Tian Song Durian Is A Gift From Heaven
If I have a durian tree sapling for every time that I come across a cultivar with a name that has left me scratching my head, I’d have my own 10 hectare plantation by now.
I’d build my house on an elevated open area overlooking the landscape, adopt some of my favorite dog breeds, grow my own vegetables, and conduct some experiments on hybrid durians too.
Another cultivar with an amusing name is tian song.
This is a particular durian that has been profusely spoken of amongst inner circles of durian hunters in recent years. You basically cannot remain oblivious to it if you’ve had entered discussions on the durian chasing activities of others in recent times.
Yet even with this growing reputation, there is surprisingly still a confusion of what the name of this durian actually is.
When we call it tian song (天送), it can be translated to mean a gift from heaven or even simply as daily delivery. I’d like to think that the reference point is the former.
But there are also other connoisseurs who swear by their children’s names that the durian is actually called tian shang (天上). Which is translated to sky or heaven.
Then there also’s the reasoning that the authentic name is 天送, but commonly pronounced as tian sang. With the first word pronounced in mandarin and the second word in hokkien. This manner of dictation is not unique as we can observe this on other cultivars like red flower.
And to throw another spanner into the works, it is said that this durian originated from a hakka family and they call it ten seang. Without looking at the writing of the characters, it can only be guessed that the actual words can either be 天上 or 天送. But the Chinese character are supposedly 燈城 which means light city.
I’ve also seen it written as 天赏 which means reward from heaven. Maybe the durian god will explain it to us mortals one day.
In any case, let’s now get pass that verbal mambo jambo and call it tian song… or tian shang.
The legend being told about this durian is that it’s spiritual home was in the Sungai Ara area of Penang. And the name bestowed to it was actually the name of the original owner (燈城).
Despite the rumblings about this cultivar in recent years within the durian community, tian song has actually been around for a long time with old trees being easily over 50 years old.
This durian is also sometimes referred to as 747. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.
Maybe because 747 is the only type of aeroplane on the planet that allows durians aboard passenger flights. Don’t quote me on that.
Features of tian song durian
The size of this durian is typically medium, with the average weight just under 2 kilos.
The overall shape is rounded that is somewhat resembling of black thorn.
The light green husk is covered with an avalanche of thorns that point to all sorts of directions like IOI. With the long spikes a mixture of slim and broad, and the tips curved and hooked.
With segments of lobes protruding, it can sometimes take on the look of susu up close.
The thorns start to sprout upwards as it reaches rim where the rind meets the stem. Eventually creating a sunken ring of thorns around the stem.
At the bottom of the husk, you’d see a star shape like that of musang king.
Taking a look at the fruitlets inside, you’d see a unique identifiable feature of tian song.
While the colour of the aril is typical yellow and nothing flashy in the line of little red, each chamber will usually contain only 1 fruitlet seed. Either that or it would appear to only contain 1.
There might be outliers that have more than 1 seed hidden in a lobe, but the appearance from the outside will still look like just 1. When there is more than 1 seed, you’d find that each seed separates from each other beautifully with it’s own dedicated aril membrane.
And of course… surely you don’t expect a durian that has been constantly talked about in durian circles just for the single fruitlets in each segment, right?
Are you ready to let it enter your mouth?
You have to be ready especially if you are a newcomer in the durian world. Because this can hit you like a freight train.
To say that this durian packs a punch is an understatement. A better metaphor is that it blows like the wind.
For a second it taste sweet. And then the bitterness slowly intensifies with an irresistible force. Just when you think you’ve reached the other side of the wormhole, an alcoholic presence burst up your nose like whisky. All these happens in mere seconds, mind you.
I really don’t know if my words can do justice to the taste and experience of tian sang.
How about an analogy to add to that?
Let’s say that there are 2 cars. One travelling at a more vigorous speed 100km/hr and the other at a cruising 50km/hr. When a brick wall is placed in front of them, both vehicles would crash into mangled metal. Tian song is like the car at 50km/hr. Except that instead of crashing into the wall, it bulldozes through it at the same pace… continuing to plough through everything in it’s wake.
It’s just unstoppable. Bringing you to the point of no return and then some.
Forget about aphrodisiacs that durians are purported to be. This is more like psychedelics.
I won’t be surprised to witness you salivating uncontrollably when trying this for the first time. Maybe even with some white foam sizzling from the mouth.
Taking into account the power that this durian packs, you should definitely leave this as one of the last durians if you are having a feast of various different cultivars. If you start off with this, the rest might taste too bland.
On more than 1 occasion, I have encountered a sweet after taste like how sugar is left on your lips after eating a donut. The skin membrane of the aril also tends to be slightly crunchy like konjac. Adding another dimension to the tasting experience.
Tian song durian harvest season
Tian song is a mid-season durian with the main harvest typically falling off in July.
While the heavy bitterness means that it is unlikely to be mass market like d13 and musang king, it would really take a lot of luck to be able to find this sitting around in a stall.
If you are a superstitious person you might want to start accumulating those good deeds and karma points now so that the gods would reward you with a tian sang unexpectedly one day. The key to the stairway to heaven.
Either that or you have to visit a durian farm at the right time so that the farmer might be more willing to sell it to patrons who are physically there.
Remember that you are competing with old-timers in the durian world for this fruit. And many of them have extensive networks built up over years of socialising. So you need to exploit any edge you can muster to be a step ahead of them.