Durian’s spikey husk photos

I know that there are many fans of durian photos, it’s just one of those fruits that happens to be extremely photogenic. The contrast and different shades of green, stems and geometric spikes, the various curves of the fruit from top to bottom. There’s so much to admire even before you open it.

As I was waiting for the fruit man to open my fresh coconut, I decided to take a few close up photos of the durians on display ( 5 new cases in fridge he said).

So here are some durian husk close ups for your enjoyment.

Mao shan wang durian husk closeup


different shades of durian


a very fresh stem


First proper Durian Feast for 2011 (Chinese New Year)

I’ve been waiting for quite a while for a proper durian feast since last year. S2 and I had friends  (L&P) visiting from Egypt 3 weeks ago (just before the protests started) and we took them on an ambitious but rainy tour of KL. After dragging them to various lookout points (in heavy rain) and subjecting them to kaya toast (plug here for Yut Kee), S2 and I thought we’d end the night with a fantastic chinese dinner of siew ju at Imbi Palace and round the corner to our usual stall. I have to tell you that the Imbi stall has been “renovated” and now has an impressive zinc roof shelter that spans twice as large as the original umbrellas did, providing more dry seating areas than before. The owner has also installed more fluorescent lights and everything was much brighter than before. We ordered 2 smallish durians which were MSWs which our friends thought smelled revolting and the taste revile. But, they were very game and actually ate a few seeds just to confirm that they neither liked the taste nor texture. S2 and I generally had a good time until it came to the bill which amounted to over RM 150 for both. We thought that this was way overcharging us and thus with a heavy heart, I must admit that we have decided to boycott that stall (we hypothesize that perhaps the stall owners wish to recoup their investment asap, even from their regulars). So, no more eating durians at Jalan Imbi for the time being.

Valentine’s Day fell on the 14th which was a Monday this year and so happened that: 1) this is still during the CNY period and 2) it was the eve of the Prophet’s birthday (national holiday here!). While most people were probably out celebrating their couply love, we hung out with my usual “medical makan kaki” comprising of 5 doctors and our crew of 4. This time we went to Unique Seafood in Section 13 (fresh as you can get, but forget conversation as it’s way too noisy) and then made our way over to Donald’s Durian in SS2, another usual haunt of ours. I rang Donald before going just to make sure that he had the good spikey stuff- durians (it’s still kind of early in the season) and that he had a table for our large group.

Donald – The man himself

No problem,” he said, “Just come over, I will get a table ready for you

Fantastic. We got there at 10.30pm, still full of fish and other swimmers, but ready for mouthwatering durian (for all you newbies, we always have room for durian).

What will you have tonight?” Donald asked casually. I asked him what he had which was good. “Well, we can start off with some D13, progress onto D101 and D24…”

AC the durian snob made a wrinkled face at the mention of the common D24. “How about Mau Sang Wang?” AC asked, she could barely contain herself and it seemed to be all she wanted.

Yes, we have that too but I would recommend that the Mau Sang Wang will be last…” Donald wandered back over to his wall of durians to start the selections.

Make sure all good one ah..” AC quipped after him. Donald assured her with a money back guarantee.

The Tasty, Creamy, Caramely D13

I have to confess that I was too busy eating and only remembered to take the photos only towards the end of the

session… but there’s enough there to share what the colors, textures and aromas were.

First up, the D13 which was richly unfamiliar but was caramelly, velvety and sweet all at once. You can see that the ripeness was perfection, I say this because the outer skin separates smoothly and cleanly, almost like a translucent wrapper from the rest of the flesh. And it is this surprising resistance when you first bit into it that eventually gives way to the soft yielding flesh below which made all of us say that overall, we rated this fruit a 4.5/5.

The durian itself was small and rather cute, it was slightly larger than the palm of my hand, the seeds were small and kind of irregularly shaped which reminded me of the MSW which is almost always like that.

Each pellicle contained about 5 small seeds wrapped in this rich yellowy orange skin. We polished this one off pretty quickly.

Next up was the D101.

