The Beginner’s Guide To Buying (& Loving) Durian In Singapore: For durian newbies, trying this famous – or infamous – fruit is a daunting idea. Not to mention wandering into a stall where walls of durians leave you confused at where to begin.
Which variety to pick? How do you know it’s a good one? What to look out for when the seller recommends a certain durian to you?
Almost all connoisseurs we ask say it is important to go to a reputable seller, and to keep going back if the durians are good. Housewife Shelia Lim, 52, a self-confessed durian enthusiast, says: “Customer loyalty counts for a lot. The seller will keep the good durians for you, so you know you’re paying for quality fruit.”
Beyond that, consult this guide by the durian experts themselves to pick the right durian for your palate – and the best-tasting one of the lot. When you get it right, you might just be a convert.
It might be reigned the King of Fruit among Singaporeans, but still, not all durians are created equal. Popular varieties include Mao Shan Wang (bittersweet flesh with a creamy texture), D24 (bitter and extremely creamy) and XO (one of the most bitter durians with an almost alcoholic aftertaste, soft flesh).
For the uninitiated, try the Red Prawn (mild with a sweet aftertaste, sticky texture), which is easier on the palate and a good introduction to this love-it-or-hate-it fruit.
NEXT: Smell →
Experts never smell the base of the durian. Mr Goh Kwee Leng, owner of 717 Trading, says: “The base of the husk is the thickest part, so it’s harder to smell the aroma of the fruit.”
Instead, sniff along the seams or split lines of the durian – you should smell a slight fragrance. If there is no aroma, the durian is unripe. If the aroma is too strong, the durian is probably over-ripe.
NEXT: Shape →
The best durians are oval or slightly oblong in shape. Odd-shaped fruit are likely to have fewer chambers inside and so fewer flesh-covered seeds.
A perfectly round durian may have sub-standard fruit, because it’s usually less aromatic and the seeds are usually bigger and the meat less freshy and creamy.
NEXT: Size →
Different varieties of durians come in different sizes. For example, XO durians are generally smaller, while there are no small Red Prawn durians – these are generally large fruit. So be suspicious if a seller points ot a large XO durian or a small Red Prawn one.
NEXT: Tricks of the trade →
Sometimes, sellers open the durian shells if customers request a smell or taste test. Discerning durian connoisseurs sometimes reject ones that are sub-par, and some sellers may try to push these rejected durians to you. Watch the vendors to ensure that they’re opening a new durian.
NEXT: Taste →
Instead of prodding the flesh-covered seeds when the seller presents an open fruit, don’t hesitate to taste the durian. If it’s bad, or not the variety promised, you’re not obliged to buy it, sellers say.
Mr Richard Woo, general manager of Four Seasons Durian Cafe, says: “When you pinch or prod the fruit, you’re touching only the skin and not the flesh, so there’s no way to tell if the fruit is good.” The best way, of course, would be to taste it.
NEXT: The real deal →
To make sure a seller isn’t passing off a lesser durian as a more premium variety like Mao Shan Wang, look for prominent seams radiating from the base of the durian.
The seams are lines where the spikes of the durian run parallel to each other. The base of a real D24 durian has a flat round spot about half the size of a 5-cent coin.
NEXT: Type →
From The Straits Times, additional reporting by Pinky Chng, July 2017
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