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Durian is the native fruit in South-eastern Asia and known as the ‘king of fruits’. Durian has a distinct large size, unique and strong odour and hard thorn-covered husk. Different people have different thoughts about durian, some may think that durian has a pleasantly sweet fragrance, but some people think that it has an unpleasant odour that similar to the smell of garlic or rotten fish and it makes them feel disgusting. This is also one of the reasons that public occasions have the sign that shows durian as a prohibited item. There are also many durian products that quite popular in our daily life such as durian flavour ice cream, durian chocolate, durian puff and many more.
Everyone knows Durian, given its popularity as a local fruit and the king of fruit. However, not many knows about the history of durian as well as how and why durian got its foul odour.
Durian is a fruit infamous for its strong odour, the stench evokes a various reaction from fondness to intense revolt, with the description of rotten onions and raw sewage. The insistent pungent smell of the durian that usually lingers for days has led to regulations in banishing the fruits from several hotels and public transportation in southeast Asia. To emphasize on the strong stench of durian, there were cases in Australia where durian was accidentally left in public place, emitted smells similar to gas leading to people believed that there were gas leakages, causing an emergency evacuation. The reason behind the notorious smell of durian can be understood by its expansionary pathways that produce volatile sulfur compounds. Volatile sulfur compounds affect many foods as it is the main contributors to the characteristic flavours and off-flavours. Besides the expansionary pathways that produce volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), it is also discovered that one of these VSC-expressing genes production is about 2,000 times stronger than in other plants. In addition, a group of scientists have also attempted to figure out how the stench is produced by breaking down the aroma extract of durian, they found 50 compounds responsible for its aroma, with four of the compounds being completely unknown to science. The analysis shows that the foul stench is not produced by a single compound but a mixture of the different chemicals. The compounds are ranged widely, from labels like fruity, skunky to metallic. It is even bewildering when none of the compounds individually match the characteristic of the durian notorious smell.
According to research published by Nature Genetics, durian is closely related to cacao that produces the savoury chocolate, which is surprising given the foul odour durian produced in comparison. In addition, most of the durian genes also relate to the cotton plant, and it is noted that these three plants are of Malvales plant family. Although durian is closely related to cacao, the time they are separated, durian has been busy in making its own characteristic. Durian has duplicated the same genes it shares with cacao to evolve and develop it into different traits. To understand better, it is as if durian cloned itself, one to do its duty, and the others are free to do other things, but in durian case, it is focused on pumping out a foul smell. The multiple additional duplicated genes of durian are focused on creating sulfuric compounds that have provided durian with its distinctive odours.
The Musang King (Mao Shan Wang or Cat Mountain King) is said to be the most delicious durian in the world due to its creamy texture and strong bittersweet taste. It is rich in taste, buttery, smooth and bright yellow flesh. That is why it has another name called Butter Durian. Musang King often set at a high price in the market because there is a high demand in the majority as it is well-known, and the customers do not want to feel left out by eating other variety of durian. To know whether it is a Musang King or not, it has a distinctive star shape at the fruit’s bottom and the spike is fairly far apart from each other.
D24 durians were the most famous breed before the introduction of Musang King. It is also known as Sultan Durian. D24 durians are from Johor, Pahang and Cameron Highlands. The flesh is yellowish in colour and it tastes creamy with a bittersweet taste. It gives you a bitter flavour at first, but it leaves a strong sweet taste in your mouth afterwards. It is relatively less expensive. For its appearance, the spike of D24 durians is cluster compared to Musang King.
The Golden Phoenix which is also called Jin Feng might not very popular in Kuala Lumpur and Penang but it is very famous in Johor and also Singapore. Its spike is similar to a phoenix. The Golden Phoenix has a pale yellow-white colour with a watery texture and the flesh is bittersweet. It has a strong pungent smell. Golden Phoenix is limited stock because it is a pure type durian, it is from the old trees and not a new type creation. It is more popular in Singapore because it is hard to grow and it is only available in Johor. Golden Phoenix has a thin spiky shell that we can open the shell easily with bare hands.
Red Prawn durians are the sweetest durian in the town. We usually get these durians from Pahang or Johor. The name Red Prawn (Hong Xia or Ang Hay) comes from its orange-red flesh colour which is sticky and sweet. The Red Prawn durian has smaller seeds which mean more flesh to eat. The colour of the shell is dusky brown instead of green.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, durian has an impressive vitamin and mineral content. The avid fans of the health benefits of durian are balanced by those who are repulsed by the sight and smell of this powerful fruit.
The mineral which plays a major role in developing and support bone strength and durability such as potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, sodium are also found in durian. The amount of potassium present in durian fulfils about 9% of our body’s daily requirement. The other minerals also in roles to help prevent the development of osteoporosis.
Durian contains high levels of dietary fibre, which is significant in the function of the digestive system. The function of fibre is helping in easing bowel movement and stimulates peristaltic motion and the secretion of digestive and gastric juice. So, it can reduce constipation.
The durian fruit is containing an abundance amount of vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant that actively reduces the number of free radicals in the body and helps to keep the oxidative stress prompted by free radicals. The lower the oxidative stress levels, the slower the appearance of symptoms such as wrinkles, age spots, hair loss and heart disease. With its antioxidant content, the high water content in durian, which will keep our skin hydrated and reduced the dryness.
Anaemia is a medical condition that reduces the level of haemoglobin in the blood. Durian contains high levels of folic acid, iron and copper, which is an important component in the production of red blood cells especially haemoglobin. Hence, anaemic patients can tap the power of this fruit to overcome the health condition.
Durian is the most smell-controversial fruit, its unique smell has intrigued many about how it got its smell. While durian is famous, there are also many types of durian that have different tastes and appearances, this gives us the advantage to choose according to our preference, for example, for someone who likes the bitter taste, they can try D24. Durian is also a provider of many nutrients, eating durian can benefit us greatly, and this can be another reason for people to eat more durian.
Durian is quite a miraculous fruit as it is a contradicting fruit, given how it smells and taste contradict each other, yet it has not stopped anyone from eating it as Alfred Russel Wallace has once commented “the more you eat of it, the less you feel inclined to stop” about durian. Durian is also a very mysterious fruit given how researchers are able to find out its evolution to a durian we know today but unable to explain why it is so polarizing. Its flavour is complex, perhaps it is the most complex tropical fruit.
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