Large, slender, creamy, sweet D101

This D101 was one of the larger durians Donald recommended that night. It was at least 30cm from top to bottom and had several big seeds with nice sunny yellow flesh.

This was also pleasant but the taste was a little bit more watered down than the D13 and we didn’t want to eat all of it as we were anticipating what would come next.

The seeds were larger and more meaty. We were worried that it might fill us up all the way.

Donald sent over another Durian which I hadn’t had before, or maybe it just goes by a different name. The Phoenix.

Smaller, creamy, bitter, smooth, pale Phoenix

The Phoenix was delicious. I have to say now that it was my favorite for the whole night, with D13 coming in straight behind it. This Phoenix was pale to an almost anemic looking jaundiced kid and small like the D13 comparable to the size of a canteloupe melon. The seeds were small and the flesh was a little bitter, a little sweet, but very smooth, velvety and had a melt-in-your-mouth consistency. Not watery at all, it had the right surface tension and didn’t come across fibrous or sticky on the palate. Definitely try this if you are having some durian this week.

I really enjoyed this one but I suspect that like the Tauwa (see previous posts), we just can’t get it all year round.

Stinky, Stinky Mau Sang Wang

After the pale and seemingly sun deprived Phoenix, Donald sent over the Mau Sang Wang (aka, Raja Kunyit). This Mau Sang Wang was a little larger than I would have liked, it was almost as large as the D101 and had the classic vibrant canary yellow with even spacing and full flesh overlaying small seeds.

Generally, I am a big fan of the Mau Sang Wang, but this one was not as strong in flavour as I would have liked it and maybe I was already won over by the Phoenix and D13.

Large, meaty, creamy, mild D88

As you can imagine, we were already getting pretty full by this stage (Donald sent 2 or 3 of each kind mind you) and were were starting to push each other to take the last seeds left in the fruits.

At this juncture, Donald brought out a heavy hitter (wallet too). This was the D88, a large monster to end of the evening and complete the repertoire and spectrum. It was almost too big for us to stomach but it certainly made an impressive appearance. The brown almost leathery spikes split open to reveal large golden pillow style durian seeds. Each seed was about as big as my fist (which isn’t that big, about the size of an apple).

The flesh by comparison was weak in flavor compared to all the others and it was by far the most watery and least delectable among the lot. Perhaps our tastebuds were also already so overwhelmed by all the wonderful aromas and textures, it would be hard to take them to the next stimulatory level.

I thought that the D88 would have been a good candidate for the freezer, and it was a pity I forgot to take the seeds home as they were almost perfectly ovular in shape, except that you would definitely prefer to eat Phoenix rather than a D88….

The large D88, The medium 101, small Phoenix and MSW

Here’s my last photo for this post…wonderfully skin colored smooth durian seeds.

I’ll keep you updated soon on my next durian adventure. I intend to to visit a durian farm with some new friends who say they are also huge fans of the fruit one of these weekends when we have time, that will be an authentic and fresh feast.

Durian Belanda – Not Durian at all

While perusing the drinks fridge at the LCCT before boarding the Airasia flight to Singapore, SW grabbed a canned Nescafe off the shelf for his daily caffeine fix. I was fine with water as I didn’t feel like anything too sweet or fizzy. Then this bottled drink caught my eye.

Soursop Drink

Durian Belanda by Fruit Tree

Durian Belanda (literally translated as Dutch Durian), not to be confused with Durian as we know it, is actually soursop. It does sort of belong to the durian family description, green with mild thorns and a white fleshy interior but the aroma is nowhere near as strong.

Soursop makes a great thirst quencher (unlike Durian) and is even better when you have it as a smoothie (not necessarily true of the Durian).

This particular Fruit Tree version of soursop isn’t that great, I think it doesn’t have enough bits in it and needs to be really chilled in order to enjoy it.

