I got an excited SMS from my durian guru that Ah Seng has been stocking some very good Tawa this season. I had only a very brief encounter with this durian last time, so I had to make a special trip to Ah Seng to find out what the fuss was all about.
According to Ah Seng, he only gets a bumper crop of Tawa every 2 to 3 years, so the supply of this particular cultivar is quite unpredictable. That is one of the reasons why I rushed down to Ghim Moh market ASAP. The durian comes from Tangkak and was originally registered as D162 in Selangor. But I am told that it is called Tawa because it originally came from the region of Tawau in Sabah.
The Tawa is usually a medium sized fruit with large thorns and oblong in shape. The thorns and colour of the fruit look quite similar to the Mao Shan Wang but it is more slender and there is a characteristic depression at the bottom of the fruit.
The flesh of the Tawa is milky yellow and the texture is light but creamy with little fibre. When it is very ripe, the flesh gets really wet and that is when it gets bitter. The bitterness is not like the XO where you can really get that alcoholic buzz. It is, however, a very good durian if you like bitter durians.
The husk is thin and you do get quite a lot of flesh per fruit. So, you can easily fill a square foam box with two Tawa durians which will cost around $16. They are currently selling for $8/kg at Ah Seng.
The thing about Durians is that they are at their best when you eat them fresh once they drop off the trees naturally.That is the type of durians that Singaporeans (and Malaysians) enjoy. In Thailand, they like to cut the durian fruit off the trees instead of waiting for them to drop naturally. So the flesh of the Thai durians are crunchy rather than creamy. But that is how the Thais like their durians! When I was living in Thailand, I often buy the durians which the Thais consider have already gone bad. By that stage they have become pungent and creamy. However, they are still not as good as ones from Malaysia which have ripened on the tree and fallen.
It is because of this that there are so many untrustworthy durian sellers out there. Once they get their delivery of durians, they really need to sell them by the end of the day as it might not keep well overnight. In recent years, they have started the practise of removing the durians from the husks and placing them in foam boxes. I tend not to buy durians like this because you never know how fresh the durians are. However, more recently, there have been some reputable durian sellers who would de–husk the durians at the end of the day when they are still fresh and then freeze them immediately. I feel that this is the best way to treat unopened durians at the end of the day because they still taste very good when thawed.
Ah Seng is one durian seller who has started dehusking and freezing unsold durians at the end of the day. So, that means that you can be assured that the durians that you buy from him have not been kept overnight. And, if you ever have that durian craving in between seasons, you can still satisfy it with some frozen durians!
I like the creamy bitterness of the Tawa. Since it is not a Durian that is readily available every season, it is certainly something every connoisseur would make a beeline for immediately! At the time of this posting, there is only about another week before the season ends.