The Sleeping Cat Durian Is An Open Secret Of Negeri Sembilan
Even in a world as wild as durian naming, those who are sharp eyed might notice that most monikers and aliases are nouns.
It’s not often, and actually unusual, to find a durian named with an adjective. But then again, I guess so radical is this arena that nothing is a surprise to anyone anymore no matter how outrageous the name is.
When the durian named sleeping cat is mentioned, many would instinctively think that this fruit is somewhat related to musang king due to the feline reference in it’s name. But sleeping cat durian is not related to musang king… other than the fact that they are both durio zibethinus.
Sleeping cat, or often termed as kucing tidur in Malay translation, is known as shui mao (睡猫) in Chinese.
If you are to ask a durianer why he or she thinks this durian was named this way, the odds that they would guess that the husk or fruitlets display physical characteristics that resemble the shape or form of a cat that is fast asleep. Maybe in a curled up position.
But the legend goes like this.
Long ago in the rustic town of Mantin (文丁) in Negeri Sembilan, a farmer took over an agricultural farmland and started planning for his plantation. While surveying the land, he discovers a peculiar durian tree and decided to keep it. While caring for it and waiting for it to flower, he noticed that a stray cat always climbed up the tree to rest and sleep. Fearing that the cat might damage the fruits that would eventually grow, he tried various methods to shoo it away. But the cat continued to stand it’s ground, probably because it felt at home on the tree. To much relief, the cat did not cause much damage to the durians. Maybe it was acting as protector to guard the durians from squirrels. And the durians that dropped from the tree was breathtaking. He thus named it sleeping cat.
The origin story is a little similar to that of lipan.
While the most prominent durian from Mantin is probably #1 (文丁1号), the next durian after that is probably a face-off between big red (大红) and kucing tidur.
However, in terms of the scarcity factor, sleeping cat would edge it.
The states that are most associated with durians are Johor, Pahang and Penang. So it’s a little refreshing for a change to discover good durians outside these states.
Depending on where you find this durian, it can also sometimes be labeled as mao yan (猫眼) which translates to cat eyes.
Features of sleeping cat durian
A full sized kuching tidur can be quite big weighing close to 3kg.
But if you’ve come across this durian often enough, you might notice that many comes in rather irregular shapes, creating missing segments.
Durians can sometimes come in odd shapes that people liken to the shape of kidneys. With this durian, you can thrown in expressions like lung, liver, and maybe stomach as well.
The yellowish green husk’s shape and form can sometimes take up very amusing shapes as if they are deformed. So much so that some people say that the name actually comes from the weird shapes that this cultivar takes up resembling a sleeping cat.
The thorns on this thing are big, wide and pyramidal. Sparsely spread across the surface of the rind.
But of course, if you find them in irregular shape, then the spikes are going do dense up in the concave areas. For irregular shaped durians, there are surely going to be concave segments.
The bottom of the durian where the seams meet is slightly pointed.
When this durian is opened, you might experience the strange feeling of half elation and half disappointment.
But the sore thumb that’s hard to miss is that there is a considerable amount of husk packed in the cat.
The average yield for typical durians are about 25% give or take. This one is probably in the ballpark of around 15%-20%. That’s the cat out of the bag.
And since there are going to be lobes that are compressed by the irregularly shaped husk, these lobes are not going to be lined up full of fruitlets.
Saying that, this is one tasty durian with a flavour strong enough to delight the seasoned tongue of any durian connoisseur. It can also carry a hint of cocoa aroma.
The sweetness and bitterness is not reaching towards the upper end of the spectrum. But it is noticeably punchier than the average durian.
The flavour sometimes comes in layers of sweet, gassy and bitter. Maybe even with a little alcohol. What I mean is that the first bite might taste different from the second bite. And so would the third… and so on as you get closer to the seed.
The seeds are regular sized.
Sleeping cat durian harvest season
It is said that there are a total of approximately 100 sleeping cat durian trees in mantin.
And some claim that this is a tree which only produces 1 harvest every 2 years. But this is something that has to be verified as I have noticed them on the market in continuous years. It’s also cultivated by Johor growers.
These cultivation factors, together with the low yield and odd shapes that this durian can often produce makes it unappealing to growers as the commercial value is limited.
Let’s not forget that it would require great marketing effort to give it exposure to the masses. Even though the name is a marketer’s dream.
Yet there’s no discounting the taste of the fruit if you are able to get your hands on one.
The small harvest means that this sleepy cat seldom leaves the home state of Negeri Sembilan. Maybe to Kuala Lumpur and some other parts of Selangor at most. Because local demand can eat up the supply easily.
This can also work both ways.
The scarcity factor might give it an attractive pull factor in markets with higher buying power like Singapore. Which is why it can sometimes be promoted by durian sellers in Singapore with a considerable online presence.