A bit more on the Durian wannabe…

Guayabano (Annona muricata)

Language Name
Cebuano guayabano; duyan
Tagalog guayabano
Malay durian belanda
Bahasa sirsak
English soursop
Dutch zuurzak
Spanish guayabano

The soursop is a native of northern South America, but it was one of the first fruit trees to be introduced in Asia by European explorers. The name soursop is derived from the Dutch zuurzak or sour sack, after its somewhat acidic flavour. The Dutch name is still in use Indonesia, and Malay, it is called a durian belanda, literally a Dutch durian. However, apart from the remotely similar shape, the fruit is quite different from the durian. The flesh is white, soft, and very juicy, and has a delicous sweet-sour taste. Embedded in the flesh are a large number of darkbrown seeds. The yellow flowers can appear anywhere on the trunk, and will develop in a green, irregularly shaped fruit with many short, soft spines. When nearly ripe, the fruit will have to be picked, because, if it is allowed to fall, it will be smashed. It will then take a few days to fully ripen, and must be eaten within a few days. The fruit needs to be handled with much care, which is probably the main reason you’ll never see them outside the regions where they are grown. The fruit is also often used for making refreshing drinks. The season for soursop is roughly from August to November.

Durian D96: Details on another species

It is generally true in my experience that a deeper richer color and tone of the durian is an indicator of its flavor and taste personality. I blogged in a previous entry about the color of durians and its appeal to our visual cortex. Having said that, color does not always indicate a better flavor but may be used to compensate for poor flavor in order to attract the same amount of gastric interest.

Here’s a photo of the D96, how do you think the color rates on a scale of 1-10?

Depth of color: maybe a 7 or an 8

Appearance of texture: probably 7 or 8

Attractiveness of size: maybe an 8 or 9 (its not too big nor small)

Shape: Yes very shapely, maybe an 8

Flesh to fruit ratio: 5 (too much of the white bit)

Overall: a very decent 8 I’d say just looking at it.

BUT I’m sorry to tell you that tastewise the D96 fell short. It tasted more like a 4-5 disappointing the appearance of the fruit. Mediocre taste means that you could eat it and it is not intolerable but it isn’t incredibly special either, ie no, you wouldn’t order a second fruit.

If you don’t know what I mean by the description above and the comparisons of color, here’s a photo that will help with some perspective.

The D96 and the MSW Color Comparison

Durian D96 husk

The yellow-gold husk of the D96 Durian

On the left, the D96, and on the right, the incredibly reliable MSW which usually is already considered a deeper colored fruit as compared with the other species. The exterior does somewhat reflect the color inside (but I would never use this as a benchmark, merely as a singular observation) and note that the spikes are quite uniformly spikey and quite close together.

Have you had a D96? I wonder if there is great variation in the species where one D96 can be markedly different to another. If you’ve had one and it doesn’t sound like how I’ve described it, please do let me know…

2 Kilos For 2 D24 Durians and 2 Durian Sellers

Try saying the title and tell me if you think its a tongue twister. Most of the time when bargaining with durian sellers, one has to be quite sure what they are charging for the various fruits. Is it 40 dollars per fruit or per Kilo? Does the higher Durian number (like D24) command a higher price by weight than say the D101, or do durians get more expensive as their species number increases?

The week before last (ie the last week of August), we found ourselves once again wondering what we ought to have for dinner. It was still relatively early in the evening but the rain had made it seem darker and later than usual. SW was feeling a little gloomy (pondering on work related issues) and CW had the remnants of H1N1 which had infected her entire breathing system for a fortnight before that. “Let’s go have Durians for dinner” said SW brightly, suddenly revitalized at the prospect of fulfilling a craving kept at bay by other fruits (apples, oranges, pears). “What a good idea,” said CW, “I think my cough isn’t affected by durians so let’s go get some”. Who was I to deny the gloomy and the recovering from their desires. “Sure, I said, as long as its nearby” because I didn’t want to suffer the buka puasa* traffic jam out in the suburbs.

