Get The Boss Treatment With Durian Taukeh
A lot of people would not like to admit it. But it is true that especially in the world today, a lot of products and services just don’t cater to the masses.
They were conceptualized exclusively with the highend and premium market in mind. Think Tiffany jewelry, Louis Vuitton handbags, and Mercedes convertibles. Even sashimi and beef has a cut for regular customers, and a special cut for VIPs.
But of course, this market differentiation is made possible because the consumers with much higher spending power are willing to part with much more money for better quality.
Yet this value to price is not a proportionate increase. A product that is double the price of a variant does not mean that it delivers twice the value of the inferior one.
In fact, it is often the case that we pay a much higher price for just a marginal increase in value. But we are still willing to be held hostage by retailers because we think that we are buying something that has no equal… on top of the food chain…
This mentality was what led people to adulate durian taukeh in the 1950s.
The difference here is that the price started as very affordable. But as the rumours of the delightful taste of durian taukeh spread like wildfire, the price spiked so much and so fast that only the rich were able to afford it.
When regular kampung durians were going at 50 cents during those times, durian taukeh was selling at 10 times that price.
Some of you might think that if we factor in inflation, the price of this durian would still be affordable today hovering maybe around the RM30 to RM40 mark. But that was then and this is now.
Those were the days when there was no influencer marketing, product placement and facebook ads. There was no black thorn to set the pace, no outliers like tupai king to rock the boat, or standard musang king to compare with. There were however, other kampung durians like tok kong and red flower to offer some competition. But their prices didn’t hold a candle to the boss.
You might be wondering where did all that buying power came from in the old days to drive the upspear of prices. Well it came from the British community when Malaysia was still a colony of the British empire back then.
There’s a little back story that would tie all these loose ends together. A big reason why this cultivar became so popular with caucasians was that the mother tree stood proudly on Sungai Ara land that came under the estate of none other than the legendary David Brown.
And it was said that the revered figure loved durian boss so much that he recommended it to the people around him and sang Everything I Do I Do It For You to the durian every night. However I can’t verify this latter detail.
Anyway this durian became so expensive that only entrepreneurs and business owners who were well-to-do were able to afford it. Thus, the name durian taukeh materialised.
Taukeh, sometimes spelled as tauke or towkay, is actually a Hokkien term 头家. The words literally means head of the house. But is actually an expression referring to a boss. So it’s called durian taukeh by locals and durian boss by English-only speakers.
Features of Durian Taukeh
The physical look of this kampung cultivar can vary wildly.
Durian veterans attribute this husk irregularity to the durian taukehs today coming from seedlings of the mother tree which is long gone. Grafting techniques in the past were just not as immaculate as how it is today. The impulse was to plant the seeds.
The old-timers also describe the original physical shape of the boss as elongated with a sharp pointed bottom. Uniformly shaped thorns. And when you open it up, you’d find single seeds of aril like what can be observed with tian song.
But no matter whether it looks like gang hai or D14 today, bite into one and you’d learn quickly that it is not what gang hai or D14 typically taste like. Far from it.
Does the taste justify it’s unrivalled reputation of the past?
The flavour is super strong in the arena of tekka, super sticky that reminds of ganja, and super dry in the manner of the apparel brand with the same namesake or like D11. It is mildy sweet and mildly bitter. More sweet than it is bitter. And carries a subtle alcohol taste, but not as complex as golden phoenix.
Maybe it’s the scarcity factor that makes it so desirable to durian chasers. Maybe it’s an ego trip to have a taste of history. Or maybe it’s the never ending quest to taste the ultimate durian.
If I get to choose any 3 durians in the best quality to feast on, one of the my picks would be prime durian taukeh. The other two is my little secret.
Consider that the bosses available today are probably short on quality compared to the original… and they are still such a show-stopper. I can only imagine how good the authentic original was.
Living in the past has it’s pros… even if there’s no WIFI…
Taukeh harvest season
This is a mid season harvest.
But I think knowing this matters very little as it would be very hard to procure it. Jumping though so many hoops like performing in a circus, I had to contact contacts to contact their contacts who would contact the contact.
And I was left scratching my head later when a fellow durian lover told me how easily he got his towkay from a private reservation.
If you are not a Penang local, and in the off chance that you see it in a stall in some extraordinary circumstances. My advice is to grab it. Or you might never get the opportunity again.