Why Tok Kong Durian Is Really Sibei Ho Liao!
Most durians will have been attributed with an English name since it is the most widely used language in the world by different nations.
But as mentioned above, they usually adopt English names eventually for the purpose of marketing exposure.
In truth, there are diverse varieties of durians which carry names in different languages that continue to use the original names.
There are many dialect named durians that continue to use their original names. But because of low commercial viability, don’t get as much attention as the famous cultivars.
One of these durians, which is a legend in it’s own right, is Tok Kong durian.
Tok kong is a casual hokkien dialect word which can be translated as very good, superb, magnificent, marvellous, stupendous, etc. You get the riff.
In casual conversation, people often use this term to describe something very delicious that others have not tried before. To cut to the chase of a grandfather story and get to the heart of the matter, just the word tokong summarizes it in one word.
If you understand hokkien, the moment of hearing this word tokong would arouse intrigue and fascinate anticipation.
How good is this durian? TOK KONG!!! (with two thumbs up)
Can you describe this durian? TOK KONG!!! (with three thumbs up)
Very fitting for a durian that was one of the most delicious decades ago before arrival of the rulers today in musang king, black thorn or tupai king.
The oldest tree is said to be well over 100 years old. In fact, it is claimed that it’s way closer to 200 years old than 100. And sits in the Sungai Ara area within the vicinity of carpet hill.
Because of how aged the original tree is, there are also many tok kong trees that grew from seedlings that are well over 50 years old. Remember that those days, grafting knowledge and expertise was not as advanced as today. This led to some amusing results which will be discussed later.
Features of tok kong durian
This is a medium sized fruit that used to be larger. But because the trees are rather aged already, the fruits have become noticeably smaller compared to decades ago.
The husk is of a brownish green colour. And the general shape is oval.
With thorns that are concaved, broad at the bottom and much slimmer closer to the tip. They spread out rather evenly across the surface of the husk, except that when it converge due to lopsided fruits.
The top area where we find the stem is slightly necked and acute, somewhat like musang king.
When you open this durian, you would see the characteristic that it’s most known for.
It’s fruitlets spots a black hue on the lemon yellow flesh. Very similar to tupai 226.
And if you have been a durian hunter for a while, you’d know that the very sight of this “bruise” appearance can sometimes trigger a mental breakdown on others. The type where they convulse violently and fall to the floor uncontrollably with white foam spewing from the mouth.
So just be mentally prepared if you are one who suffer from this obsessive durianitis.
However like tupai 226, extreme contrast of hues don’t come with all durians. Some will have a darker black, and some will have just a trace of it.
Amusingly, there seems to be a order of how it taste like.
Tokkong starts with a sweetness that lingers in your mouth, then ends with a bold bitter aftertaste as if on cue. This is accompanied by a very robust presence of durian flavour, comparable to the levels observed in musang king and black thorn.
While tokkong might be surprisingly easier to procure in Penang than some other cultivars, you might not be able to taste the original flavour of this durian because there are many fruits that have come from trees that grew out of tok kong seeds.
This implies that they do not have totally similar attributes of the mother tree.
Unlike khun poh seedlings which produced other cultivars with separate names such as little red and 600, the baby trees of tok kong continues to use the original name. Thus, creating a situation where consumer can actually be getting different durians while purchasing tokong.
For example, there are at least 2 other variants of tokkong.
One with a much yellower husk and creamy white flesh. It tasty creamier than the original but with considerably thinner flesh. Then there’s another that has a browner husk which taste more sweet and less bitter.
So if you don’t want to leave your tok kong to chance, you might want to interrogate a seller which tok kong he has at the store before ordering. Or watch what other patrons are getting when they open their durians.
All of them have large seeds.
Tok kong harvest season
This is a durian that starts dropping a week or two into the main season.
While this is considered as a rare durian that is sibei tokong, it is not that difficult to obtain in Penang during durian season. Maybe because it drops during the most hectic weeks and there are a multitude of other durians for consumers to choose from.
With that said, you can forget about finding it outside of Penang.
Like stocks and cryptocurrencies with a floor price, you would find people sweeping up this durian as soon as they find out that there is unsold inventory.
If you are a hiker, you can also trek up Carpet Hill to visit the farm. But do ensure that you get permission as it is private property. You don’t want to be coming under durian fire during the main season.