Zero gravity durian

In the name of science, people are willing to do crazy experiments. Like crazy expensive experiments. Nothing is too much in the name of science.

The Thai space agency sent a vacuum packed package if Durians into space for a few minutes. Accompanying the Stinky orbiting astronaut were some packets of jasmine rice. (Here’s the article).

In fact, it’s so ridiculous a proposition that I wonder how they justified the cost. Well, here’s the rationale.

“In the future we want astronauts to be able to eat Thai food,” said a spokesperson for Thailand’s Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA).

Is this Thai astronauts eating Thai food or other astronauts eating thai food? Weird. The thai food that springs to my mind isn’t a packet of dehydrated durian. More like a great phad thai, a som tum salad or a fabulous Tom yum soup.

Any other reason?

“We want to see whether there are any physical changes after it returns to earth, for example it might get smaller, or cracked.”

Err ok... so you want to see if vacuum packaging works well in space or if freeze dried durian may dehydrate some more?

I just don’t get it. Let me know if you’ve heard the results.

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Nicely designed dried durian packaging

Most packaging for durians look somewhat cheesy, in the sense that the picture of the durian is too perfect and often placed in a traditional pose on an aluminium foil packet. I liked the play on the fonts and the very bark like colours chosen for the background.

  
This Thai manufacturer actually invested a little more thought and design into their product package and even touts durian benefits… Although this claim is not exclusive to durian alone. 

   

 I didn’t buy it though. Can’t bring myself to handle the disappointment of eating Thai durian ;).

Durian products from Bangkok

Over the last month, SW and I have made a trip to Bangkok and a trip to Vietnam. Both trips were for work but we managed to squeeze out some time to meet friends and have a bit of sightseeing and fun. My mum joined us on the trip to BKK and she proudly told me that she’d bought some Monthong Durian Sweets for an uncle who lives in London. When she tried to give them to my uncle, he didn’t want them, telling her that he was on a diet and was trying to get rid of his huge belly!

Monthong Durian Paste

Ah well. It all smells pretty good and not too strong. If anyone is reading this post and would like a stick, send me your name and address. I’m happy to put it in the post to you as a gift from Stinky Spikes (as long as stocks last!).

Durians for sale in Kemang, Jakarta

Durian Stall in Kemang, Jakarta

While walking around hot and dusty Kemang, I spied a little mobile truck stall parked on a the corner of a petrol station selling durians. I  had to pause to peruse the wares.

Charmingly named  Faris Durians, it was clear upon closer inspection that they were undeniably from Thailand.

Then I asked about the Medan durians and whether there was a difference? The seller smiled and said it depends on taste (polite way of maybe saying yes, the Medan ones are not very good…). It was clear that the Medan ones were smaller than the Thai ones, and for sure he’d want to sell the imported stuff first.

Faris Durians: Monthong and Medan

Durian Gargle? Durian Handwash?

Please don’t ask me why I found this article but I did. I have a slight obsession with teeth at the moment and it was interesting to read that the husk of the durian has some antiseptic properties which some very entrepreneurial scientists are proposing to make a mouthwash with.

(The bit about toxicity and death in the research aspect of the article is particularly amusing)

Already we know that there is something in the durian pellicle that people believe can make the smell from your hands go away, as long as the water is run through it (see this post). Maybe in addition to considering the mouthwash to combat halitosis, they can make a handwash to combat the trapped aromas on skin surfaces too. Now there’s a new business idea….

From: Dental Tribune

A Durian a day keeps caries away, research from Asia suggests

by Dental Tribune Asia Pacific

LAS VEGAS, Nev., USA: A sugary gel found on the thorn-covered husks of the Durian fruit is currently under observation by researchers for its potential to work as a mouth disinfectant. Students from the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Chulalongkorn in Bangkok, Thailand, recently presented their intitial findings at the Annual Meeting of the American Dental Association in Las Vegas, the online portal drbiscus.com reports.

They found that the substance made of polysaccharides was able to reduce the number of Streptococcus mutans in lab rats hours after use which would make it as effective as 0.2% chlorhexidine, a common formula used in mouth rinses. Studies on human subjects also showed a reduction of hydrogen sulfide, methyl mercaptan, and dimethyl sulphide, compounds responsible for halitosis or bad breath. No evidence of treatment-related gross toxicity or deaths caused by exposure to mouth rinse with durian polysaccharide gel (DPG) was observed, the researchers stated.

Durian is popular in many Southeast Asian countries including Thailand and Malaysia which are the world’s largest importers of the fruit. It’s root and leaves are often used in traditional medicine.

