Sarawak’s wild durians
If there is one fruit that can divide people in the world of food, it is undoubtedly durian, the King of Fruits. Popular in Southeast Asia, durians – as well as Sarawak’s wild durians – are tropical fruits with a thorny exterior and has a fearsome reputation for its pungent smell which can linger for hours. Despite this, it should still be on your top 10 exotic food to try at least once.
One of the most anticipated events in Sarawak is the durian season. Durian lovers will flock to hunt for the creamy goodness. While Malaysians are familiar with the famous Musang King and D24, Sarawak has its own variety of durian species grown completely in the wild, each offering its own unique and distinctive taste.
Variety of Wild Durians in Sarawak
Durian pakan (Durio kutejensis)
Durian pakan, also locally known as durian nyekak is mainly found growing wild in Central and Nothern Sarawak. It has a yellowish golden shell, and its content is softer than an ordinary durian. It tastes similar to durian isu, but durian pakan is sweeter with a very unique flavour.
Durian Isu (Durio Oxyleanus)
Durian Isu is a petite durian with long green spikes which you can easily hold with one hand. Contrary to regular durians, durian Isu does not carry a strong scent which makes it a popular choice for those who can’t stand the pungent smell associated with other durians. Its creamy white flesh has an exceptionally sweet taste to it.
Durian Isi Merah (Durio Graviolens)
Grabbing everyone’s attention with its striking red flesh is none other than Durian Isi Merah. It is one of the popular wild durians sold at the local market during the durian season. It has a mild scent and its flesh is described as thick, cheesy and nutty. It is definitely a must-try!
Durian Kulit Merah (Durio Dulcis)
Durian Kulit Merah is found in the deep jungles of Borneo. It has a bright red exterior with long, extremely sharp spikes and thick skin which makes it difficult to open so it is usually cut in half. Although the smell from Durian Kulit Merah can be overwhelming, the content is described as soft and sweet.
Durian Kura-Kura (Durio Testudinarum)
Unlike regular durian, the Durian Kura-Kura grows at the base of its tree and it is extremely rare. Its pale yellow to brown flesh is said to be light and sweet. You have to taste this durian if you ever get the chance to.
Tips to Choose a Good Durian
Choosing a good durian can be tricky at times because we can’t see or feel the texture inside. The result can either be a surprise or disappointment. Here are some ways taught by the locals to pick the best of the best by utilizing our senses.
See: Observe the durian from its thorn, colour and stem. The larger the thorn, the fuller the flesh. The colour of the shell can indicate the ripeness of the durian. Usually, the ones with yellowish shell are said to be more mature and sweeter than the green ones. Avoid odd-shaped durians because it is more likely to have fewer chambers inside, which means less flesh. Observing the stem is also important because thicker durian stem shows that the durian obtained a lot of nutrients from its tree, therefore making it juicier and fleshier.
Smell: Hold the durian close to your nose and smell it. Ripe durians have a rich and fragrant aroma to it while unripe durians have a green astringent smell, similar to the smell of freshly cut grass. If the durian smells like alcohol, it means that the pulp is overripe and spoiled.
Listen: Shake the durian vigorously with your hands to feel whether the fruits are rolling inside. A ripe durian should also have a sound like a hitting drum. If so, this is considered by the locals to be in the best condition to eat.
Durian with a Twist
Staying true to the “King of Fruits” title, durian is also made into a variety of delicious food ranging from being the main course to desserts. You can combine durian into steamed fish, steamed shrimp, seafood soup, braised pork, stew chicken, or even as a milk beverage.
In Sarawak, tempoyak is a creamy traditional dish made with fermented durian flesh. It is usually topped with petai beans and fried ikan bilis (tiny crispy anchovies). The taste is described as sour, similar to yoghurt. This dish is best accompanied with fish, chicken or prawns or you can just eat it with white rice. It is perfect for those who want to be adventurous with their food palette!
Read more about durians here.