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Fresh vs Frozen Musang King D197

Having finally got the privilege to taste fresh chilled Musang King D197 from Malaysia, I now understand how different the flavour experience can be with fresh vs frozen.

When friends used to describe the Musang King as richly bittersweet like coffee, I was dubious. None of the frozen-thawed MKs I’ve had in Sydney tasted like what they described. I’ve only ever experienced flat, custard sweet with any mild bitterness, only if the durian was “newly” arrived from Malaysia.

The longer the durians sat in the freezer, and they can last up to 2 years frozen, the more it loses its flavour characteristics. 

I’ve lived in Sydney over 13 years. The last durian clone that was king when I left Malaysia was the D24. I never even heard of the Musang King. Apparently it was originally called “Raja Kunyit” (literally King Turmeric for its colour). Durian lovers then didn’t even enjoy its bitterness.

I personally didn’t rate the frozen Musang King. Occasionally, I would experience a whole frozen MK durian from one season - and it would have a heavy bitter hit! I don’t drink coffee. So the bitterness stood out on my palate.

I later learned from Year of the Durian, Lindsay Gasik, that what we describe as “bitter” actually is the “alcoholic” trait of a ripening durian. The strong fermented ripening flavour, before the flesh goes sour, is more prominent in some durian clones over others. I understood, it should be a little like a Kahlua custard then.

If this was the case, then it made sense that nitrogen frozen Musang King durians would not be able to retain much of the ripened alcoholic taste if its freezing process has crystalised the pulp.

Suddenly it was about the freezing process. Did the factory capture the durian at the right time? Was it early? It’s almost as though the nitro freezing captures the moment of each individual fruit’s ripening stage.

I don’t know this as a fact, but it made common sense. We are dealing with a live fruit, known for emitting sulphuric gas, energy of some sort. Frozen durians arrive with almost no smell. It only comes alive as it defrosts.

18 months of trading frozen imported durian and Australian fresh durian, I continue to learn more. Every single durian was an experience - regardless fresh or frozen, or country of origin.

Fresh was always best, in my books. Frozen catered to a craving. But fresh is the real deal - a full sensory experience of nature’s freak king.

So when Durian King Australia gave The Thorny Fruit Co the opportunity to bring their fresh chilled AA-grade Musang King, I jumped at the chance.

There were two key experience I was expecting - the popular bittersweet alcoholic hit flavour profile, and the C02 fizz.

I definitely got that on my first bite into the creamy golden pulp. And it’s growing on me - more so when the Musang King is at room temperature. I got it now - fresh Musang King is the way to go for the full flavour palate experience. It was definitely the most pungent durian I’ve tasted in Australia.

As for the contentious C02 fizziness, I had presumed its interaction with the dry ice in the shipping esky has heightened its atmospheric content. Tightly sealed, the fresh durian pulp could not breathe.

I stood corrected. The C02 fizziness was the durians fermenting. Malaysian durians are tree-dropped and enjoyed for its pungent ripeness. So it’s no surprise this fresh chilled durian is alive, still ripening during shipment. Without its husk, the pulp ripens at a different rate. Hence the production of C02 in reaction to the cold.

That fizzy pulp seem to be the bane of customers’ palate - for those used to frozen durians, and pre-aired fresh pulp. But you know what, I reckon the fizz is a good indicator that your durians are freshly chilled never frozen. It wouldn’t be alive if it was snap frozen. You know, like kombucha,

And if you don’t like the fizz, just air your pulp to room temperature (36°C). Might take 10-40mins or more depending on how long it’s been chilled.

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