What “Dream Lover” D2 Dato Nina Durian Is Famous For
In Malaysia, Dato is an official title conferred by a Sultan as recognition to a tribal chief.
And if this title makes it’s onto the name of a durian, you’d implicitly know that you are on to something that shouldn’t be scuffed at.
Which is why when you first hear the name D2 Dato Nina, it would be sure to raise eyebrows.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not familiar with the accomplishments of Dato Nina, the person. All I know is that he/she was into agriculture. I tried looking up his/her history online and couldn’t find any. Not even a Wikipedia page.
I even asked a tour guide along Jonker Walk when I was on a weekend trip and was met with a puzzled look.
And the mother tree was supposedly located in the Ayer Molek area of Melaka.
What I am certain of is that his/her great contribution to the durian world has left a legacy that will most probably live forever.
While the official registration number D2 offers a hint of how very long ago (1934) this cultivar was officially registered into the books, after trying it you’d be baffled at how this is not a superstar durian that can be found en mass today like musang king.
It has had a jumpstart of so many years to become a household name but it isn’t so today. Maybe it was just that the era in those days make it very difficult to market to the masses. Maybe it had something to do with the war. Too much time has passed and D2 has somehow missed the boat that sails towards mass hysteria.
It’s Chinese courtesy name is affectionately called meng zhong qing ren (梦中情人) which translates to Dream Lover. Not to be confused with D103 which goes by the same Chinese name.
I have yet to learn about the origin story behind that pet name. Maybe the story was that a pair of star-crossed lovers from Andromeda became soulmates after sharing this durian. Who knows.
But I noticed that sellers frequently use the phrase tian zhong dai ku (甜中带苦) which means that there is bitterness in the midst of sweetness. While this is a short general description that can be used to fairly describe a number of cultivars, it’s used frequently enough on this one to be distinctive.
Don’t that phrase just sound like a romance we have all been involved in at some point in life?
This durian is currently sporadically found in durian stores in Malacca, Penang and Perak just to name a few.
The supply dries up quickly. And there is no shortage of sellers pushing it. You can bet that people in-the-know are pre-ordering them like an emotionless insider trader.
Imagine if it is mentioned in the same breath as mao shan wang a decade later, and you can say with your head held high that you have tried it donkey years ago!
As of now, it is scarce enough in other countries like Singapore that you’d be forgiven to think that it’s a variant without an official registration number… and considered a kampung durian.
Which is really a shame because this is definitely one spectacular cultivar that deserves much more infamy.
Features of D2 durian
This durian is generally small to medium in size. With the occasional large ones.
The husk shape is elongated rounded with a short thick stem.
The bottom has an indent resembling that of the Sultan king. But you probably won’t find any magician sellers doing a sleight of hand on this one. It can also spot a star shape like MSW but more faded and less spectacular.
Most D2s found these days are somewhat kidney shaped with the top slightly tighter than the broader bottom area. Some would liken it to pear shape. Some can mimic the appearance of hor lor. I say it’s a green spiky brinjal.
But you can also find those that are more rounded.
The expert insider talk is that those that are rounded come from trees planted from seedlings. And those that are kidney shaped come from grafted trees. But what’s more interesting is that the grafted trees are the ones that produce the type of D2 the fans buzz about. Afterall, it’s the clone of the original tree.
It’s spikes are short, concave and hooked. Very similar style as D175. Yet their size is oddly uniform with more or less the same size from top to bottom.
Most people should be able to easily handle one without problem.
The shape coupled with the light-green husk can sometimes trick you into thinking it’s mao shan wang when observed from afar.
As you start cracking this one open, you’d realise what this durian is most famous for.
It is notoriously difficult to open!
Forget about cleanly separating the pods beautiful like a trained surgeon. It’s as tight as being held together with superglue.
A comparable durian with the same feature I can think of is tekka.
For those who have often opened their own durians but have never had a go at D2, don’t think for a moment that I’m exaggerating. Don’t let your overconfidence cause you to hurt yourself. The stubbornness in this fruit demands respect.
Be cautious with your knives, choppers, screwdriver, power drills, gloves and baseball bats, chainsaws, etc. Control your strength and don’t go into beast mode.
This is the one durian that can make the most experienced durian sellers look like amateurs even though they open hundreds of durians a day.
The irony is that the thickness of the outer husk is considered thin by durian standards. Which means that if you drop it too hard, the flesh can be smashed in or smudged.
It’s the core of D2 that is held together like a couple of abalone lovers.
When you open up the husk, you would be greeted by bulging pulps with wrinkly thin skin. They are dull orangy yellow that gives you the impression of bronze.
The colour appearance sometimes reminds me of black thorn.
When I had my first dato nina decades ago, I remember the flesh to be of a more reddish-orange like khun poh. The colour has changed in modern times.
At this point, it’s worth a reminder that we are talking about a generally small sized durian here.
So even though the fruitlets can visually look huge, it is a matter of perspective.
However, the seeds are definitely old-school regular size. As many of us have been pampered by the small seeds of golden phoenix and black pearl, dream lover seeds would typically be classified as big compared to those benchmarks.
Occasionally, you might find small flat seeds. But that is not a consistent characteristic.
My hit rate with big and small seeds is about 50-50. Often times a fruit can be a good mix of both with small seeds 10 times smaller than the big ones even though they come from the same fruit.
Most durians can be categorized as sweet or bitter. And many are said to be sweet with a bitter aftertaste.
D2 Dato Nina is one that I would say is bitter and sweet. With one matching the other at an almost identical level. Sort of like a game of intense push-pull that the most crazy courtship feels like.
There is no overpowering in-your-face aroma or explosion-in-your-mouth experience that some cultivars like capri are said to be able to trigger here. But it is also no slouch in this category.
The taste is as close to what I would described as cultured. Whatever that means. And dare I say it… maybe even refined.
Imagine what you’d expect a quality piece of exquisitely done steak taste like in a fancy restaurant. It may not be Kobe beef, but it is definitely good premium stuff.
Saying that, I have not tried enough of this over different seasons and harvests to have a better grasp of it’s consistency.
It’s just not one of those which you can easily walk into a store and pick it up anytime you want.
What is sure is that dream lover has a lot going for it. The smoldering fanfare can attest to that.
D2 Dato Nina harvest season
This is a durian that has an early harvest compared to the most popular clones. Supposedly around the last week of June to July.
In fact this could be a main reason why sellers appear to be pushing them from time to time…
… because the supply comes at the time when others like red prawn have yet to make their scheduled grand entrance.
Since this is a cultivar that has been around for ages, a lot of farms will have old trees. But few will have an orchard with a considerable number of them.
If you do find D2 sitting in a stall, the chances of it being from an old tree is probably higher than from a young tree. But remember what I mentioned earlier about fruits from seedlings and saplings.
Because this variety does not garner the same mass demand as other fan favorites like musang king, it can be priced rather affordably of about $6/kg to $12/kg.
Yet this can also be the next cultivar to take the mass market by storm like a veteran singer making a comeback. If there is a good supply allowing more people to try it, it can easily harness a reputation as highly regarded as green bamboo.