KUALA LUMPUR: Enjoying durians in Malaysia is very much a communal affair, with friends and families gathering at open-air roadside stalls and bonding over the rich, creamy pulp nestled within the chambers of the spiky fruits.
“I really miss eating durians,” said Christine Ang, a 35-year-old marketing executive in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. “Just like steamboat, you can’t have durians alone.”
Durian stalls have sprung to life in the Klang Valley, announcing the arrival of the durian season. Up north in Penang, the government is moving durian sellers into markets, barring the usual roadside stalls that beckon lines of connoisseurs at a time when large gatherings are frowned upon. Visits to durian farms in Balik Pulau are also not permitted.
On Facebook, durian sellers are promoting their harvest with options to deliver right to the customers’ doorsteps. With people’s movement limited by a nationwide curb to contain the spread of COVID-19, home delivery can help overcome a drop in walk-ins.
Even when the durian season kicks into full swing in Pahang from June onwards – after the movement control order (MCO) is scheduled to end on Jun 9 – Durian Hill co-founder and marketing director Ernest Lee does not foresee many customers opting for dine-in. Advertisement
“We will focus on the same model during the MCO, which is more on delivery,” he said.
With consumers likely to remain cautious even though dine-in has been permitted at restaurants since early May, the glorious scenes of people crowding durian stalls and baskets of durian husks lining the stalls might not be seen this durian season.
“NEW NORM” IN DURIAN RETAIL
While the durian season has started in Penang, most Pahang durians have yet to ripen and fall. But durian lovers can barely wait.
Dong Sech Sing, the owner of Bentong Durians in Pahang, has been inundated by enquiries on the availability of durians at his orchard.
Delivery to the Klang Valley used to constitute only 10 per cent of his business. His main focus was on visitors who dropped by to savour the fruits while surrounded by the 150 durian trees in the orchard.
“When people come, I share my knowledge about durian planting. I looked at their faces, they’re excited, so I thought why don’t I let them know more about durians when they come and eat,” he said.
Dong has welcomed guests from as far as China and the United States into the orchard he bought seven years ago, but with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting international and domestic travel, he is expecting a sharp drop in visitors.
Among the durian farmers in Bentong, Pahang, uncertainties loom as the fruits grow bigger. Some fruits will fall in two weeks, while most still need another month, Dong said.
“(Durian farm) owners start to feel a bit worried whether we will have outlets for these durians,” he said. As for his orchard, he would have to wait and see how to accommodate the MCO restrictions. “I think our habits have to change slightly. I’m not very sure, let’s wait and see.”