Today, I am going to talk about the most misunderstood local fruit in Thailand - the durian.
Honestly, growing up eating durians from Malaysia, I was a hater as well, but after many years here, I gradually realised that things are not what we make it out to be. Firstly, we need to accept that local palates are not the same as ours. For example, I wouldn't walk into MK to have their hotpot even if you beg me to, but last I checked, they have 433 branches in Thailand, so who am I to say they don't know their stuff?
Giving another example, 5 years ago, I brought my staff to Singapore for a business trip. He spent some time scrutinizing some pre-packed durians which were sold for 10SGD per pack. He then looked at me with a perplexed face, "Eddie, why do they sell these durians so expensive? They are rotten." This came from a Thai man on his first-ever overseas trip, and ate Thai durians for 31 years.
I gradually understood that the difference (note that I didn't use the word problem) lies in the fact that Thai durians, unlike Malaysian durians which fall from the tree, are harvested way before they are ripe. That's the way Thais like it, unripe durians with a slight crunch, just mildly sweet and doesn't smell pungent (there is only a light smell when you chew).
However, trust me when I say that Thai durians are sweet and creamy when they are fully-ripe too! Thai durians have been misunderstood, because even for our palates, they are very respectable taste-wise when ripe. The most commonly-found Monthong is sweet and creamy, but less rich and bitter compared to the most popular variants in Malaysia. It does taste a little boring, so if you are looking for a Thai cultivar that tastes closer to what we are used to in Malaysia/Singapore, go for Chanee or Puang Manee. I haven't tasted Kan Yaaw before to give a verdict on it.
All said and done, I must admit I have faced difficulty explaining my preferences to durian vendors in Thailand. Like us, they completely misunderstand our durians as over-ripe to the point of being rotten. I have even been spoken to with an air of disbelief and contempt by durian vendors when I explained the kind of durian I wanted. Why can't we just agree to disagree and get on with life?
That's why I got so inspired to write this piece after meeting the nicest ever durian vendor last week (I featured a taxi driver too here). He didn't understand why I wanted 'over-ripe' durians, but opened durian after durian after durian in search of one that's most suitable for me, telling me not to worry and he's not going to charge for the ones I rejected.
|Such nice people!|
|The nicest durian vendor in Bangkok and maybe Thailand!|
It got to the point that I asked him politely to stop, and purchased the ripest one of the lot. The durian was not perfect of course, but for me it was the tastiest sweetest durian I had ever eaten.
Oh, if you have never seen a Thai durian vendor break a durian apart, it is quite a sight (watch video below).
Disclaimer: I was tempted to do a thorough research on Thai durians online before writing this, but decided not to, and share what I personally feel about durians in Thailand through my years of personal experience. If there are any inaccuracies, let me know in the comments!