Taste of the real deal

27 Jun 2019 / 10:51 H.

IF YOU have heard of the Black Thorn durian and wondered where you can get a sniff, check out Resorts World Genting.

Happening daily until Sept 16, from noon to 10pm, the 2019 Genting Durian Festival offers some of the best durians from three local orchards – Durian Republic from Penang, Weng Fatt Orchard from Raub in Pahang, and Genting’s own May Jie Gohtong Trading.

Head to the Boulevard, Genting Grand outdoor carpark, and zero in on the heady aroma of durian clones such as Musang King, Red Prawn (Hung Ha), Tekka, D24, and the increasingly elusive Black Thorn.

You can also catch the entertaining Fatimah Product Enterprise’s famous Kelapa Lambung performance all the way from Jonker Street, Malacca.

However, the durians are still king. While most of us are already familiar with the other clones, it’s that rare Black Thorn that draws the senses.

But at RM90 per kilogramme for whole fruit, or RM100 per 400g for durian flesh in vacuum-sealed packs, be prepared to dig deep into your wallet.

The price reflects the high demand for the Black Thorn variety overseas, especially in China.

And because of the price disparity, “a lot of people are faking it right now”, said Durian Republic managing director Dana Heng.

According to this second-generation owner of the family-run business based in Penang, the recent bout of publicity this particular variety has received, “in China, especially”, has tempted unscrupulous sellers to market cheaper varieties like D24 with hiked-up prices under the guise of Black Thorn.

That is why Durian Republic, currently the largest producer of Black Thorn in the country with about 8,000 trees, is leveraging on technology to make sure fans taste the real deal.

By June next year, Heng said every box of vacuum-sealed durian the orchard sells will sport a ‘certificate of authentication’ in the form of a barcode.

“That means you will be able to use your phone to scan [the barcode which] tells you [not only the] original shape [the durian] came in ... [but also] who the reseller is ... So, once you scan it, you’ll know that this product is actually from us.”

Heng and his father stumbled upon the Black Thorn clone by luck.

They had “missed the boat” on the Musang King hype “because we planted the wrong way and we planted the wrong clones”.

So they decided to replant, with the ‘new’ Black Thorn clone, about 10 to 15 years ago. Now, Durian Republic produces “99% Black Thorn [with the] remaining 1% of Musang King and Red Prawn”.

As to what’s so special about the Black Thorn, Heng explained: “The unique thing is its distinct taste and aroma. If you ‘ferment’ it long enough, it has a kick, an alcoholic kick.”

The ‘fermentation’ comes from tying each durian to the tree with a raffia string to prevent the fruit from dropping to the ground when it ripens.

It keeps the durian fresh, clean and crack-free, added Heng, as the skin of the fruit, if left to drop to the ground, will crack easily.

Instead, the workers put pressure on the fruit manually – knocking or throwing it about – which according to Heng drastically changes the flesh, “from pale orange to very dark orange, and the skin [of the flesh becomes] like old people’s skin, very wrinkly”.

And before opening the fruit, Heng said they throw the durian to the ground or give it a good knock on all sides. “[The flesh of] a Black Thorn with a good knock and one without [looks] totally different ... [the knocks] will change its colour immediately.”

This is also where the vacuum-sealed packaging plays a role.

Heng said that after the flesh of the fruit is vacuum-sealed in 400g packs, the packs are left for a few days to allow for the flesh to ferment further before being sold to those who had booked online.

Each sealed pack will last up to a month if left unopened.

If the Black Thorn is too rich for your pocket, check out the Musang King going for RM60 to RM70 per kg, or the D24 and Red Prawn priced from RM35 to RM50 per kg.

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