Monday, May 23, 2011

When a durian seller is a 'musang' in disguise

WHEN durians were seasonal offerings and cheaper, it was easier for durian lovers to pick their favourite fruit.
I remember when there were only durian kampung and durian hutan. The former were those grown in orchards and compounds of homes while the latter grew in the wild.

Among the best durian kampung was the tembaga variety. Each fruit was slightly smaller than a volleyball, had sharp spiky horns and dusty yellow skin. The flesh had the lustre of polished brass.

Each pod had, at the most, three clumps of creamy flesh that was also slightly bitter. When nature decided to give a treat, there were few or no seeds, or flattened ones, allowing you to enjoy the thick flesh.

Durian hutan was much bigger, greenish brown and the thorns were less spiky. The fruits were not so fragrant, the flesh usually thin and the seeds large.

The only place in Kuala Lumpur you could find wild durian sold by vendors in the 1970s was at Simpang Tiga in the heartland of Gombak. Until the mid-80s, it was the undisputed durian valley of Selangor.

Over the last two decades, durian species have come and gone.

How many of us can tell a D11 from a D24 from taste alone, or an ang hey (red prawn in Hokkien) from a durian kunyit blindfolded? More often we take the durian seller's word for it. Or we follow the crowd. But the crowd may not necessarily be right.

Recently, I stopped by a durian stall in Hulu Kelang.

Judging from the number of people by the roadside stall, it must have been either a good deal or good fruits that attracted the crowd.

It turned out to be both -- cheap durians going for as low as RM10 for piles of threes and there were some without price tags.

I asked the seller about the ones that had no prices and was told that those were the famed musang king.

He grabbed a fruit, whacked it with his durian wedge and handed it to me to take a whiff.

"Very cheap," he said.

"Only RM22 a kilo. How many do you want?"

The price killed my enthusiasm. Since a fruit would not be enough for the family and three would cost more than my weekly grocery, I politely declined.

"How about RM20 a kilo?" the seller offered. That was the lowest he could go he said, but only if I took half a dozen fruits.

Seeing my hesitation, he asked me to check with a group of durian lovers happily tucking into what he claimed to be musang king durians.

A pile of well-formed durian seeds left by the group caught my attention.

A Datuk, who owned musang king trees in his orchard in Janda Baik, told me that a genuine musang king came with flattened seeds -- seeds that did not have well-formed cotyledons, which allowed the flesh to be thick.

If anyone claims that it is a musang king, just look at the seeds to tell a real one from a fake, he said.

Since I have never tried a musang king, I decided not to take chances. The durian seller might turn out to be a musang in disguise.

Maybe in the next season, when the musang king is cheaper, I will get some.

1 comment:

  1. Just came back from Janda Baik last weekend. On the way to Frasier's Hill we stopped along a road at Bentong I think.

    The Musang King was RM12 per kilo and managed to get them at RM10 per kilo. The seeds were as described and they were heavenly.