanese tradition of letting a chef choose your order. The word means “I will leave it to you.” It’s a fine tradition that gives the chef creative freedom and the customer a memorable dining experience. Any good chef is a creative individual. … Omakase lets the chef flex their culinary talents.

A FB friend just went to 99 Old Trees and reported a stellar experience. Find them off Little India at 46 Owen Rd, #01-277 Singapore, Near Pek Kio Food Centre. But you’d better call them first… after this promo, I wonder if there’ll be any Durians left! Durians usually arrive from malaysia in the afternoon so get your tummy ready after 6pm…

Tel: +65 98222495 book by noon I would imagine!

A rival to durian, for fame, flavour and equal fervor… can you guess what it is?

Everyone who has had durian will know too well that unmistakable scent (often detectable from a distance), the very characteristic appearance of green spikes resembling a furled up hedgehog and the fire that is lit in a durian lovers’ eyes once a good fruit is presented.

Let’s now substitute the fruit “durian” with the bright green edible bean “petai“.

Petai is in its own right, a very unique bean. The pods are large and long, with a slight twist and curl. The beans themselves look quite ordinary. Mildly rubbery, a bit smaller than the average female thumb.

But the smell when it is cooked is intensely pungent and it’s very difficult to describe its taste. Bitter or bitter acidic yet a bit tasteless on its own, it is best combined with other strongly flavoured sauces like sambal (a paste made of fermented shrimp, chilli, garlic, ginger and lime concoction). The sambal petai dish is mind-blowing when cooked well and accompanied with fried fish or deep fried chicken and steaming hot off-the-stove jasmine rice.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Petai, unlike durian, will change your body odour for about one or two days post consumption. Though you may not notice it… your friends might. If you eat enough of it, it’ll also turn your pee a very fluorescent shade of green (similar to my Thai whiskey experience, but we’ll cover that another time).

The effects of petai and the pungent smell notwithstanding, petai is served in many restaurants albeit in small quantities relative to durian. This stink bean has fans and it’s non-fans, people either love eating it and sort of crave it, or refuse to try it at all.

Perhaps it was with this in mind that FAMA decided to replace durian with petai at the promotional food fair Malaysia Fest in Singapore. It can be brought in large quantities, bring in the petai lovers and satisfy some cravings. The pods also look impressive in big bunches so at least it looks good as a takeaway from the event.

Why no Durians Singapore? The smell can be contained with good packaging so I doubt this is the real reason. I suspect it’s probably more to do with husk and waste disposal.

RFID your Musang king

How do you know if the Musang King you’re looking at is real or fake? Could you be buying a D24 that’s passing itself off as a Musang king at twice the price per kilo?

Luckily, for most of us in South East Asia, we usually buy our fruits direct from a fruit vendor. If we’re not satisfied with the fruit or in anyway not convinced, we match right back up to that vendor and make our complaints very well known. The vendor will usually try to make amends by offering another durian which they consider better quality (sometimes this is a ruse to test if the consumer is a genuine connoisseur, otherwise they will have gotten away with selling a cheap durian at a higher value).

However, if you’re in China where:

1) durian is imported and sold in a wet market

2) there is a likelihood of scammers trying to flog off durian in anyway possible

3) where people may try to “fake” a durian

How do you know your durian is the Musang king and not an inferior variety or heaven forbid, not a durian at all?

A tech company with the name ZXCLaa technology has come up with a solution. To insert a tiny RFID tag into the husk of the durian which consumers can detect with their own mobile phone.

This is certainly a very innovative way to identify the Musang king from a particular company or plantation.

It’s certainly very exciting if the durian can be linked directly to information on the plantation and perhaps even the tree it came from. Can you imagine if you decided that you liked the flavour from a specific tree and decided to buy up the entire harvest just from that tree?

Well, it’ll be good enough just to know a particular plantation that you like.. it would be like a particular vintage of wine from a vineyard. Worth collecting, worth freezing, worth savouring and sharing with other friends and family.

Will keep an eye on it and can’t wait to test it out of it comes to HK. It’ll be extra work for the exporters, more manpower will be needed to carry out this project. Let’s just hope it’s not an excuse to put prices up.

Note: I can’t find anything on ZXCLaa but it could be a govt linked project in Malaysia to assist in the identification mandate.

Love, Durians, Marriage

I’ve always thought it difficult when two people with very different views and tastes get married and live together for a long time. Does each person suppress their love and longing for their favourite food or item?

One of the most controversial foods between couples is probably durian. The spiky, smelly fruit can ignite passions and arguments, inspire love and hate, close doors in otherwise open homes.

I know of several halves (of a couple, not a durian) who forgo their love of durian to please their spouse or partner. Only relishing the fruit when the spouse is away. A different personality then emerges and congregates with other durian lovers, a brief but vibrant convivial session full of chatter, fragrance and licking of lips and fingers.

For me, I decided a long time ago that my long term partner must enjoy eating durian. They don’t need to enjoy discussing it, don’t need to know how to open it or identify it. Just being able to sit down and eat it with me is good enough. Why? Well, first because I like to have a few Durians and can’t finish them all on my own. Second, it’s always nice to have company at the table. Third, it’s helpful to have someone else around to snap a pic.

A while back, I came across this article about a durian seller looking for a spouse for his daughter. He had several criteria and I thought what he asked for wasn’t too unreasonable. Looks like his daughter has much selection work to do.

Thai durian seller looks for Chinese son-in-law on Facebook

Here’s an update on what happened after the news went viral.

The tallest durian tree in the world

I really enjoyed this article about the hunt for more elusive Durians. The red and orange Durians, as this article confirms are dead disappointing in taste and it’s just not worth the hassle apart from the novelty of bring instagrammed with it in your hand. Wild Durians probably are relatively “gamey” and appeal only to a narrow palate or if there’s nothing else around to eat.

What was interesting in the article was the mention of the tallest durian tree at 57.5m. The century old tree is located in the deep interior of Sabah in Kampung Kenang-Kenangan supposedly produces 2000 fruit per season. Wow… that’s a real durian bonanza.

The tallest durian tree is located in Tongod

He’s on the hunt for the tortoise durian .. I’m keen to know what that’s like.