Touring the hawker markets of South East Asia at the right time of year and you might be smacked in the face by the pungent scent of durian.
It’s a polarising smell, and this might be good or bad news depending on where you sit, but it’s coming to Melbourne. The Queen Victoria Market’s seasonal weekly Hawker 88 night market is welcoming a new stallholder this year, with durian trader Durasia supplying the stinky fruit for durian lovers to purchase alongside a plethora of snacks from other stalls, including noodles, curry plates, whole fried squid and dumplings. The market runs every Wednesday night to October 23 in sheds K-L at Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market.
Durasia will be bringing along the prized Malaysian variety, Musang king, which is so highly sought after in some countries it’s illegally smuggled in.
Luckily, Musang king durian can be imported into Australia, and after visiting a farm in Raub, Pahang, Durasia owner Mukhlis Rohaizak and his business partners decided to arrange their first shipment.
The shipload of durian arrived just in time to launch the Hawker 88 Night Market on Wednesday September 18 but it will be specially showcased this Wednesday night (September 25), when the market features the theme of Malaysian durian.
Alongside the durian stall and other market food and entertainment, there will be a durian eating competition taking place on the main stage at 8:45pm. Just in time for dessert.
“Our main market is Asians living in Australia who are already familiar with the unique taste of durians,” Rohaizak tells SBS Food. “Having said that, we are also trying hard to promote our durian to other demographics that simply haven’t had the chance to taste the delicious fruit.”
“In South-East Asia, durians would be brought in on trucks and displayed on makeshift shelves to be sold on the side of the road. Customers can then choose their durian before it is weighed and cut open to be enjoyed on pop-up tables and chairs,” he explains.
At the Hawker 88 Night Market, Durasia will be replicating this same scenario and feeling by serving freshly cut and opened durians. Customers will be able to choose which fruit they wish to purchase for dining in or takeaway.
“We’ll be encouraging customers to eat using their hands, which is the traditional way of enjoying a durian,” says Rohaizak.
For eager beavers there will be a durian buffet session at every market until 23 October with multiple time slots. There will also be durian ice cream available at Durasia, which may be a more palatable entry-point for first timers.
Rohaizak says he is confident that once consumers try the Musang king they will be jumping the fence to taste more.
Even my wife, who doesn’t particularly fancy the fruit, gave the Musang king a try and suddenly found herself craving more!”
“Durians can be discouraging for anyone trying to have a first taste as they emit quite a powerful smell that indicates they are ready to be eaten,” he explains.
“Having said that, many people have become a ‘convert’ as soon as trying it; saying that nothing else tastes like it. This is especially the case with the Musang king. Even my wife, who doesn’t particularly fancy the fruit, gave the Musang king a try and suddenly found herself craving more!”