The golden phoenix is often considered as one of the originals among it’s admirable peers of premium durians.
This notion gets more and more rooted with each passing year, especially when new hybrid durians enter the market every now and then.
Known in mandarin as jin feng (金凤) which directly translates to golden phoenix, it is one esteemed cultivar that has been around for ages.
The legend behind the name is believed to be bestowed by the a farmer as a tribute to his loving wife. His wife’ name contains the character feng.
It is also known as D198 which represent it’s registration number on the list of Malaysian crops.
In a durian world where plantsmen and agricultural architects constantly push the boundaries of biochemistry to try and create new durian trees to produce new types of durians, the golden phoenix can hold it’s head high and lay to the claim that it’s a natural breed.
The official story would lead us back to Johor which is the state where the registrant’s plantation is located. But the true origins about this phoenix is often contested since it’s said that this durian was already selling all over the place way before the official registration date.
Features of golden phoenix durians
This range of durians is generally of small to average size that don’t weigh more than 1.5kg.
If you compare it side by side with typically larger durians such as the hor lor, the latter would dwarf the golden phoenix easily just by visual observation.
With a shape of mostly round and oval, small sized fruits can sometimes fit nicely right into your hand.
But the small exterior shell is made up for by a thin husk.
This means that your get more flesh from fruitlets per kilogram compared to other cultivars with notoriously thick husks such as tekka.
When we compound this with the small flat seeds hiding inside the pulp, it’s easy to see why many durian lovers find jin feng good value for money.
The small lobes of cute fruitlets mean that this durian is more suitable as a light dessert which will not make you feel full at all after eating.
The husk is mostly a faded and light shade of green, with some going into the grey/brown category.
This colour spectrum really depends on the farm’s climate and landscape where the trees were planted.
The spikes are considered slender and are more clustered. This creates a look of some sort like a wet crew cut.
The spikes are fairly grouped in contingent around the center but gets more concentrated towards the top and bottom. On the two ends, the spikes also start to noticeably curve upwards towards the long stem and downwards towards the bottom seam.
You should also be able to observe 5 seam lines from the bottom view like musang king, but it’s not as obvious and eye-catching as the star-shape at the king’s bottom.
As the husk is thin and the seams observable, one can often find that cranking this durian open from the base can be done with a pair of bare masculine hands.
The rim is also not bald like musang king, but filled with small thorns.
Despite the wordplay, the colour of golden phoenix flesh is anything but gold. It is considered pale yellow by durian standards, but not as close to white as something like black pearl.
The meat has a complex texture.
At first sight, you might conclude that this durian seems too dry to be a premium one. Or that it has yet to ripen. But rest assured that this is how it looks like…
… and your perception of golden phoenix will validate it’s awesome reputation once you take in that first bite.
Amusingly, while it can look matte dry, the texture feels amazingly creamy like butter in the mouth.
It’s gentle sweetness grabs you like your first love, and leaves a bitter after taste… also like your first love.
Depending on your taste buds, some people are able to identify an alcoholic after taste as well as a floral flavour. Others can’t notice it even though they are stuffing their face with the same durian.
Purely from a taste perspective, it shares various characteristics as mao shan wang. Which is why it is sometimes referred to as the poor man’s mao shan wang.
But I disagree.
This is one durian that deserves to be in a class of it’s own. While it is comparable to musang king, it is less in-your-face. Which is what many people might prefer.
Golden phoenix harvest
Even though the golden phoenix is considered a veteran old-timer in the durian world, the supply is surprisingly limited.
This is due to modern plantations these days preferring to cultivate durians that are more mass market and fetches a higher price such as musang king.
The supply mostly, and some say exclusively, comes from Johor. With the bulk of it making it way across the Causeway into Singapore.
While many durian stall might not carry it, established durian stalls tend to have them available most of the time during the harvest season.
It’s peak season starts in May and slowly trickles off in July.
The good part is that it is almost always priced considerably lower than musang king.
When we consider that this durian has a higher flesh yield per kilogram, it can be a very shred buy for durian hunters.
And since it’s average size is also considerable smaller than most of the other premium cultivars, once can actually buy one at an affordable price.
But even though the price can seem affordable, don’t forget that it is still a high quality durian that commands a premium price. So be careful not to go overboard with your purchases.