Unique spin on King of Fruits in Malaysia

Good haul: Lim showing some of the durians which he sells in front of his 169-year-old heritage house in Balik Pulau.
PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

BALIK PULAU - While others promote durian clones like Musang King and Black Thorn, one seller here is going against the grain by specialising in kampung durians and "vintage clones".

Teacher-turned-durian seller Lim Chong Hin, 88, first worked in a durian orchard while he was in primary school.

After teaching in several schools and retiring as a senior assistant, he eventually returned to the orchards.

He has been tending to one particular orchard owned by a company since 1992 and can identify 200 kampung durian variants there.

Since they are not registered varieties, Lim assigned nicknames for them such as Gui Shen (Tortoise God), Zhu Jiao (Pig's Leg) and Siao Hong (Little Red).

Lim, who taught in several schools in Pahang and Kedah before coming back to teach in Balik Pulau in 1970, said the orchard also carried "vintage clones" such as D600 and D15.

"But there are still many kampung durian varieties that I didn't bother to name. I only named those that taste really good.

"Most of the durians this year are sweet. The bitter ones are hard to find this time around.

"Every morning, the workers will pick up the durians and my 57-year-old son will bring them down.

"I sell the durians in front of my 169-year-old heritage house from 10am to 6pm every day," he said.

Lim's regular customer Jennifer Tan, 39, said while she would crave famous clones at the start of every season, she would eventually feel the urge to seek out good kampung durian.

"Musang King is very rich. I feel full after eating just a bit of it.

"But kampung durian tends to be less filling while we still can enjoy all sorts of unique flavours.

"You will never know what to expect when you open a kampung durian and that's part of the surprise," she said.

Tan added, however, that the downside of kampung durians was that the size of the seeds could be large and there would not be much pulp, but the cheaper prices still made them worth the while.

Clone durians are achieved by grafting the stem of a clone, such as Musang King, to the trunk of a mature kampung durian tree.

The original tree will then bear fruit using the genetic material of the grafted stem.