How does China’s first home-grown durian taste? Not great, SCMP finds out

One of China’s first home-grown durians - we evaluate its taste, texture and smell. - Sun Yeung

HONG KONG (South China Morning Post/Asia News Network): Just like durian, I am a tropical native and spiky on the outside.

That, and the fact that I am an avowed fan of the divisive fruit, made me the perfect person to try one from China’s much-anticipated first major durian harvest, which took place in Hainan province.

Despite limited yields and relatively high prices, our colleagues in Shenzhen were able to order two of the durians, and one made its way to our Hong Kong headquarters.

I had limited expectations; I did not expect the oozing, creamy, bitter goodness of a Musang King (Mao Shan Wang), one of the most prized varieties of durian.

After a colleague demonstrated the niche yet underrated skill of opening an intact durian with just a tiny pair of scissors – I was also told it is possible using only a single chopstick – what emerged from the hefty, 4kg (8.8lb) durian was disappointing.

Shea Driscoll, the Post’s digital editor, is unimpressed with the durian. -Sun YeungShea Driscoll, the Post’s digital editor, is unimpressed with the durian. -Sun Yeung

First, the smell. Durians smell so strong that they’re banned from public transport in several places, even in sunny Singapore, where the fruit is generally beloved. Love them or hate them, there is no doubting that a durian’s scent travels.

However, no one even seemed to notice that this one was lying open in one of the Post’s social hubs. You had to get surprisingly close to even catch a whiff of the fruit’s infamous smell.

The colour of the meat was similarly underwhelming: a pale yellow that was far from the deep golden hue you can sometimes get.

How did it taste? “Weak” was the scathing assessment from one curious onlooker who gave it a try.

Indeed, it tasted as mild as it smelled. While proper durian overwhelms the palate, this was but a faint facsimile – more of a reminder of what durian tastes like rather than a proper dose.

The consensus was that it was dry, hard and just too mild

Texture-wise, there was little of the creaminess of proper durian, with our fruit more reminiscent of an unripe banana at times.

In many ways, this felt like Durian 0.5 – a prototype of a proper durian that needed more development time to get the smell, texture and flavour right.

Other testers were also not kind.

China durianChina durian

“It tastes like nothing,” was one blistering evaluation. The consensus was that it was dry, hard and just too mild.

But there is a flip side to this coin. One mainland Chinese colleague said he did not mind that the flavour was less intense because “then you could eat it every day”.

Did we get a dud durian? Was the fruit perhaps not ripe enough? We will not condemn the entire batch, but from the evidence presented, Malaysian and Thai durians have little to worry about.

*** A Hong Kong-based Singaporean journalist, Shea was previously the Post's deputy digital editor and social media editor, and deputy social media editor at Singapore's The Straits Times.

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