Durians

Durio kutejensis fruit, Muara Lawa, Kutai Bara...

Durio kutejensis fruit, Muara Lawa, Kutai Barat, East Kalimantan, Indonesia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Regarded as the ‘king of tropical fruit’ and described as tasting like heaven and stinking like hell, the durian is the fruit of trees from the genus Durio belonging to the Malvaceae, a large family which includes hibiscus, okra, cotton, mallows, and linden trees. Due to the strong smell, durians have been banned from many restaurants and public transport in it’s native South East Asia. The durian tree is very large and requires a year round, warm, very humid, equatorial climate. Picking the fruit is not required, as they fall when ripe. The fruit can grow up to 30 centimetres (12 in) long and 15 centimetres (6 in) in diameter, and typically weighs one to three kilograms (2 to 7 lb). Its shape ranges from oblong to round, the colour of its husk green to brown, and its flesh pale-yellow to red, depending on the species.

To open a durian, insert a stout knife into such a line. Durians have about five segments, each containing several seeds and these are surrounded by a custard-like aril. Freshly fallen fruit are less pungent and may taste best. Without refrigeration the fruit has a shelf life of only 2 -5 days. Fermented durian, wrapped in palm leaves, remain palatable for up to a year. The preparation is called “tempoya” in Indonesia and is a popular side dish. They may also be used mixed with rice and sugar to make “lempog”, or minced with salt, onions and vinegar, for “boder”. Durian seeds may be roasted in hot ashes, or cut into slices and fried in spiced coconut oil. They are eaten with rice, or mixed with sugar to make a sweetmeat. Half-ripe fruit are used in soups. The durian provides a meal without preparation, and for some, a rich dessert too. The fruit is suitable for the preparation of milk based foods, such as milk shakes, ice cream and custards. The durian is not only a meal to the lover, but has in fact the requisite food values. Though the fruit has much waste, it is very filling and high in proteins, minerals and fats.

There are 30 recognised Durio species, at least nine of which produce edible fruit. Durio zibethinus is the only species available in the international market: other species are sold in their local regions. There are hundreds of durian cultivars; most of them have a common name and a code number starting with “D”. Many consumers express preferences for specific cultivars, which fetch higher prices in the market.

Durians are still rare outside South East Asia, and they remain expensive when available. To choose a durian, pick a fruit which is comparatively light and who’s stem appear big and solid. When shaking a good durian, the seed should move. Maturity is indicated when the middle of the fruit exudes a strong, but not sour smell. Finally, an inserted knife should come out sticky -this is the best indication that the fruit is ripe. Cut fruit perishes fairly rapidly. Avoid fruit with holes: worms may have prior claims.

Malaysian Durian “Cakes”
Ingredients

  • 5 durians
  • 500ml sugar

Method

  • Scoop the durian pulp from the rind.
  • Heat pulp in a saucepan and stir.
  • While stirring, pick out the seeds, then add the sugar and mix well. Continue stirring until the mixture coagulates.
  • Remove from heat and wrap in some “breathing” wrapping – traditionally palm leaves.
  • These cakes will keep for up to one year.
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