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.