It’s not unheard of to find out that some of the most popular durian cultivars today were the offsprings of other durians.
A big reason why these seedlings turned out different from their parent tree was that to clone a cultivar, one would want to graft it instead of nurturing it’s seeds.
It’s a wonder that if these great durians actually came from a mother tree itself, then the fruits from the mother must be absolutely sensational.
However, the odds are that those mother trees have long succumbed to the circle of life.
And these cultivars of today will eventually become the mother trees of other cultivars for generations to come.
One such cultivar that seems to have a knack for producing superstars from it’s seedlings is khun poh.
Khun poh currently has at least 2 species grown from it’s seeds that have become widely recognized, especially in Penang.
Namely little red (小红 or xiao hong) and 600.
The story with little red was that a grandson of the late Liew Kun Poh (of which khun poh ang bak was named after) planted a seed from the mother tree near the family farmhouse. And instead of getting another khun poh tree, he ended up with a variation of it. He named the fruit little red.
It promptly became a champion durian in 1993.
As of today, that mother tree is still going strong and Mr Liew (the grandson) sells fruits from it almost exclusively at his own durian stall near the Dragon Wish temple (玄龙双祝宫) at Sungai Pinang in the Balik Pulau area. Inventory for other distributors come from other old trees grown on the farm.
Yet it’s not a breeze to procure fruits from the mother tree as they will be gobbled up quickly if there are any leftovers after fulfilling the reservations made months in advance.
I consider myself fortunate to have grab one via a friend who chases durians more aggressively than me.
Features of little red durian
The size of little red is medium to big. Often going over 2kg.
It has a much brighter green husk compared to khun poh.
The husk bulges at each lobe, creating slight humps on the husk. Yet overall, the shape is still considered quite oval when observed from afar.
The thorns are what is categorized as hooked and convex.
The lines of seams can be observed on areas where the spikes curve inwards and become noticeably smaller. It won’t be hard to spot.
If we are to summarize the external outlook of little red, it basically looks just like khun poh except that the husk colour is of a fresher shade of green. Like father like son… or should we say like mother like daughter…
The difference between these two are clearer to see when you open them up and place them side by side.
The fruitlets of little red are typically yellow like banana skin. However, the one I received from the old tree was more like gold.
Khun poh on the other hand, is more of a deep yellow bordering on red in the colour spectrum. They don’t call it ang bak for nothing as ang bak basically means red meat in hokkien.
The skin of little red is also thicker in that it does not tear as easily as khun poh which is more susceptible to disturbances.
Biting down on the flesh, you’d notice that this is one wet durian with very soft flesh. Clearly keeping the legacy of khun poh alive.
It’s like having a sundae ice-cream by scooping with your fingers.
This means that when you are choosing durians by shaking and knocking it, don’t do it with too much force or you are going to see a big mess when you open it up.
The taste is more sweet than bitter. With a hint of floral aroma.
If you’ve had khun poh and loved it, little red is probably not going to tickle your pickle. But if khun poh was too strong for you, then little red might be able to toe that balance between good and bad.
With that said, the subtle flavour makes it a great introduction durian for those who are still sitting on the fence about trying durians for the first time.
Little red harvest season
Little red is also an early harvest durian like it’s parent. And starts becoming available in markets around May.
Because of it’s affordable price and pedigree from it’s lineage, it is a durian that usually has demand higher than supply.
Ordering them can feel like buying Gucci at an outlet at half price. Yet surely you’d know that most of the inventory at factory outlets are essentially products that have marginally failed quality assurance.
Except that in this case, while xiao hong is a classy durian in it’s own right, the shadow that it’s parent casts can be too daunting to step out of.