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The Durian King (latimes.com)
93 points by danso 17 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 76 comments



I live in Malaysia. We are right in the middle of durian season (May to August).

Musang King costs Ringgit Malaysia(RM)48 per kg. That is around USD12/kg or (USD5.45/pound). So a single Musang King durian will cost around RM60 per fruit (USD14.50/fruit). I usually buy slightly lesser quality durian at RM38/kg. The seller will help to choose a fruit that is ripe and creamy but not overripe. You can take home the partially opened fruit or just transfer it to a styrofoam container that you put in the fridge when you get home.

Musang King has smaller seeds and is creamier than what I usually buy. But the less expensive fruit is good enough for me since I buy durian pretty often. If you had a durian orchard why would you grow fruit that does not taste good? If I were a durian farmer I certainly would not. The difference in quality between Musang King and the others is not that noticeable.

My friends from India who visit me just hate the smell because it (sorry to be so graphic!) smells like fruity poo and refuse to taste it or taste it with a cringing expression. I'm sure that other people have the same reaction. But if you do visit Malaysia (or another durian country such as Singapore or Thailand -- both remarkable countries for food as well), you should partake. It is the closest you will come to eating palkova from a tree.


This is the stuff of nightmares. My old roommate was a durian fan and thanks to him, our refrigerator often smelled like it had a rotting carcass in it.

There's something powerful about the fruit. It's an acquired taste and an extreme one, but people who love it really love it.


I only had it once. It was awful, but I could tell that if I ate it again I would develop a taste for it. That's why I haven't had it since.


I was afraid of Durian because of everything I'd heard about its smell. Then, one day I visited Vietnam and a friend brought Durian for all of us to try. The smell wasn't bad at all and it tasted pretty good!


I'm Irish and I really like Durian. The flavour and character can really change amongst different varieties too.


Expat in SG here. Durian is really nice, the smell doesn't bother me. I do think it's very heavy and filling though, so I rarely eat a lot.


I live in Singapore. Tried it 3 times. Durian I’ve cream, durian pancake, and just the raw fruit. I just don’t like it at all :/ but damn it’s popular! Amazing seeing people queue for it.


I might visit KL soon, which place would you recommend to try out eating Durian? And which place to get it to bring it back home? I am hoping they take care of packing etc.


Protip: the cultivar of durian matters, and is what I suspect makes many foreigners dislike durian (since they're likely to buy the cheapest to hedge their risk).

Musang King (mentioned in the article, though some unscrupulous sellers might pass D101 off as it) and D24 are favourites among the locals.

The cheapest is usually either Red Prawn, Green Bamboo, or Black Pearl, which aren't that great.

I think this article is pretty decent in describing the more common durian cultivars found in Malaysia: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/hail-the-king-of-frui...


Most airlines recommend against bringing durian on flights. Also, not sure which country you are from, but at least in Canada/USA you can’t bring fresh fruits from abroad, it’s strictly forbidden and there are dogs walking around the airport trained for the smell of food.


You'll want to head out to the suburbs. There's an area called SS2 that is where most of the locals go to have their durians.

I'd recommend against taking it out because even for locals many of us can't bear the smell, and it's considered impolite.

On a side note, are you coming here for NG MY conference?


Thank you. I had to look up “NG MY” conference, so, no not coming for Angular conference.


Sounds pretty expensive for a fruit, especially in Malaysia! So is it a luxury food?


In some ways it is. But in the grand scheme of things it doesn't cost that much more than a meal at a restaurant, and many people actually consume them as if durians were a meal


This comparison is highly skewed: In Malaysia, in part maybe also due to cheap labour, it is far more frequent and standard to go out to eat, a entire full course meal in a "restaurant" ("Mamak" stall) costs less than a pack of cigarettes/a can of beer.

So if you're comparing this to the European type of restaurant, much cheaper than you'd believe.

Source: Lived there when I was 7-16 years old.

EDIT: Because of Islam, a can of beer in Malaysia is more expensive, and costs the same/somewhat less than a pack of cigarettes.


I'm comparing against more... "proper"(?) restaurants actually, where it's normal to cost anything from RM30-RM50 for a meal.

P.S. I'm not belittling hawker food/budget food options, it's just when you go to restaurants I feel that you expect a certain level of hospitality, just like how you don't really call kebab joints restaurants in Europe?


Yeah, but you can see "Restauran" on many signs in Malaysia belonging to those hawker and mamak stalls, and they "own" that word in Malaysia.

Where in Europa (and I'm guessing in Northern America, too) you'd say you're going to a restaurant for dinner, you'd have to emphasize that fact in Malaysia that it would be an "uptown" joint.

I hadn't realized Durians were that expensive! Maybe I have the kilogram-price in my head, but I thought they were less than RM10...

But yeah, RM30-50 is normal, cheap I would think, for a "proper" restaurant in Malaysia. But I haven't been there since ~2013, and last lived there ~2006, and in the meantime, had the feeling that the RM lost buying power over the years...


How do you most often eat it? Raw? With some condiment?


