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Saturday August 7, 2010

Musang King lovers swear by its rich, creamy taste

Durians, durians and more durians! It is the time of the season again where people would sit on stools, huddled over the thorny husks and taste the yellow-coloured pulp.

The smell can be offensive to those who despise it. But it is probably safe to say that the number of Malaysians who love this fruit outnumber those who don’t, and for this majority, the smell is fragrant!

There are many varieties, with names like Red Prawn, D101, D13, D24, XO, D2 and also Bamboo Leg (Thraka), but the one that is much in demand now, even rising above all is the Musang King (Mao San Wong in Chinese).

The taste of Malaysia’s Musang King had enamoured even Macau’s casino king Stanley Ho so much that he sent his personal jet to Singapore recently to buy 88 of this variety, worth about RM4,800!

While Ho’s worker had wanted to pick up 98 of the Musang King, however, he could only get 88 since the adverse weather had resulted in a shortage of supply.

Beautiful: Cheong showing the yellow flesh of the prized Musang King variety.

Ho gave 10 of the Musang King to his friend Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka Shing.

While Musang King is no doubt sold at many stalls for years, its popularity has increased by many folds now.

So what is the fuss about the Musang King, which is priced higher than the rest.

T.H. Tee, who runs his Durian Hartamas stall in Desa Sri Hartamas, said the best Musang King was from Pahang.

He gets his daily supply from Bentong and said it used to be much costlier but the price had dropped.

Costly: Packets of freshly-packaged Musang King at Tee’s stall in Desa Sri Hartamas, seen here going at a price of RM48 per packet while the smaller packets cost RM20

“The Musang King’s flesh is yellow,” said Tee as he cracked open one to show the contents.

“It’s creamy, too, and has a fragrance that lingers long in your mouth. The quality is consistent and you cannot find fault from one pulp to the other.”

The Musang King is originally known as Durian Kunyit, deriving its name from the yellow colour of the turmeric. Its place of origin is said to be Gua Musang, Kelantan.

Tee said the Musang King had been in Malaysia for more than 10 years but the bigger, better quality ones were often exported to Singapore.

“Singaporeans only need pay half of the Malaysian cost, given their stronger currency value. So they can well afford it,” said Tee, who hails from Johor and had sold the Musang King in Singapore for many years.

This is the first year that he is putting up a stall in Hartamas. For a start, Tee said he was charging his Musang King at a reasonable price, below the market rate although he declined to say how much.

“This way, I hope to build a steady stream of customers here.”

Tee said his durians were supplied fresh daily, as the taste would be less superior if kept overnight. His fruits arrive late in the afternoon after the morning pick.

Only the best: (From left) S. Arumugam, Tharma Kumaran, Pala Kumaran and Daljit Singh, 39, eating the Mau San King as stall owner Tee, offer the best of his wares

Cheong Yeow Choy, who sells only Pahang-supplied durians at his stall in SS2 behind the police station, said Musang King was expensive because of the big demand in Singapore.

“After Stanley Ho made his purchase and sent some to Li Ka Shing, the durian’s popularity shot up even more!

“But there are also people who do not like it,” said Cheong, 49, who is popularly called Kim Mao by his friends and customers for his gold-dyed hair.

Yet there are also people who have no idea what Musang King is.

“The real durian lovers are not likely to opt for Musang King because the flavour is quite standard and predictable, without much variation,” Cheong said.

But Cheong said Musang King was unique because of its distinct yellow colour, small seeds and almost flawless quality of its flesh.

“The reject rate is very small,” he added.

As a durian seller for 32 years, he spent 15 years working in Pahang, and admitted to aggressively promoting durians from the state. He gets his daily supply from Raub and Krau.

“I bring in about 7,500kg of various durians each day.

“Durians that are exposed to the sun tend to be more bitter, while those under the shade tend to be sweeter,” he said.

When asked how a buyer could identify the Musang King, Cheong could only say that there is a certain shape to look out for.

“You have to check the head and bottom of the fruit which has a distinct shape.”

He said there were different grades of the Musang King — the Super Grade or Grade 1 and Grade 2.

The Grade 1, he said, were those from the old trees and which grow higher up in the mountains, while the lower Grade 2 were usually grown on a flatter terrain.

He said he would be drastically reducing the Musang King’s price to make it affordable to all.

Durian lover Tharma Kumaran said the Musang King was the epitome of the durian family.

“We are always getting B and C grade durians in Malaysia because the best are usually sent to Singapore,” lamented Tharma, 36.

“But it’s the tastiest among all. Although the price is higher, I believe a good fruit is worth its value,” he added.

He attributed its good taste to the thicker and creamier flesh and the Musang King gave him lesser indigestion problems.

His brother, Pala Kumaran, agreed that the durian tasted better and was not sticky.

“It comes out neatly from the seed and melts in the mouth,” he said.

Two Taiwanese customers, who were eating at the stall, said the Musang King was their favoured variety.

“It’s the best (durian) for me,” said Hsiao Chih Jen, 61.

“The flavour and aftertaste is different from the other varieties,” Hsiao said.

His friend, Chen Chiu Tung, 60, said he did not mind forking out more money as long as the quality was good.

Both have been staying and working in Malaysia for more than 20 years. “We only learnt to eat the fruit upon coming to Malaysia.

“Now there are durians in Taiwan, but are imported from Thailand which doesn’t taste nice,” said Chen.

But as they say, taste is subjective and whether Musang King is really that good, you are your own judge.

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