Durian Fest Sydney 2021

Want to know a secret? Several years since quitting Orange Grove Markets, I’m still adjusting to not having to get up at 4am every Saturday morning. It still feels strange for me not to be loading up my vehicle and rushing to get to the market to get set up and start cooking. 

Weekends now mean sleeping in, and coming up with creative ways to keep Noah entertained. When we choose to visit a weekend market or festival, my brain starts working overtime to calibrate if the weather’s good, what the crowds are like, and if the event is a commercial success. 

This was my mindset on Saturday morning while I was keeping an eye on Noah at the playground in Randwick in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Never mind what was going through my head; I would have fit in with the other parents except I was also munching on a plate of durian, jackfruit and nangchem (hybrid jackfruit and cempedak) which I had “procured” at the Durian Fest 2021 tent about a hundred metres away. 

A curious Aussie bystander came up and asked me if what I was holding was that “famous smelly fruit” she’d heard so much about. 

She was intrigued at the sight of the massive lines of people near us, who had been patiently waiting for over an hour to get their hands on some durian. If your knowledge of durian is limited to what you’ve seen in YouTube reaction videos of white people eating it for the first time, I guess you would be similarly bemused to see hundreds of mostly Malaysians line up from as early as 9.15am (the event didn’t start until 11am) for a taste of this fruit.

When I shared a poster of the event on social media the day before, some people (clearly anticipating big crowds) asked why you would spend your Saturday lining up for durian when it is not that hard to find in the freezer section of your local Asian grocery store. 

I can’t speak for everyone who attended but personally, as a Malaysian, I much prefer Malaysian durian to the more commonly available Thai ones (sorry, Thai friends!). In particular, I love the variety called Musang King, which is often touted as the king of durian.

Nowadays you can often find frozen packs of Musang King durian next to Thai Mornthong durian at Asian stores. Whole durian in the shell like those sold by Durasia at the event, though, are a little harder to come by in my part of Sydney. 

Catching up with members of the Malaysian diplomatic corps Kartini (education attaché) from EMA and Fatma (director) from MIDA

So, does it make sense to line up for whole fresh durian, when you can buy frozen packs of it? I regularly buy and enjoy the frozen pack variety, so I wondered that myself. Then I managed to get my hands on one of these whole durians, courtesy of the Malaysian Agriculture Counsellor Office (I was attending as a guest).

Shafiq and Maheran (director) from the Agriculture Counsellor Office, Sydney

 

Eating durian at work – there’s a lot to be said for working from home

The texture was exquisite and the flavour was phenomenal; it was as good a durian as I had ever eaten in my lifetime. I hope we get to see more of these events celebrating Malaysian fruit in future.

As a lover of Malaysian fruit and a cook who still misses the vibe of outdoor markets, I can’t think of a better way to spend my Saturday.

Source of much envy among my family members – the Musang King durian I brought home from Durian Fest 2021

 

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