The Durian Stall in Imbi

The Durian Stall in Imbi

We went to our favorite stall in Jalan Imbi. There, our usual durian seller and his business savvy and hardworking China-born wife were waiting for us (any customers in particular, I suppose) and immediately started pulling the stools out and wiping them down from the raindrops. I indicated to SW and CW that since it was quite damp out, I was interested in also having some Bak Kut Teh soup (across the road) and sitting sonwehere shaded and a but more dry, less exposed to the elements. The less distractions one has of one’s environment, the more appreciation goes towards the culinary delights placed in front of us. As the durian season is literally at its end, our durian sellers told us that the Mau Sang Wang and the D24 were the only two they had available and that the Mau Sang Wang was expensive as there wasn’t much in stock. Well, not much point bargaining as this was limited commodity and we had no other recourse. “OK,” said CW, “I think we’ll take one Mau Sang Wang and 2 D24’s”.

2 Durians for 2 Kilos

2 Durians for 2 Kilos

I think it was quite coincidental that each of these durians weighed about a kilogram each. Our durian seller dutifully weighed them and packed them into our usual takeaway boxes.

Every time I’ve been to the Imbi durian stall, I’ve contemplated taking photos of the durian seller and his wife but always refrained as I wasn’t sure if they would like to be “advertised” on my blog. But, to my surprise, when I pulled out my camera this time to take a few photos of our durians, the durian seller’s wife started making a few flattering comments about my camera. That’s when I took the opportunity to ask her permission if I could take a photo of them for my blog on the internet. She was so thrilled and immediately set about trying to get her pose in position with the durians, also asking her more camera-shy husband to try looking decent for the camera.

Durian Seller's Wife (Jalan Imbi)

Durian Seller's Wife (Jalan Imbi)

Durian Seller (Jalan Imbi)

Durian Seller (Jalan Imbi)

Here’s a photo of each of them separately. His wife (and executive assistant and cashier) decided to pose beside one of her precious durians and wanted me to make sure that I got the Mau Sang Wang signage into the photo (top right hand side next to her ear). She speaks proper mandarin.

The durian seller was a man in motion and it was a challenge to get a good shot of him, but he did look quite smart in his matching hat and jacket (it was a cool night and a rainy evening). He speaks almost no mandarin but cantonese. I wonder what language they communicate in, but she seems to speak to him in mandarin and he seems to understand but his language tends towards being sort of non-verbal towards her.

Brown tips of D24 husks

Brown tips of D24 husks

Our durian seller certainly did a quick job of opening all the durian husks and we were away from the stall in less than ten minutes after our decision was made.

We made our way over to the regular Bak Kut Teh stall and after copious consumption of our bak kut teh, began our copious (well it is for just 3 of us) consumption of our durian purchase.

Durians Durians Durians!

Durians Durians Durians!

As we have seen in previous photos, the D24’s always appear lighter in color and intensity and in flavor to the Mau Sang Wangs. I record it again here just to show that it is indeed still the case.

Big Stinky Seeds of the D24 Durians

Big Stinky Seeds of the D24 Durians

SW and I decided to keep the biggest seeds, and we noted that they all came from the D24. The Mau Sang Wang only yielded rather deformed looking seeds which had no reproductive (or productive) potential and did not serve our next intention (which I am sure you can guess what it is).

These seeds were the largest, heaviest and roundest seeds, we ate them as clean as we could and put them into one of the empty styrofoam boxes to take with us (which must have seemed weird to the Bak Kut Teh staff as we normally throw all the bags into the bin).

We’re really struggling with the quality of the durians in KL now at the Imbi stall, SW and I will have to check out the other vendors around town to see what their quality is like. There is a possibility that different plantations will have different durians which come into season so I am not excluding the possibility that we may be missing out on some.

Heavenly Delicious Tauwa Durian – A Prize Find in PJ

Chinese and Malay Durian Names

Chinese and Malay Durian Names

Before we left on our short trip overseas (1 week in the UK Summertime!), SW and I went on a late night search for durian to satisfy a durian craving. This expedition started at 10pm (about the time I left work) and our first stop was to our fave stall in Imbi. Unfortunately (or perhaps not so unfortunately as you’ll see why in a short while), the Jalan Imbi stall was closed for the night. It was probably either a really quiet evening or an extraordinarily busy one as he’s usually open til pretty late.

