5 Delicious Durian Varieties and Great Durian Desserts
What’s that smell? Well, durian is in the air, because the annual durian season is here again, this time until July. And we’ve got a very good guide to choosing, eating and cooking durians, with recipes fit for the King of Fruits. We’re talking top sellers like Mao Shang Wang, or Musang King from Malaysia, and bitter varieties like Black Pearl and Golden Phoenix.
First, a look at 5 delicious durian varieties which make for great desserts -
1. Mao Shan Wang
The Gist: Top variety, bittersweet, rich and creamy, deep yellow flesh with a star-fish like pattern at the base of stem
The hybrid is widely considered as the top variety for its complex bittersweet taste, with equal parts bitter and sweet. Pry open the round thorny shell and sink your teeth into a pillowy creamy texture, but watch the seed – they’re usually big. Also known as Musang King, its name comes from the Gua Musang district in the north-east state of Kelantan, where it is grown in abundance. Malaysia is the top exporter of Mao Shang Wang, with some 500, 000 durian plantations in the eastern state of Pahang that specialises in the variety. Though available in steady supply, its popularity often means it’s usually sold for twice the price of an average durian. To identify, look out for a starfish-like pattern at the base of the stem. Make a great cheesecake with the Mao Shan Wang right here.
The Gist: Strong and bitter with an alcoholic kick, pale white-yellow flesh, usually smaller in size than other varieties
If you like your durian strong, bitter and with an alcoholic kick, XO is the one to pick. It’s not as brilliantly yellow as the Mao Shan Wang, it’s more of a faint yellow. But what it lacks in colour, it makes up for in taste. Its size though, is probably half the size of an average Mao Shan Wang, so you’ll have to buy a few to go around. Use it in a sweet dessert for a nice bitter buzz, like this delicious durian creme brulee.
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The Gist: Generally mild taste, slightly bitter, pale yellow flesh in a yellow-green shell
A mild-mannered durian all around, this is your pick if you like durians with milder flavours and a touch of bitterness. Compared to the XO or Black Pearl, it is significantly less bitter than both varieties. Bring out its pleasant taste with some coconut milk and sweet rice soup in this delectable durian recipe.
4. Black Pearl
The Gist: Bitter, smooth and custardy texture, dull yellow-gray flesh with a short stem
A cult-favourite for its slightly bitter taste, smooth and custardy texture. It’s not a brilliant yellow like some of the others, but pale and rather dull-looking. It’s usually smaller in size compared to the rest, but its most distinguishing characteristic is the short, stubby stem. Pair it with rich, deep chocolate in a bite-sized cupcake.
5. Golden Phoenix
The Gist: Bittersweet, runny texture, grey-yellow flesh
This variety is for those who love a light bittersweet kick. Pry it open to find a greyish yellow flesh with a runny texture and rich bitter taste. Seeds are small but abundant - a 1 kg durian could contain as many as 20 seeds. It’s not as widely grown as Mao Shan Wang, so supply is less and usually, pricey. Put some in a batch of light chewable truffles in this popular dessert recipe.
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And a look at two popular sweeter varieties:
6. Red Prawn
The Gist: Sweet, sticky, orange-pink flesh in a dusty brown shell
For those who like their durians sweet and sticky. The Red Prawn, or Ang Hae, gets its name from the shape of a prawn, which is similar to its shell – oval and slightly curving. It stands out from a crowd of green durians because of its dusty pale brown shell. It’s smaller than other varieties, with smaller seeds compared to other varieties. If you decide to buy one, choose one from the Pahang or Johor region. Durian experts say it doesn’t grow well anywhere else, and for that reason, it can cost as much as popular varieties like the Mao Shan Wang.
The Gist: Friendly favourite, creamy, pleasantly balanced sweet-bitter taste, dull yellow flesh in a bright green shell
First-time trying durian? Well, the D24 variety is an ideal choice for its balanced sweet and bitter notes. Think the Mao Shan Wang, but friendlier and less punchy. The D24 also It’s considered the starter guide to durians. To identify, look out for a brown ring at the base of the stem.
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How To Choose A Good Durian – See, Smell, Feel
How to Peel A Durian
Delicious Durian Dessert Recipes
For our international readers, a bit about the durian - it's a Southeast Asian fruit that looks like a green football with spikes. Its luxuriously rich and custardy texture, and complex sweet bitter flesh makes it great for desserts. First though, you've got to get past its signature sulphury smell - the kind of odour that exists in volcanoes. In fact, some say it's so nauseating that even carrying a durian on public transport is not allowed by some countries in Southeast Asia. Considered a delicacy there, it's common to pay a three-figure sum for just two durians! How's that for the King of Fruits?