The strong smell of our Davao durian is bringing back sweet memories to Filipino-Australians as the Philippines’ first-ever shipment of frozen durian from Davao City is now available in locations across Melbourne.
The initial shipment of two varieties of durian called Puyat and Duyaya in whole pieces with shell and a tasting sampler pack arrived in Melbourne on Tuesday, 2 March, and was made possible by Melbourne-based importer, Thanh Truong, Director of Aus Asia Produce Pty Ltd.
Thanh Truong, who has been featured on Channel 7’s Plate of Origin and Netflix’s The Chefs’ Line, is known as the ‘Fruit Nerd’ for his in depth knowledge and experience with tropical fruit. Thanh decided to give Philippine durians a shot in the Australian market after he was impressed with the flavour and quality in comparison to other durian varieties when he tried it early last year.
Q&A with Philippine durian importer Thanh Truong
In an interview with The Philippine Times, Thanh Truong shares his excitement about Philippine durian and talks about the challenges surrounding its availability in Australia.
What makes this durian from Davao special?
A lot of effort has gone into the specifications of this fruit to be extra delicious! The durians are graded for size, are graded for shape, care has been to choose only from selected farms who do no have diseases or pests. Importantly we have requested 100% mature durians which are “tree-dropped”, not “tree cut”. This means the flavour of the durians are extra intense both in aroma and in sweetness.
How would you describe and compare the Filipino durian to other known durian varieties in the market?
The two whole fruits on offer is the Puyat and the Duyaya. The Puyat has a medium-small seed, high water content flesh, light yellow colour and a bitter aftertaste. These bitter notes have the Puyat being likened to the famous Malaysian Musang King variety, although the texture of the flesh is very different. The Duyaya is my personal favourite and what I consider a “faultless” durian. I am extremely picky with my fruits and the reason why I call it a faultless durian is because it has all the qualities one would hope for in a fruit. It has a small seed, a lot of flesh, strong yellow colour, it’s sweet, it has good flavour and its aroma both pre and post consumption is intense. I feel caramel toffee notes with a deep heavy back palate heat coming through when I eat the Duyaya, it really is special.
Why is Philippine durian difficult to find in the market?
It is an expensive product – those who have not tried it before would not be willing to spend $30-$60 on one piece of fruit. Those who are interested and familiar with durian are loyal to certain varieties or brands because of their expensive nature and also because different durian varieties have durian flavours which are subjective. What we find is that the majority of the consumer base have come from nationalities that have strong durian cultures, for example Malaysian, Singaporean, Indonesian, Thailand, Vietnam.
The Thai and Malaysian durian market is very established for the Chinese community. It is our job as pioneers of the Filipino durian to market and convince consumers that the Filipino durian is an excellent product.
What are your main challenges with importing Philippine durian to Australia?
No one knows about durians from Philippines. Although Davao may be famous for durians, even most Filipinos have not tried their own durians.
A lot of marketing is required to start a new line and it requires customers to give it a go and spread the word. Most importantly we needed to make sure that the frozen durians never break frozen cold-chain because if the chain is compromised, customers will have a bad experience and Filipino durians may not succeed in the Australian market forever. The first taste of a product lingers in your mind forever and we have to ensure that the Filipino durians are at its peak optimal eating moment for new trying customers. Competing against the well established and marketed durians of Thailand (monthorng) and Malayasia (Musang King) will be tough, but we believe there is room for the Philippine durian, and we are the largest importers of fruit and veg from Asia into Australia, if we cannot make it succeed, who can!?
Aside from online stores and sellers, are there markets or physical stores where the Philippine durian is available to purchase?
Philippine whole durian fruit is available in the following areas in Melbourne (Sydney TBA):
Preston Market, Glen Waverly Shopping Centre, Rowville Stud Park Shopping Centre, St Albans, Sunshine, Richmond, Springvale, Balwyn.
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