All About Durians: A Look Into The History of Durians

Apr 30 2021

Durian Factory in Singapore


Durian, a popular fruit in Singapore and throughout Southeast Asia, has been dubbed the “King of Fruits” due to its distinctive large shape and rich flavour, although some disagree.


Durians are an acquired taste, and some Singaporeans dislike the flavour of it. They are an interesting fruit, and probably the only one with two opposing taste descriptions; durian lovers describe the taste of durian as slightly sweet and custardy, similar to a creamy cheesecake, with notes of vanilla and caramel and little hints of bitterness, while those who don’t enjoy durians will describe it as overpowering and unpleasant.

The pungent smell of Durian is often compared to rotten onions, smelly feet, and even raw sewage, which has prompted many countries in Southeast Asia to ban the fruit on public transport and commercial indoor spaces. Durians are also banned from being brought onto public transport in Singapore.


The Scientific Name of Durian


Durian, a name derived from the Malay word duri, a reference to the prickly thorns of the rind was first coined as durio in 1763, and then as Durio Zibethinus L. by a scientist in 1774. It got its name because of its pungent smell, which reminded people of the Zibetto, Italian for “civet cat”.


Georg Eberhard Rumphius, a German Botanist who published a famous book “Herbarium Amboinese” containing several pages providing detailed and accurate accounts of durian for over a century, has contributed greatly to our current understanding of the durian. 


Origin of Durian


The durian is said to have originated from Borneo, with approximately 19 indigenous or native species of Durio, while Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, and Myanmar have seven, eleven, and two native species respectively.


A record of the durian by Italian Explorer Niccolò de’ Conti, who traveled to Southeast Asia in the 15th century said “They (people of Sumatra) have a green fruit which they call durian, as big as a watermelon. Inside there are five things like elongated oranges, and resembling thick butter, with a combination of flavours”, this is the earliest known European reference to the durian.


Durians either grew wild along the Malay peninsula in the early days or were cultivated along roads and in orchards from southeastern India and Ceylon to New Guinea; while others were actively cultivated in Thailand and South Vietnam. Durians were also actively traded approximately 400 years ago between Lower Burma and Upper Burma, also known as modern-day Myanmar, where they were highly prized in the Royal Palace.


Durians are still a highly prized fruit in Singapore, and it was reported that some Singaporeans even ventured into deep jungles and illegally trespassed into protected forested areas to gather durians. 


Durians in Singapore


Lorong Lew Lian – A Singapore street named after the durian in 1956 — “lew lian” means durian in the Hokkien dialect — was one of several roads in the Upper Serangoon Road area named after local fruits. The estate was even planted with durian saplings during the launch of the Clean and Green Week in 1995 by then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.


Durians are very popular in Singapore, during the durian season, durian lovers will often flock to the best durian places in Singapore just to get their hands on some of the best-tasting durians, namely Mao Shan Wang and D24 durians, but sometimes, the best durian in Singapore are those that have been dehusked and delivered fresh to your doorstep for your enjoyment. Shop our yummy durians and devour them in the comforts of your home.