Friday, April 13, 2007
A report in the International Herald Tribune (btw, thanks to HSBC for 1 year free supply) dated 31/3-1/4 2007 stated that this crazy horticulturist from Thailand called Songpol Somsri has come up with the Chantaburi No.1, a durian which "has a smell as inoffensive as that of a banana". The Thais are celebrating because they don't like strong-smelling durians, a fact we Malaysians know too well. Whenever we see any big chunky durian with toned-down thorns, we'd shun it, don't we, because we know its a Thai variety, guaranteed to be fleshy and creamy but hardly worth eating because its tasteless and odorless. But what do you expect when the fruit is grown on large orchards, chemicals are used to induce flowering and the fruits are picked way before they ripen to minimize the odor during transport?
The danger of this new variety is that they intend to plant 6,400 ha of land with it and export the fruit everywhere. With time people will come to equate durians with this new variety and very soon, what we come to know as durians will not be the kind we have today. Already its hard to find the 'kampung' (village)/wild variety that compels durian lovers to eat by the roadside oblivious to who will see them in that 6 pm traffic crawl. Those who love the fruit will know what I mean: that wonderful, powerful pungent smell together with that sweet-bitter creamy taste that's more satisfying than any other fruit...and oh, have you tasted the orangey-red wild jungle durians that's slightly peanutty in flavor and creamier than cream, and that thick creamy yellow wild jungle variety with the long green thorns? Where was I??
Before you say Terri's gone nuts, let me tell you what Mr. Songpol will introduce next: thornless durians. Yes, durians without the 'duri'or thorns (see, its a Malaysian/Indonesian fruit; we get to name it). No stink and no thorns?? Bob Halliday, a food critic for the Bangkok Post reacted by saying "You might as well be eating watermelon." Why are the Thais messing with our 'King of the Fruits'?! Yes, you guessed it. For commercial reasons, they want to create a fruit the Americans and such can take to. Hey cheeses stink, some worse than unwashed underwear, but they continue to make them stinky. And the whole world eat cheese, smelly and all.
Thank goodness the Malaysians, Indonesians and Singaporeans, who have always loved this fruit passionately, are up against this crime. (For once these three countries are fighting on the same side, an act especially uncharacteristic of Singapore.) The reason, Mr Songpol, is we seriously love this fruit and are lucky to have conscientious durian-growers who only sell fruits that ripen and fall (incidentally, my family and I were lucky to be invited to pick up durians from the jungle floor at a friend's jungle patch last December. I think that's a feat for me, because I kept thinking of the cobras while wading my way through the jungle).
Going off track, I've realised certain things regarding the eating of durians:
1. Its a social fruit; you have to eat it with at least another person. In fact, fighting over it makes it all the more tasty! And when I eat it standing by the truck on the roadside there's this sense of kindred spirit when other people/eaters join in.
2. Every durian fruit, even from the same tree, will taste different, making it all the more exciting to eat. And that variety in taste and smell is what makes durian such an alluring fruit.
3. There'll be some dissent here, but I strongly disagree that freezing or chilling the durian makes it taste better, "like ice-cream". Ice-cream is ice-cream and durian is durian. I suspect people who like it chilled won't really know what the fuss is all about, this odorless durian issue, because when you chill the durian, the smell is suppressed.
4. Another thorny issue, one the chilled durian people will again disagree with. How can you eat chilled/frozen durian if you are a true durian lover, because you'd have to eat it from a Tupperware box, not the durian shell?? That's like eating shelled raw oysters on a plate!
5. I'd spend my last RM50 on durian, wouldn't you?
Mysterious-looking female eating durian.
What do you think? I'd like to know so give your comments in the respective comment page, but not in the chatterbox please because they'll be erased as the box scrolls.