Shen Xian Durian Is The Fairy Fruit
Shen Xian (神仙) is a very old durian variety originating from a rather remote farm in Pahang. Some old-timers contend that the original birth place was in Johor. But this durian is such an elder in this space that it’s hard to trace down the origins.
It’s commonly known as shen xian guo (神仙果) which means the fruit for the deities. It can be called fairy durian, celestial durian, and I’ve even seen it labelled as fairy godmother.
When I first learned about this durian, my instant thought was that when the durian was opened, we would see the lobes of fruitlets taking on a shape of wings like those on an angel. And if you place a lobe of fruitlets on the open husk’s core, you’d see the “fairy” with wings.
Don’t laugh. Durian naming can be even more ludicrous than that.
But the name actually comes from the common Chinese expression of 吃了做神仙 which means it’s so delicious that you’d feel high and enlightened after eating it. This was a long time ago, and the expression might still be trendy then. And thus, the name of Shen Xian was bestowed on this durian.
Any claims that the name came from sleeping with the durian under your pillow to summon the durian fairy is false. That’s the tooth fairy. From a different franchise, a different world.
It’s heydays was in the 1970s when information did not flow as quickly and easily as it is today. So without bei g aware of the many great varieties all over Malaysia, a lot of durianers felt that fairy durian, or deity durian, was outright the best there was in the market. It sold for as much as 3x the average price of durians.
The fairy durian is generally small to medium sized and has thorns that are eerily similar to horlor. So does the thorn arrangement. Even the colour of the husk can resemble the light green hue of hor lor.
In fact, if not for the appearance of the fruitlets, those that are irregularly shaped can easily be misidentified as sleepy cat if we just look at the husk.
The aril flesh spots a colour between the white of capri and soft tint of orange. Something like the transparent looking colour of some old grannys or the fruitlets of an unripe looking little red. Maybe similar to certain batches of kasap.
Those in a darker shade will come with a stronger punch.
The texture is soft and watery sticky. And has a rich durian flavour that taste both subtly sweet and bitter. And of course, it embodies the very definition of an old school taste.
The quality would probably degrade tremendously within a day after the drop. So you should definitely consume it as soon as you purchase it, if possible.
Like musang king, flat seeds are hidden within the heavenly flesh.
A farmer who has kept a single tree on the plantation once told me that there might be less than 10 fairy trees in existence today. And I won’t be surprised if he’s right. The oldest one is about 80 years old. And the fruits can abruptly enter the market during the peak season and disappear just as fast.
A big reason is that people who loved this durian in the past now have much greater buyer power. And they wouldn’t hesitate ordering it just to bring back some of the nostalgic good times they had with friends circled around a kampung table to enjoy this durian.
If you see it available, I guarantee you that the supply would be totally eaten up by consumers in a few hours. If you don’t seize the moment, it will fly right by quickly and you’d wonder if this durian is just a myth.