From this failed attempt, we decided to swing out to PJ via the Federal highway (just down the road) and visit our next favorite durian stall, Greenview durians*. It must have been a fairly quiet evening as far as durians go, there was ample parking by the stall, one table occupied by 3 guys and the owner with several polystyrene packets of durians open (for airing) who were merely sitting there having a bit of a chat and a cigarette. We were warmly welcomed by the owner and the owner’s son and the son “Da Wei” (probably David in English, but it translates as “Big Tail” in Chinese) waved us over to an empty rickety bench – like the ones you sit  at barbeques but a lot less sophisticated. We took our places opposite each other and swung our heads towards the hanging durians which looked as though they were queuing up to be eaten by us.

Big Tail being a cheerful and smiley young man came over and asked us in a very polite but casual maitre’d style what we would like to have that evening. (Translation in progress from here on) “What’s your best?” We asked. “Well,” he said, “the premium is certainly the Mau Sang Wang which we a few good ones, would you like to try?”

Having journeyed such a distance for durian, we couldn’t wait a moment longer and said yes, the Mau Sang Wang please. The durian was selected, opened and the intense yellow colour was greeted by us with delight, we just couldn’t wait to sink our fingers into the luscious durian flesh. When we were about three quarters of the way through, SW – who was then in the mood for novelty and more durian– proceed to ask Big Tail what other types of durian we should have now. Big Tail did not hesitate in responding that there are groups of durian species and flavours that can be combined and others which shouldn’t be mixed. “The Mau Sang Wang, Tauwa and Ang Hae are in the same class” he said, adding ” its the strong and good afternotes in these durians which are equally powerful. Other durians if eaten after that will be much poorer in taste and will seem flat and unsatisfying.”

“Fine,” SW replied, “What is this Tauwa and can we try it?”

The Tauwa - My new found favorite

The Tauwa - My new found favorite

The Tauwa was placed in front of us with a great flourish and opened with great gusto. “It’s milky”, Big Tail said adding “and a bit bitter but definitely milky and a very special taste”. We couldn’t agree more with him, the flesh was almost iridescent and milky but the taste of it was par excellence and did not disappoint. Typically, one sees a pale coloration of the flesh and gets the feeling that the taste of the durian will be somewhat suspect and lightweight. However, the Tauwa is truly in a class of its own and distinguishes itself far from other palers. Not much else to say here apart from the fact that we devoured it in its entirety (it wasn’t terribly big) and kept a few of the seeds to grow (more on this in another entry).

Colors belie the intense flavor and aromas

Colors belie the intense flavor and aromas

Well, I think it appropriate that you see the difference in color between the Mau Sang Wang durian and the Tauwa so here it is… look at the difference in intensity? Both flavors were markedly different but equally strong. In terms of texture, both were equally smooth, creamy and finger dripping. Note that the Tauwa is a slimmer, lomger shaped durian than the Mau Sang Wang which tends to have a rounder, fuller figure.

After the amazing Tauwa and the Mau Sang Wang, SW felt they were small and succint but certainly not sufficient. “What else?… How about let’s try the D24 that’s hanging over there.”

Big Tail responded “Do you want the sunshine D24 or the normal D24?”. “Eh? What’s the difference?” We asked. “There is a difference in the taste and colour”.

Durians with a serious tan

Durians with a serious tan

“Sunshine durians are the ones which hang on the outermost of the tree and are exposed to the sunlight most of the time and the exposure to the sun turns their skin brown, like a tan”. “These sunshine durians usually have a sweetened sun-ripened flavour, quite different to the shaded durian fruits, which typically remain green all around.” I thought this was interesting and had never thought about it before. It made sense that the durians that are green must indeed be shaded by the leaves or the tree trunks itself. What’s interesting is that the durian itself is like the Michael Jackson song “Black or White” (sorry, had to pay a little tribute here) as the sunshine D24 is burned a bautiful brown on one side but completely a verdant green on the other side. Flavour wise, the durians with a tan did taste a little sweeter than their lowland cousins but it just might be due to the slight dehydration and good soil drainage that concentrates the flavours.