You would eat the flesh raw and discard the seeds. Some people like to pair durians with mangosteens[0]. Durian burps have a strange aftertaste so most people I know avoid drinking carbonated drinks (i.e. Coke, Pepsi) while eating durian.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangosteen


> Durian burps have a strange aftertaste so most people I know avoid drinking carbonated drinks (i.e. Coke, Pepsi) while eating durian.

I grew up with durian, and I think durian burps are fine.

In the region, there's this belief that durians shouldn't be eaten with alcohol though — you're welcome to read up on the myth behind it.


Yes, also at room temperature


How does it compare to Jack fruit?


There are two different varietals of jackfruit: one with firm/crunchy flesh (this is the kind you see canned in stores) and the other with creamy. Durian is like the jackfruit with the creamy flesh (in texture), but durian's fruit is larger. They have a similar mouthfeel (and taste: to me, that is), but the smell puts off a lot of people. Unfortunately you don't get the creamy jackfruit in a lot of places so you have to hunt for it. Luckily my parents have a tree in their back yard....


Based on looking up durian in Wikipedia, and having seen large jackfruits in India, I can say that jackfruit can grow much larger.


Can jackfruit be eaten raw too?


Yes. The seeds can also be saved and cooked. And if you have the young fruit, you could cook it in say a curry like a meat substitute.


Is the creamy jackfruit the same thing as cempedak?


Jackfruit flesh is firm and juicy. In contrast, durian flesh is creamy -- imagine thick, dense whipped cream around a jackfruit-like seed.

You can't cook with durian seeds like you can with jackfruit seeds (i.e. chakkakuru upperi or chakkakuru mezhukkupuratti)


I was wondering the same, as someone who has eaten jackfruit but never durian.


My grandparents had a durian plantation in Sibu, a small town in East Malaysia. During the season we would camp out there for days, waiting for the sound of a fruit dropping and then running out to retrieve it. We had to sell it after my grandfather passed.

Interestingly, they say the best durians (from Malaysia) can hardly be found in Malaysia as they are all brought to Singapore where they fetch a much higher price.

I wrote a love song to durians which I released a few weeks back: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylX-HLGgI8E&list=PLB5PnPqPHu...


I can’t believe nobody commented on the theft:

> The fruit came from a nearby orchard. Tan asked whether he could have a branch to graft onto one of his trees, but the woman shooed away the idea. So that evening he returned with a villager armed with a rifle. At Tan’s instructions, and for pay, the man pruned a footlong branch with a well-placed shot.


The ending to the story, describing the younger Tans' paranoia of rivals poisoning and stealing his durian trees, suggests that maybe sometime in the future, we might get an epic story akin to "The Orchid Thief", but about durian thievery and conflict:

> On the cusp of the peak durian harvest, which starts each June, he often sleeps in a hammock on the family plantations, guarding ripening fruits from thieves. Durian farming is a cutthroat business. Rivals are suspected of poisoning some of his experimental durian trees. His biggest fear, however, is that someone steals a branch from one of his new hybrid trees, just like his father did so many years earlier.


So since he managed to avoid prosecution from the initial theft, he is presumably in the clear? Wished the article had touched on this question.


I once worked somewhere where a coworker declared "if the bug is in my code I'll eat a durian"

We made him do it outside


> China’s massive unmet demand for durian is the prime reason the Hong Kong consulting firm Plantations International predicts that the global market for raw durian will reach $25 billion by 2030 — up from $15 billion in 2016.

It's amazing how much wealth China is generating in all of the smaller surrounding Asian countries.


If you live in San Francisco, the restaurant China Live has Durian ice cream that actually is rather delicious. Only good tasting Durian dish I've ever had. I absolutely hate the smell of the fruit and don't particularly like the slimey texture either.


I wish Malaysians substitute palm oil monoculture with this. It's a tall local species, which is a lot more accommodating to wildlife.


No one really likes Durian outside of the region, it's not popular.

Should they plant canola instead? It will require 4x the land.

Will the EU (who are some of the biggest exporters of palm oil alternatives) replant the extensive forests they tore down for agriculture in the last century or is it a kick the ladder down type situation?

I'm a big conservationist and active in SEA, the current attitude of the EU is absurdly unproductive and has gotten most of the population offside, Malaysia needs uncut tracts of rainforest and guaranteed protected regions, this is possible to do, dickheads with moustaches in Belgium aren't helping the situation.

Another alternative is avoiding monoculture plantations altogether, but that doesn't seem to work anywhere on Earth.


I'm a Malaysian who in the past managed two agriculture private equity funds. I've engaged with dozens of local farmers of over the years.

The problem with palm oil monoculture is that it is so easy that it makes its practitioners complacent. The value chains are established, the prices are commoditized (there is a local futures market) and there is ample government backing for international lobbying. Unfortunately, this means that the value-add (and margins) at each step of the value chain is now really thin. Unless you are vertically integrated and operate at enormous scale, you won't make much.

Short, high-value, local-farm-to-plate, gourmet-ingredient agriculture is what I dream of, sort of like what the Japanese have. It doesn't always have to devolve into mega-agribusiness.


