Kasap Merah – The Natural Ice-Cream Durian Dessert
The prices of durians have literally exploded in recent years.
It’s like a stock price finally seeing a breakout after it had broken through a resistance level set for some time.
And one of the big reasons is that durians are no longer categorized as a fruit to consumers. They are pretty much marketed as desserts these days.
What other fruits can lay claim to having dedicated stores with the sole intent of selling them. Then providing patrons with seats and tables for them to feast at.
Just take a look at the dessert menu at a 5-star hotel and you get an idea of the types of prices we are talking about.
The difference is that while restaurants sell their premium desserts heavily on aesthetics and presentation, durians fully provide the value in terms of ecstasy delivered to the taste buds.
Even though there are various categories of desserts, one of the most referenced type that is compared to durians is custard. And when you chill them, it is often compared to ice-cream.
A durian that embodies this exact feature is kasap merah. The ice-cream durian.
It can also be referred to as number 17. Not to be confused with D17… even though I have met more than 1 durian store owner who claims that kasap is D17.
Kampung durians can come in all types of shapes, forms and sizes. They are after all, technically a product of natural evolution with little to no human intervention.
Native to Buloh Kasap in Segamat, Kasap merah is one of those kampung durian outliers that turned out very well in terms of how our taste buds perceive them.
The name kasap, as you might have guessed, is a tribute to the geographic area of it’s origin. While the word merah in the name is supposedly a reference to segamat red soil said to produce the best quality kasap durian. Thus the name kasap merah.
In 2020, this durian was successfully registered with MARDI with registration number D211. And assigned the official name Kuala Paya Merah P089, which includes the name of a kampung area in Buloh Kasap.
It should be mentioned that the names kasap and kasap merah are generally used interchangeably to refer to the same durian. But when we discuss the top quality ones, the latter term is the reference point. And because of the inconsistent physical attributes of this cultivar, they can sometimes be thought to refer to two distinctively different durians with such ice-cream qualities. Especially when you find one with yellow-orange flesh which is discussed in the next section.
Features of kasap merah durian
The size of this durian is typically small to medium. Nature probably designed the size by mimicking a pint of Haagen Daz at the frozen section of a hypermarket.
With a roundish looking husk, the thorns are spread out in the manner similar to IOI. But not as needle-like.
A tub of ice-cream would be the center of attention at the grocery store if it is designed in this spiky way.
The thorns can be unusually blocky long and with slim tips. If it falls off the tree and hits someone on the head point-blank, it might very well pierce the skull.
The rim of this durian where the thorns meet the stem is raised, forming a somewhat flat circular area of sunken thorns around a fat looking stem.
As mentioned earlier, while most kasap have the same appearance, there can also be batches that look very different. You won’t be able to identify them as D211 if you try to match them with their official photos. The husk can look very different.
As you rip this durian open, you will be greeted by either one of two pictures depending on how aggressive you have been.
If you had cajoled it open gently with tender loving care, you might be greeted with a smooth puffy appearance that warms your heart like sunset.
If you have coerced it open forcefully like a bag belonging to a pick-pocket who just made you his latest victim, then you can be greeted by a messy hair look that looks more dishevel than a moody khun poh.
This is one sensitive and temperamental durian that will not hesitate to show it’s disapproval of how you handle it.
The reason why this is so is because of it’s liquid-like texture. Something you might have guessed from it’s nickname.
The pulps can sometimes be disproportionately huge in the sense that you could not imagine such mega pulps when looking at the size of the whole fruit.
The fruitlet’s flesh is generally known to be in a hue between white and lemon yellow… closer to the white end. It reminds me of capri. I’ve also seen those that are close to orange yellow. The colour can really vary widely between these two tones depending on where and how it was cultivated. Those from the northern states tend to have a darker colour… and some say that those are a different breed altogether more associated with D206 Tok Merah.
And as you try to grab an aril, you might find yourself grasping at scrambled eggs. Alright that’s an exaggeration. Durians are most definitely vegan 😀
The gist is that you will sometimes be unable to fully remove a fruitlet and only able to pick portions of it off the inner pods. This is one durian where scooping it with a spoon is no understatement. It feels like soft serve ice-cream at McDonald’s.
If you are skilled enough to remove a whole fruitlet, you might have a great career as a surgeon. You might find job listings in the classifieds listing this delicate talent as a requirement.
The even more crazy part of kasap merah that can send you into utter meltdown mode is that it has jiu ji. That is the jargon for small flat seeds like musang king.
The big pulps of aril flesh and small seeds create a combination that will easily make your stomach feel full with just a single fruit. If you take on the challenge of eating 1 whole durian yourself, be prepared to feel groggy from over eating.
The fever over ice-cream durian is mostly down to it’s texture, and the delicacy it transforms into when chilled. But it’s flavour should not be shortchanged.
Despite the nickname, it’s not as sweet as the best thick pudding desserts you’d find in a restaurant’s menu. But at least this time, the sugar is natural. And the durian flavour comes from real actual 100% durian fruit flesh that is close to cholesterol-free. Not from processed durian puree with artificially added ingredients.
It’s no mistake that this magical cultivar is named ice-cream durian in that order of words. Not durian ice-cream.
The challenging part of consuming this chilled is that this is a wet durian. Implying that it can get pretty moist pretty fast once it drops off the tree. Confining it to the fridge for hours will just mean that the flesh has extra hours to turn wetter. Potentially turning it into milkshake rather than staying as ice-cream.
So it really depends how you manage it.
Some people have told me about how they store the whole durian in the fridge before opening it. Some would flash freeze the lobes of fruitlets in the freezer. Then there are those who claim to have attacked it with nitrogen blast. I really don’t know whether that last one can be trusted to be true.
All in all, if you love subtly sweet durians, a top quality kasap merah could easily make it into your top 3 all time favorites.
There’s also a unique ferment flavour that is hard to describe in words. And more often than not, this durian is numbing.
When you chance upon those that are more heavily bitter than they are sweet, my advice is to stay silently calm and enjoy that moment. If you squeal out loud uncontrollably, durianers from all around will converge on you like the zombie apocalypse.
Because of how soft liquid-like the texture of the flesh is, how fresh or how much time the fruit has spent fermenting off the tree will be paramount to your tasting experience.
A considerable challenge is procuring one that is fresh due to how fast this durian turns watery. The odds of it preserving it’s quality while being transported over long distances is low.
Which is probably why many durianers would specially make a trip to Johor or Melaka to get them fresh off the tree.
Take note that this does not mean the freshest ones are the best. But that the time window of peak flavour is closer to the moment of the drop compared to most other durians.
Kasap merah harvest season
This is a mid-season durian with low supply.
Because of the novelty with this cultivar, many farms have their harvests fully booked way before the durians are even ready to fall off the tree.
The speed of which it is best consumed after the drop to enjoy the optimal flavour also means that growers are more than willing to take on these reservations to lessen their risks.
However, I have often seen stores able to secure a good supply of it because of their networks. But they typically sell out very fast after advertising their inventory.
So if you want to try kasap merah, do grab them when you see them available. This is not one to sit on the fence.