One of the greatest consternations I have about air travel is how the airlines always prohibit durians on flights. It’s kind of annoying because the whole point of checking in is that the cabin doesn’t smell but I suppose they are just paranoid about the luggage bins picking up the scent. I’ve heard of a durian seller in Goh Tong Jaya (Genting Highlands) who sells his durians in triple sealed vacuum plastic boxes and bags for clients who want to pick them up and take them straight onto a plane. He’s got a very good crowd of clients who visit the casinos and spend their money on durians, then head straight for the airport and bring them back to their home country (usually HK or Indonesia). I’ve heard that this does not present any real issues on check-in because the seal is tight and not a whiff escapes.
Well, I haven’t got a vacuum sealer machine (maybe I should invest in one soon) but I thought I’d share my experience of packing durians for a flight because SW made a special request for his friend JS’s wife TT who is also a fellow durian lover. Since we were going to their house for dinner, SW thought it would make a very meaningful and unique gift (which it really is I guess…). Here goes:
What to prepare
Plastic bag (clean)
Clean damp cloth
Buy the durians preferably a day before travel, make sure that you tell the durian seller you want them ripening only the day after your purchase to ensure that they stay fresh and firm (not wet and soggy).
Then take off the lid and insert a piece of paper towel to absorb any condensation which could happen with temperature changes.
Then put the lid back on and give the box a wipe with a clean, damp cloth and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water (this is a very important step to remove durian residues which durian seller’s hands may leave on the box!). The next step would be to create a seal for the container. I chose to do this with some broad masking tape.
I have both broad and thin masking tape and of different materials, one which is more like a paper tape and easily torn just with your hands, and a more plastic-ky tape which requires a pair of scissors to cut the tape neatly.
I don’t know if it makes a difference but I think putting the broad plastic tape might be better.
After taping all four sides (try to make the tape contiguous), I then proceeded to wrap the sealed box with cling film twice over, using the cling film lengthways over and around the container. Then I sealed the cling filmed box with another round of masking tape which made it look something like this…
I still wasn’t quite convinced this would be enough to get me through, so I brought out some aluminium foil to deflect any potential scanners (or maybe eyeballs) which could confirm the contents.
And I sealed the edges of the foil with more masking tape. Do you think this is overdoing it?
Satisfied? Not really. I decided one more layer with an added smell/ humidity absorber would be good. I chose to use sodium bicarbonate* (or baking soda), lightly sprinkled onto each box which I subsequently wrapped in another final plastic bag.
Now I was finally satisfied. I put the packaged durians in the fridge overnight to chill them down and packed them in my luggage with some dish towels and an ice pack to keep them cool for my 6-8 hour journey and doused by luggage with some nice perfume (I recommend Guerlain! a bit pricey but it’s a great distraction).
The durians made it to our friends with no problem and didn’t stink out the fridge here at home or the temporary chiller when I arrived either (our friends ate the durians 2 days after I bought and packed them). The durians remained condensation-free and firm with just the right amount of ripeness.
This works for once-in-a-while packing, but I guess if this request comes more often, the pungent mau sang wangs might make me seriously consider investing in vacuum technology.
*I also tried coffee powder which TT recommended as a great scent absorber and stain remover. It might work great for some scents, but durians are so strong that you really do require something more chemical in nature I think.