Earlier research conducted with durian polysaccharide gel have confirmed the antibacterial properties of the gel.

Durian on Airasia

So I was flying back from BKK to Singapore in the late afternoon on Airasia. The flight was completely full, (which is great for them, bad for us) and I had my usual aisle seat. A big chinese guy (BCG) sat next to me and occupied both the arm rests, leaving me to shrink myself as much as possible so that I wouldn’t be injured by the trollies whizzing by.

Most of the flight was uneventful until it was approaching landing time. As the pilot put on the “fasten seat belt sign” and the plane did big circles in the sky, BCG suddenly whipped out a packet from somewhere (not sure which pocket because he didn’t have a bag) and popped some crisps into his mouth. After a few audible crunches, a waft or durian spread around the plane. I don’t think he had any idea of general decorum or that the durian smell could be offensive to others.

After a few crunches, I tried to get his attention: “excuse me” I said politely, no response. Again, but this time a bit more firmly. This time he stopped crunching and turned to look at me and said “she me”

That’s when I realized he was from mainland China, which explained his behaviour and put everything back in focus for me.

Well then, my next aim was to find out why he was eating the durian and what he thought about it.

He told me he bought it while on vacation in Bangkok, the tour guide brought him and his friends (15 of them at the back of the plane) to a shop selling all sorts of snacks including these durian crisps (dehydrated fruit pieces). He bought 3 big packs, which consisted of 6 little packs inside. Altogther it cost him 1000 Baht, which translates to about RM 5-6 per little packet.

Asked about the flavor, he said it was his first time trying durian and he thought it was delicious. He said that it was clear that people have a love-hate on first taste which would make for stimulating discussion back home in Shanghai.

Yes, Shanghai has durian too (usually Thai export) but its usually frozen and he never felt the urge or had the company to try it. Now he wants to try the fresh one, which I told him would have to wait until June-July to get the good ones.

Finally I asked him if I could take a photo of the packet he had. After he popped the last crisp into his mouth, he handed it to me saying that I could have it “for my research”.

I told him that I had also bought some but not of the same brand and he thought that was hilarious…

As you know, most flights including Airasia prohibit durians, but this is certainly one durian snack that you can enjoy on board.

Durians in a healthy freeze dried packet

When I was walking around a shopping mall in Singapore a few weekends ago, I came across a shop that was small but very brightly lit. It had an attractive interior with lots of different colored packages and a very eye-catching advertisement out in the front of the shop with a shelf full of tidbits for tasting. Usually, I’m not one to stop for tasting but my mother was curious and we ended up pausing momentarily at the shelf while she inspected their merchandise.

Durian crisps? Baked and Healthy?

That was certainly enough time for the bubbly sales executive to bounce over to us and proceed to start opening the jars for us to try the samples, each piece about the size of a small fingernail. The samples turned out to be freeze dried fruit and a mixture of vegetables. Mangosteen, Lychee, Longan, Apple, Banana (usual flavors) and Durian. The vegetables included potatoes, tapioca, yam, bittergourd and broccoli (?!). So mum had to ask about each different flavor in turn.

After she tried the mangosteen, “How does the Lychee taste? Is it as sweet as the mangosteen?”

“Yes madam, but it’s quite different, here try a piece… it isn’t the same level of sweetness but we don’t add any sugar” she said cheerfully.

Patiently, she opened up each jar as mother pointed to this one, then that one. I was standing there observing this rather skeptically when I decided to join in, since I wasn’t doing anything else anyway. “Ok, how about the durian? Does it taste good?”

Durian Nutritional Value

Bubbly sales executive couldn’t really tell me much about the product, except that it was known as a health food (well, it is all relative I suppose) and that the brand was local. She didn’t know exactly where the durians came from. Fortunately, it states its origin on the back of the packet. Not surprisingly it came from the enterprising agricultural nation of Thailand, but that in itself disappointed me slightly as I’ve never thought Thai Durian particularly inspiring for its aroma, textures or flavors.

Having sampled the sample, I have to tell you that my verdict was “not bad”. It certainly isn’t greasy like some other ones and if you have a craving, this might satisfy you for a while.

Mother ended up purchasing 3 packets, broccoli, taro and durian.

Various dehydrated snacks from Xndo

At around $5 SGD, this little packet of 50grams of chips doesn’t come cheap (mangosteen goes for even more at $10 SGD). Try strolling by the XNDO store (I don’t know how to pronounce it either) in the basement of Centerpoint Shopping Center next to the supermarket and get the bubbly sales executive to let you sample some freeze dried Durian, Broccoli, Taro, Mangosteen and Lychee too.