After devouring 4 durians, SW and I decided that we had to call it quits. We would have liked to have another Tauwa but there wasn’t any left. We also gave Big Tail the credit that you shouldn’t really eat D24s after you’ve had the premium grade durians but all the same, it is nice to have variety.

The conclusion? The ideal number of people to enjoy durians with is 3 or 4, but if you’re a connoisseur who only wants the best, then I recommend that you only share the Tauwa with 1 person (and make that a special person).

*Greenview durians is a name we have given this stall as its right by the famous Greenview Chinese restaurant in Section 17.

The Balinese Durian Experience

I have yet to visit Bali, which all my friends find strange since it is only a short flight away. Trouble is, most of my friends have already been and hence it isn’t easy to find someone who might enjoy it again as a novelty. I suppose one of the reasons for its popularity among the young surfing crowd are the nice beaches, big waves, affordable resorts and good food. If I ever get the chance to go, I won’t be part of the surfing crowd but I hear that there are many other beautiful and fun things to do.

Dan (an avid durian fan) was in Bali for his recent vacation, but sadly his vacation ended and he is now back in the US. He wrote to me and gave me a brief summary of his durian adventures, noted most pleasurably in the photos he took and kindly shared with me.

Local Indonesian Durian

Local Indonesian Durian- Heart Shaped

First up is this wonderful configuration of the King of Fruits. Dan managed to find a beautiful heart-shaped durian, which I think might have looked better with its stem. A durian like this is probably easier to split in half with your knife and reveal its interior.

Local Indonesian Durian Flesh & Seeds

Wonderfully pale creamy flesh

Dan, this must have tasted delicious. The pale white flesh of the durian looks firm but and not too chewy. Dan says that this particular one was “creamy and bitter”. Also note the seeds, which are large and round, which means that it can’t have been too much flesh. This can be a good thing, because it allows you to enjoy more varieties of the fruit. I can’t tell exactly how large the fruit is though as we haven’t got a perspective view.

Indonesian Durian Chili Shaped

Chili Shaped Indonesian Durian

Check out this next durian on the left that Dan had. I love the shape of this one as well. It reminds me of a large spiky chili. This one is really very fresh, you can tell by the spikes which are lush green and appear to be very plump, almost to the point of looking like soft succulent leaves instead of sharp pyramidal structures. I think this one is probably a different variety to the one above.

I am not sure how many different types of durian Dan ended up trying while he was in Bali, but certainly this is an impressive number for a vacation, which I suspect was largely opportunistic (buy as you come across them?) and from a number of different stalls.

Golden Bali Bangkok Durian

Golden Bali Bangkok Durian

Now this durian’s color is most impressive – Dan tells me that this is known as the “Bali-Bangkok” variety of durian, which is a variation on the Monthong species. Word has it that this durian was brought down from Thailand and planted in Bali, hence the name of the durian.

How do you like this rich and wonderful golden colored durian? It almost reminds me of a papaya in shape and intensity of color. I wonder if the smell was the same or stronger.

Bali-Bangkok Durian Flesh

Bali-Bangkok Durian Flesh

On the inside, the Bali-Bangkok certainly doesn’t disappoint in its visuals. The flesh is a golden yellow as well and looks even creamier and softer than the local Indonesian variety.

Most importantly, it is key to eat the durian while it is fresh and nicely ripened.

Price-wise, Dan says that the local variety costs between USD 1.50- 2.50 but the Thai-transplanted variety can be had for about USD 18 for 4.5 Kg, slightly more expensive but hey, durian fans usually have expensive taste.

A Big Thank You to Dan for these photos. He’s also sent me one of a Vacuum-Packed Durian which he’s managed to purchase from a Supermarket in Portland. I’ll save it for the next entry on packaged durian!