Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Enjoying your durian

To the casual observer, the durian harvest this year looks rather bountiful. And the season doesn't seem to be ending soon. Not for at least another month, I think. So if anyone is having a yen for durian, now is the time to head to Penang where the best fruits are already on sale throughout the island and mainland.

The best fruits are still from the durian estates that dot around Balik Pulau and Sungai Pinang, although I know that Junjong on the mainland also comes out with some pretty nice ones. If it is important for durian connoisseurs to indulge in the fruit with exotic names, then the durian plantations are the place to go. There are well-known varieties such as the ang heh (red prawn), lipan (centipede), 604, musang king, et cetera, to titillate every taste bud but they do come with a more expensive price tag.

The alternative is to go search for the nameless kampong durian that are now making their appearance by the roadside and at the market place. If you don't mind the quality - and some can be good indeed - there can be pleasant surprises for the buyer.

I remember in the late 80s or early 90s when I was still working at Ban Hin Lee Bank, I was in Kuantan, Pahang to look over some possible sites for opening a branch for the bank, and night time saw me gravitating to the town square where I was attracted instantly to the small mountains of durian brought in by the villagers. I selected three small fruits and asked the vendor to open them. One of them must have been a jewel because the first words he uttered when it was opened were: "wahh, bagus-nya buah ini!" I wouldn't forget the experience of sitting down alone in the square, still dressed in office wear, with the fruits before me and tucking away with little regard to my surroundings.

Back to the present here in Penang, I see more people coming to enjoy the eat-all-you-can durian buffets. Some go for as cheap as RM35 per person. I would have been happy to order a durian buffet possibly about 10 years ago but not now. If the intention is to enjoy a good fruit slowly - and by slowly, I mean to eat the durian mindfully, tasting every bite slowly and purposefully - then asking the vendor to pick the fruit ala carte and paying market price for it is the way to go.

Durian buffet are for the masses who only want to eat gluttonously, making every dollar count without appreciating the finer points of the fruit which include its aroma and fragrance, tastiness and texture. If also the intention is to enjoy the camaraderie of friends around the durian, then the buffet-style feasting is all right. You won't be too particular over what you eat. But don't expect the highest quality durian to be served to you at that price.


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