A beginner’s guide to different types of durian

How do you tell a Mao Shan Wang durian apart from Red Prawn? And which ones are sweet or have a bittersweet ending?

Back in the 1970s, a durian was just a durian to most people. Then hybrids appeared on the market in the 1980s, with a different number attached to each cultivar.

The D24 was most prized at the time and named Sultan for its “royal” standing. But there are subtle differences even among the same cultivar and the more premium fruit was called XO, which stands for extraordinary.

Since then, more varieties have come onto the market, many with fancy names such as Black Pearl, Green Bamboo, Golden Phoenix and Red Prawn.

Farmers often coin these names to make the durians sell better, says Mr Tommy Lim, 46, a durian enthusiast who conducts appreciation classes.

“Sometimes, the same durians can be called different names because they sound nice and create curiosity among buyers,” he notes.

Such labels, he concedes, are useful for differentiating the characteristics of each cultivar. Durians come in a wide range of flavours, including “mild, milky, metallic, nutty, sweet, bitter, spicy and alcoholic”.

“The various cultivars give customers options. Durians are so subjective and everyone has his favourite,” he adds.

“But if you know your favourite, you don’t have to pay more than you need to.”

So while others are paying top dollar for Mao Shan Wang and Black Thorn, he enjoys his favourite Tawa at a fraction of the price.

This is his personal guide to some popular cultivars sold here. Prices are not included as they fluctuate even during the same season.

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