INDONESIA — Is this the sweet smell of success?
Kompas, an Indonesian blog, reports that the Plaza Asia shopping center in the West Java city of Tasikmalaya is selling the J-Queen variety of durian for 14 million rupees (around $1,000) apiece — dozens of times more expensive than a regular, run-of-the-mill supermarket version.
Images on social media show the fruit on sale in the mall, presented nestling on a bed of red satin, under a protective perspex case.
The spiky fruit isn’t the most obvious candidate for the high-flying, luxury treatment.
While its flavor and creamy texture has made it popular throughout Southeast Asia, its strong odor has gained it many detractors.
Singapore has banned the fruit in its subway system, and many hotels ban durians because of the notorious smell, which some critics have likened to rotten food or dirty socks.
Indeed, even the people of Indonesia, who hail it as the “King of Fruit” have been known to falter at its scent.
Last year, a cargo of durian caused an Indonesian plane to be temporarily grounded after passengers complained about the fruit’s room-clearing stench in the cabin.
J-Queen is a new variety
The J-Queen is a new durian hybrid, bred from several high quality varieties, according to its creator, a 32-year-old psychology student named Aka from the Indonesian Islamic University (UII) in Yogyakarta.
The Tasikmalaya native says that his durian is so sought after — and pricey — because its tree only produces 20 fruit, every three years.
He says he’s the sole owner of the variety, and hasn’t shared the seeds with anyone.
The spiky, pungent fruit is divisive at the best of times but Kompas reports that, in addition to its rarity, the taste of this particular durian is quite unique — a blend of peanuts and the flavor of butter.
The durian itself is perfectly round, unlike its elongated cousins. When its forbidding outer shell is breached, it has round fruit, not the usual oval shape. The fruit is also yellow-gold in color, in contrast to the pale, custardy shade of most durians.
Aka says that his motives for producing this durian hybrid, which costs several times that of an Indonesian’s average wage — around $183 a month, according to economic data firm CEIC Data — are altruistic.
“My intention is to improve the welfare of farmers by creating superior durians. I have had durian gardens in Kendal, Pekalongan, Banyumas, Pangandaran, and Gunung Tanjung, Manonjaya, Tasikmalaya,” he told Kompas.
So are the fruits, surely to be considered the gold standard of the durian world, flying off the shelves?
A representative of the Plaza Asia shopping center told Coconuts Jakarta, another Indonesian blog, that two of the four durians they had brought in have already been sold, and the remaining two have been given a Chinese New Year packaging makeover and are expected to go soon.