Why The D13 Durian Is Often Passed Off As Red Prawn
Among the many durians that has made a name for itself, some can actually match up very well to better known cultivars in terms of supply.
The D13 durian is one of the cultivars that are produced by the masses and can be commonly found in most durian stalls, even off-season.
In some places, especially in Singapore, the D13 cultivar is often marketed as “red prawn” with no relation to the original red prawn cultivar from Penang.
This play of words is mostly attributed to the fruitlets oddly looking like red prawns in color and shape when the husk is pried open.
In fact, if you put an opened D13 and Penang red prawn side by side without knowing anything about them, the odds are that you would say the D13 is the red prawn.
Try this challenge. It can look more like red prawn than red prawn.
This species of durian is mostly linked to farms in Johor, especially the Muar area, and some people would also class it as one of the kampung breeds of durians because it has no official status in MARDI. The place of birth is Batu 13 in Pagoh which leads to the durian sometimes being referred to as B13.
Other aliases that it goes by are golden bun (金包) and Hock Beng (福明).
In 2022, it was registered with the number D226 and official name Hock 13.
A supposed variation of D13 is D13.5 (D13B). The story behind it was that a sapling grew up differently in a plantation field full of D13s. So it carried this name. It is also known as wulong (乌龙). Wu long, or oolong, is a casual mandarin slang that can mean mistake, wrong, erring, etc.
Features of D13 durians
The D13 outer husk is often in a fresh green colour. Sort of like the colour of aloe vera plants or the colour you’d imagine a grassy meadow to be.
The top half of the husk is also usually, but not always, wider than the bottom half. Giving it a somewhat ovoid look.
For a durian that is generally small in size, it’s spikes look fat and solid like what we see on the imposing armor of warlords in movies.
The fruit’s base has a bald spot like the musang king, but don’t have the star pattern of the latter that runs along the seams.
There’s also a raised little rim of spikes at the top of the fruit where the thorns of the husk meets the stem.
If you are unable to identify a D13 from it’s exterior appearance, don’t worry because you are sure to find it’s interiors amusingly unique.
The pulp of flesh that greets you is dark orange in color. Almost approaching the category of red in the same manner as kun poh ang bak.
Sometimes, the flesh can be of bright orange or brown orange like bronze and gold. Which explains the nickname golden bun.
The fragrant fruitlets of flesh usually take on forms that are shaped like a prawn.
With this combination of color and shape, it’s not surprising that D13s are given the pet name of red prawn.
Talk about riding on the wave of someone else’s fame.
The texture feels firmer than cultivars that are considered soft. And once you put the magical pulp into your mouth, you would realise that it is slightly more sticky than most durians you’ve ever tried.
Flavor-wise, it is sweet with a hint of floral vanilla in the mix. The smell is also much less pungent than the most powerful of durians. Making them suitable for you to stealthily sneak into some public places. Don’t quote me on this.
The more subtle aroma and taste makes them a good choice for those who are new to durians. Surely you don’t want to introduce a friend to durians by pushing them into the deep end of the pool.
The taste consistency achieved by D13 is actually quite impressive. They almost always taste the same. This attribute is a big reason for it’s mass market success in the last decade.
People who buy them will know with confidence what they are going to get.
However, they come with big seeds… giving you less bang for your buck.
And when you get to the seed, you’d discover that it comes with a lot of long funiculous as if the seed is growing long hair. Some might not find this a good user experience.
The taste of this durian is actually quite suited for those who prefer sweetness and the Singapore market seems to appreciate it much more than Malaysia. But it is definitely not in the class of Penang’s original.
That is in a totally different league.
But whatever D13 lacks in quality, it sure makes up for it with quantity. It could very well be the most widespread durian in Singapore after mao shan wang.
D13 harvest season
The D13 harvest can generally be said to stagger between May and December. With it’s peak season around May and June.
When the peak period is over, one should still be able to find D13s quite common. Just that they don’t stack up like pyramids during peak periods.
This is because the supply of D13 durians is quite strongly supported by a large number of big plantations in Johor unlike other rare cultivars like black thorn. And it’s fairly common for plantations to have “extra” unexpected harvests.
Because of the large seeds, it would be of a lesser risk to buy D13s unhusked.
You don’t want to get a durian with few fruitlets and little flesh!
The typical whole durian would have about 20% to 30% fruitlets. If the fruitlets come with gigantic seeds, then you could potentially be looking at just 150g to 250g of consumable flesh from a 1kg durian fruit.
D13s are mostly priced at about $20 to $30 per 500g of durian fruitlets in a box which consist of flesh plus seed. This is fast becoming the preferred way to sell in Singapore rather than the typical price per kilogram consisting of the whole fruit.
Unethical sellers trying to pass off D13 as the original red prawn, or sometimes even outrageously as black thorn, often only sell unhusked lobes of fruitlets nicely packed in a styrofoam box wrapped in cling-wrap. This is partly to prevent buyers from investigating it’s authenticity from observing it’s exterior husk.
If you don’t feel that it taste like a premium durian, then the odds are that it is not the original red prawn.
The whole fruit can go for anywhere between $9/kg to $12/kg. Sometimes even hitting lows of $5 per fruit. Hock Beng, which is said to be the premium variant of it, will understandably be priced a little higher.
Sellers who actually have a heart would often label D13 as Singapore red prawn to differentiate from the original prawn. So much so that authentic red prawn has to be labelled Penang red prawn in order for patrons who know their prawns to feel more assured.
It might be fine if you are paying for D13 at it’s market price. But it would leave a bitter taste in your mouth should you be misled into paying the price of Penang red prawn for a D13, even though this is not a cultivar known for bitterness.
The passing off of D13 as D175 has hurt it’s reputation, and does a disservice to what a good durian it actually is. Which is probably why D13 does not enjoy the same level of popularity in Malaysia as it does in Singapore.
It is actually a durian that delivers very good value for it’s price.
It has a high yield, carries a brilliant colour, can be very affordable, quite consistent with ripeness and taste, and can sometimes carry the same bitterness associated with the premium cultivars.