There has always been an interesting allure of nostalgia with popular products.
When you get so engrossed in something you like or love, an invisible force tends to pull you in to investigate it’s history with an open mind.
For example, when you find yourself falling in love with the tune of a remade ballad, you would naturally want to hear what the original sounds like when it first went on the airwaves decades ago.
Or when you realised that you worship a particular footballer, you’d want to pull up some of the videos of him playing when he was young.
Sometimes, so many changes have been made to a product that consumers go back to the retro version as they realised that the old version should never have been tampered with.
For example, apparel designs getting more fancy and the back-to-basics movement rolled in years ago.
Or that modern telephones just lack the majesty that rustic telephones bring to home interiors.
Those were the days when the seductive durian taste alone was the number 1 factor that made the fruit so alluring. It was before modern methods of cultivating and grafting brought about the much improved durians available today.
And the durian that was on the lips of most durianers was Gang Hai.
Gang Hai is the Hokkien pronunciation of the mandarin word 江海. A term that literally translates to river sea. Good luck making sense out of that. But I’m sure there is a fascinating origin story about how this name came about.
It is a cultivar from Johor and also goes by the moniker D1. It is generally classified under a casual category of durians labelled Segamat durians. Segamat being the name of a region in Johor, Malaysia.
While it is commonly referred to as D1, it looks very different from the D1 in the official registry of fruits in Malaysia. So either it has evolved over time or they are not the same durians.
There those in the durian circle that insist that this is actually D208. I’ll leave it for you to decide.
Unlike modern durians with a strong aroma like mao shan wang, gang hai does not have a strong enough scent capable of engulfing an entire house. In fact, many might not even notice it’s aroma at all.
With how the quality of durian tastes are rated these days, it hard for gang hai durians to stand out. But it’s popularity comes from the good-old-fashioned taste that people who want to reminiscent the past crave for.
The flesh itself feels dry. It would remind you of popular Thai durians like Monthong. And unlike voluptuously creamy durians like black thorn, gang hai flesh actually has a lot of fibre. Giving one the extra task of chewing before devouring.
While most people these days prefer milky creamy flesh that melts in your mouth, consuming gang hai would require you to chew so as to squeeze out the flavour contained in the pulp.
It might be surprising to some. But durians that require chewing has a huge following as well. Just look at Thailand durians as proof in point.
If you are looking for a durian with a fiercely loyal following even though it’s no longer enjoying the fame it once had, then Gang Hai would be one worthy of a try.
Features of gang hai durian
The durian itself is rather small in size. Sort of like jin feng.
Couple that with a thick husk, consumers would be excused for feeling like they are not getting a bang for their buck.
But the pulp comes with a rather small seed, which sort of makes up for the small-looking serving.
In fact, it has a flesh-to-seed ratio that is higher than average.
The small size and drier consistency has led to it be described as a popcorn durian. Because you can consume it like popcorn.
The shape and size of the thorns are rather consistent. And sort of as uniform as it gets in terms of durian standards.
The strength of the taste can be described to be soft and mildly sweet. So this can be suitable for those who don’t intend to get their mouths overcome by durian taste.
It also implies that those who go for bitter or bitter sweet durians might be disappointed.
The lighter yellow tone flesh itself is considered dry as mentioned earlier. So you might want to pair it with a drink, or with a creamier durian if you are trying it for the first time.
Gang hai harvest season
Because of how the peculiar tastes of durianers has changed with the times, there are not many plantations with a huge crop of gang hai.
Add that to the typically short harvest season that ranges between the period of June and July, there is a very limited window of opportunity to grab them as they hit the shelves… if you can find them.
Consider that this is a durian with die-hard fans. Many of whom book and reserve gang hai from sellers before they are even scheduled to arrive. So the inventory often times disappear within hours of arrival.
It’s prices range from between $15/kg to $20/kg. Which is not in the range of premium durians, but not exactly cheap either.
The strength of the pricing is due more to the low supply rather than high demand.
If you consider yourself a durian hunter or a durian connoisseur, this is one durian that you simply have to at least try once so that you can cross it out in your bucket list.
It will help you appreciate the past and be grateful for what is available today.
After all, if classic durians like gang hai were never around to create a buzz around durians decades ago, we might not have arrived to where we are today.