For durian lovers who have had their fair share of frequent feasting, many will eventually develop an acquired taste for the king of fruits.
I’m referring to those who have already consumed so much of top cultivars like Musang King that they no longer feel the urge to pop a fruitlet into their mouths whenever the opportunity arises.
Don’t get me wrong.
It’s not that mao shang wang is a premium durian that caters to the materialistic. It’s just that when you’ve been around the block, you tend to realize what will fix your durian desire. And you don’t have to pay over-the-top prices to achieve that moment of enlightenment.
For example, when you have visited Bangkok so many times that you have stopped counting, the places you visit when you are there will absolutely be different that the places of interest most tourist go to.
This is partly because there are places marketed and catered to the masses. And then there are those places for those in-the-know where you get better quality for the same prices, or similar value for a fraction of the price.
It’s all about value.
As the market for durian has exploded in recent years, demand for top cultivars have driven the price on a straight upward trajectory.
Locals in places like Thailand and Malaysia are sometimes priced out of savoring their favorite durians like black thorn. Farmers are now setting aside their best harvests for export to places (ahem… China) where consumers are willing to pay more.
This has resulted in a growing restless market of durianers who need to get their durian withdrawal symptoms fixed… with cheaper alternatives with less competitive demand.
Let’s put it this way. Would you pay a high price for an average fruit of a top cultivar, or would you pay half that price for a top quality fruit from a less prestigious cultivar?
Rookies might choose the former. And understandably so. They want to taste the best brands, especially when they are not obsessive durianers. But when you are an established old-timer, good value is what you are after.
This leads us to durian Tawa that has the official registration number D162.
It’s a clone that has been around for a while. But obviously does not share the same fanfare as XO or musang king.
The narrative is that this cultivar was conceptualized in the farms of Selangor. But some would attest that it originated from Tawau city in Sabah. Thus the name.
It’s an origin story that is worth investigating.
Durian Tawa is generally classified in the bitter category with most people agreeing that it is more bitter than the fancier XO. Yet it can carry a clear taste of sweetness with it’s strength of sweetness depending on how ripe the fruit is.
The bitterness and sweetness also seem to face off on a balancing scale. The more bitter it is, the less sweet. And vice-versa.
While not conclusive, many consumers have deduced that the less ripe the fruit is, the drier the flesh would be, and the sweeter it would taste.
I wouldn’t oppose that description.
But I guess that if you are choosing durian tawa, you are going for it’s bitter taste. So it’s not surprising that most buyers would go for those that are ripe.
From my experience, the level of bitterness can swing wildly. Some would be exhilarating with bitterness, and some only slightly bitter that urges you to crack open another one.
I say this with the assumption that tawa caters to bitter lovers.
Ripe Tawas come with flesh that feels like the softest pudding you have ever allowed to enter your mouth. Using the metaphor of “melting in your mouth” is no exaggeration here. And the bitter aftertaste that you get can get you high… if you are into those expressions.
Because durians typically start to ripe from the bottom, you can possibly get a taste of both extremes if the Tawa you’ve picked is half-riped. So you get half in creamy-wet and half in creamy-dry pulps. You can then determine which does a better job at popping off your cherry.
Feature of Tawa durian
The typical size of Tawas are generally medium to big. They seldom come in small sizes like those of the golden phoenix.
The shape of the exterior husk is elongated to oblong. Sort of like a classic oval.
The color is faded green or yellow-green. Most tawas you find will not be homogeneous in colour.
The stems and spikes are considered short by durian standards. Fat and blocky at the sides. And thinner and a little more clusterd at the top and bottom.
Seams can appear obvious even to the untrained eye where spikes from different pods converge with each other.
The distinctive feature of durian Tawa is the depressed mark at the bottom of the fruit. Something like D24, but bolder. For the imaginative crowd, it can sometimes look like a shape resembling that of a blooming flower.
One useful feature of this durian is that the seams can be clearly visible. Simple reading of the thorn pattern would enable one to observe them. Meaning a lesser likelihood of making mistakes when opening them.
Hey! Not everyone’s an expert durian opener who can gut it in 15 seconds.
When you open up the fruit, you will often find that considerable areas of the bottom are full husk with no storage pockets for fruitlets to grow into. Maybe the tree knows that it’s fruits would fall from it’s branches and a thicker bottom husk would help buffer the impact from the drop. Keeping the pulps beautifully in place in pristine condition.
Saying that, the flesh to fruit ratio of tawa is actually very reasonable. In fact, many people would probably consider it above average.
Which is yet another reason why this particular cultivar is very good value for money for those who love bitter durians.
According to the street standards of durian sellers, the husk is considered thin.
The flesh is pale yellow with many consumers affectionately calling it a milky yellow. Partly as a tribute to it’s texture.
Durian tawa harvest season
Considering how frantic the niche market that tawa serves is, the supply of durian tawa is actually very limited.
This is mostly due to the unpredictable harvest that the tree produces.
Unlike trees that commonly provide an annual harvest at an approximate period of time, tawa harvests that are large enough to shift to mass markets can occur as infrequently as once every 2 to 3 years. Usually around the month of March.
And it is for this reason that there is no massive influx of growers who set aside acres of land for this variant. It simply does not make good economic sense to grow them in place of more predictable profit generators like musang king.
However when tawa is available, you can bet that they would be sold out within hours as sellers text their customers who have requested to be urgently alerted of tawa’s arrival.
The very affordable price of about $9/kg, occasionally rising up to $12/kg, makes it a really good value buy.
Much cheaper than XO, with some who claims it being more XO than XO.