While it's nicknamed the King of Fruits, I can't say I have ever liked that much the taste of Durians (While I eat and enjoy pretty much all exotic fruits). I wonder if one needs to have tasted Durian during childhood or something in order to have the tongue for it?


Didn't try it until I moved to Bangkok in my early 30s. First time I had it I gagged - - not because I found it disgusting, but rather, it was just so different to my American palate.

Second time it tasted of a onion based custard that I could stomach, but live without.

Third and all subsequent times, it tasted like ice cream with a slight pungent background that I needed every night. I was hunting for the good stuff as well as any local.

You don't have to grow up on the fruit to enjoy it, but it is definitely an acquired taste that can be gained in the adult years as well.


I sampled durian for the first time while on a trip to Singapore a couple of months ago and absolutely loved it. I will admit that it has a very particular pungent flavor so I can see why it puts off so many people. Probably not so different as some cheeses.


The mango has at least an equal claim to be the King of Fruits.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_of_Fruits


People in the west like coconut water having been exposed to it only recently. And yet there are vast areas of the east where coconut water is meant to taste like death and rot. Bizarre



I think it might be. We had some at my workplace as a celebration and most of us disliked it, however one (of Chinese decent I believe) told us he had it in his childhood and loved it.


I've never had it before and I tried some just recently - thought it was very delicious.


Has anyone gotten it to fruit in America? I’d consider taking a trip to a durian farm if I could get freshly fallen Durian.

Jackfruit is another one of my favorites in the tropical fruit world.


Jackfruit has a great, rich taste; I like it, although I don't go much for sweet foods generally (I make an exception now and then, for some). The sticky stuff between the edible parts is a bit of a turnoff, though. Not easy to get it off your hands, once on. Also, the fruit has a strong smell, but not a bad one, IMO.

You cannot eat a lot of it, since it is rather dense, though soft.

It's also one of those wonder plants, like neem, banana and coconut, with many uses.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackfruit



Yes, I eat them all the time.

The easiest way to get them is frozen at an Asian super market. It's already taken out of it's shell and put in an air seal bag then in a plastic box. Some Asian super market have the whole fruit frozen. There are specialized places that import just exotic fruits we have one here in Alhambra near Pasadena iirc.

My parent just bought a jackfruit awhile ago from the specialty fruit importer store. We had to wait for a few days for it to ripe before eating.


The question asked whether it grows in America.


Thank you for the clarification. I didn't realize fruit means grows.


It is quite rare to use it as a verb to be honest.


Wander around your local Chinatown stores. They should have both Jackfruit and Durian. And if you're really lucky, mangosteen. I'm starting to see Dragonfruit in regular groceries now, so hopefully some of the other fruit should make it there in a few years too.


In Thailand (only) they now have durian pizza. Which disturbs me a lot more than I think it should. https://coconuts.co/bangkok/news/ooh-eww-pizza-company-thail...


Durian pizza is relatively common in China if you know where to look.


By “know where to look”, one usually just has to go to any Pizza Hut (必胜客), which are very common in larger cities. I’ve tried the durian pizza before, and it’s actually quite good, even though I’m not a big fan of durian itself. Something about cheese and durian together works for my palate.

(Pizza Hut in China, it must be said, barely resembles it’s American counterpart; in China, it’s a moderately upscale Italian family restaurant which happens to specialize in pizza and pasta.)


I think it’s because durian has a somewhat onion like taste and so I could see how it pairs well with cheese.


> “The Musang King is my favorite,” said Teh Bin Tean, a Singaporean researcher who has studied the durian genome. “Don’t try it first because the rest is all downhill.”

I wouldn't say the rest would be all downhill, there are many types of durian and each has its own unique taste (I personally like the sweet & bitter one).


Before I knew what durian was, I and a close friend were served some by his Honduran wife. I having a dumpster stomach, and have been known to eat anything, took the biggest piece and popped it in my mouth and started chewing. That's when I got hit by a number of flavors. The flavors were not powerful, all of them just teasing. But I got them none the less. Rancid sock. Sweetness. Turpentine. Death.

After the experience, I felt that the fruit was not largely available, not local, not my cup of tea. Goodbye durian.


"If it doesn’t stink, it’s not durian."

- Tan Eow Chong



Are there other fruits that look like durian but are different inside? I once ate an odd fruit which grew on a Caribbean island. It had black seeds and creamy white flesh surrounding the seeds, was very sweet and not tart.



Thanks. That could be it, too. The description fits what I had.


It might be a cherimoya (although we spell it as chirimoya): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherimoya -- the best fruit in the world in my opinion. It is sometimes referred to as custard apple in English.


cherimoya, atemoya, soursop... the description fits in Annona or Rollinia


There’s a fruit called seetafel (custard apple) that sounds very similar to this. It’s amazing!


I think that's it!


Cherimoya?


Fun fact: Mark Twain called the cherimoya "the most delicious fruit known to men". https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherimoya


Jackfruit


Dragonfruit?


Look up lanka fruit


Before I ate Durian, it always smelled really bad to me. Now, it just smells strong.

The problem with buying it in the US is that the good ones cost $10/lb.




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