Dong Lai The Pineapple Durian
The spiky husk of durians can often be the single most attention seeking attribute of certain cultivars. It can also be a feature unique enough to be a identify feature.
For example, D14 has it’s oversized thorns, kucing tidur has it’s oddly irregular shapes, hor lor has it’s elongated papaya-like shape, etc. This one we are going to talk about has a curious coloured shell.
Dong lai is a rather unique looking durian originating from the rustic Lenga area of Muar district in Johor.
The name dong lai (东来 or 东莱) literally means come east in Chinese. But the name actually comes from a wordplay of the word ong lai which translates to pineapple in Hokkien dialect. Which is why it is sometimes also referred to as pineapple durian, or directly as huang li (黄梨).
So don’t think that it taste like pineapple fruit. It’s also not going to cut or burn your tongue.
The pineapple moniker is used because the husk colour of dong lai is yellowish. A unique durian colour in this part of Malaysia. There are obviously other durian varieties in this shade of yellow, but this durian is the only notable one with this attribute in this geographic region.
The local pronunciation of donglai sounds like the tung in the word tungsten, and the li in lilac.
It can also frequently be labelled with other spellings including tong lai, tung lai, dung lai, ong lai, etc. They basically sound the same when pronounced. And is mostly just a spelling habit of sellers labelling their inventory.
There’s also a more casual nick name of dong dong chiang which is just another wordplay of the word dong. In this case it’s just jokingly referring to the audio sound effect create by music instruments like cymbals and gongs in lion dance.
Features of dong lai durian
This is a rather huge durian that can easily approach 3kg to 4kg. Many of them weigh in this range.
The overall shape is rounded to oval. Usually a balanced shape, not kidney shaped as that would mean missing segments. More often than not, this durian is fully lobed. It’s elaborated in a while.
As mentioned earlier, the most unique identifying feature of tonglai is the yellow rind. In the region of south Malaysia and Singapore, if you spot a durian in this colour tone at a store, it is most likely tonglai. Some can be as yellow as a sunflower.
Surprisingly, at such a considerable size, donglai is rather easy to open. Just push a knife’s blade into the seam and twist, and the husk will split open with lobes beautifully separating from each other. Even a novice can look like a professional seller who has been opening durians for years.
This also means that you should not drop this fragile durian.
The reason why such a sizable durian is so effortless to open is because the inner husk is quite thin. Which you will quickly find out as it packs quite some flesh inside.
Dong lai is probably one of the highest yielding Malaysian durians in this region. You don’t even need to count the number of seam lines when choosing. Just pick one from the basket and it’s most probably filled with at least 5 lobes of fruitlets.
So crazy high yielding it is that contrary to the pro-level choosing tips of identifying good durians from a lighter weight, tunglai can feel heavier than it looks and still be perfectly ripe to be consumed.
The colour of the flesh is in brilliantly vibrant yellow-orange-red on a smooth surface. Reminding of khun poh and little red. You are less likely see them heavily wrinkled like a sharpei due to a drier tougher aril membrane.
The flesh texture is dry, thick creamy, and a little sticky. While the aril skin membrane can be chewy.
The first bite feels a little like jelly candy similar to gang hai. Only the first bite. Subsequently as it gets passed around by your tongue to the different tastebuds, it feels thick dry creamy. Somewhat like kucing tidur, but less moist.
The taste also comes with a unique floral aroma that is hard to describe just like centipede. I’m not saying that it taste like centipede durian, but that it similarly has a unique aroma to it.
Many of this cultivar also comes with a mix bag of big and small seeds. The small ones can be as small as those found in jinfeng. When we add this to the already considerable yield of fruitlets that come with it, even a seemingly average sized fruit can be more than enough to feed a single full-grown adult consumer. Maybe even 2 or 3 persons.
Dong lai harvest season
The main season is when dong lai starts to enter the market.
It’s a less common fruit that can attract attention due to it’s colour. And the supply is low.
But many stores make a conscious decision not to carry it. This is because it is a rather affordable variety with a high yield of fruitlets. The business implication is that when patrons finish this pineapple of a durian, they might be too full to order more of the other cultivars. So it can negatively impact revenue and bottom line.
For consumes who love value for money sweet durians, this is definitely one that can leave you craving for more. The dry texture also allows you to keep it for longer than the average durian.