The Jakarta Post
You either hate it or love it when it comes to durian. The spiky fruit known for its pungent smell and gooey flesh may turn some people off, but it has won over the palates and hearts of many, like those who gathered at Blok M Square in South Jakarta on Saturday for their love of the “the king of fruit”.
Hundreds of people, both sellers and visitors, flocked to the Durian World Festival held in the front yard of the shopping center.
Rodhi, a durian seller from Semarang, Central Java, enthusiastically took part in the festival, which was held the second time this year, on Saturday. He and two of his employees tended to their booth, offering visitors free samples of his best-selling durian variety called otak udang. It is a special breed from Central Kalimantan known for its sweet and tender flesh.
“They are farmed organically by the Dayak tribespeople in the forests of Central Kalimantan,” he told The Jakarta Post.
Rodhi had driven 13 hours to take part in the festival. He brought along 600 durian of other varieties as well, such as petruk and monthong.
Another durian seller, Wardy, who hails from Bogor, West Java, was also hopeful that his 120 durian would sell well.
“I have the best of durian matahari, which are from a local farm in Bogor, and durian Medan,” Wardy said.
Fransica Merlina, the owner of Natasha Event Organizer, which organizes the festival, said she initiated the festival for her personal love of the petruk variety, in particular.
“Durian is like a national trademark of Indonesia,” she said.
“Also, according to my experience in organizing food festivals, durian never fails to attract its lovers so the festival is also good for the sellers.”
Twenty-six durian sellers are partaking in the festival, held from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9. They have come from various regions, such as Banyuwangi in East Java, Padang in West Sumatra and several areas in Kalimantan.
All have brought along their special durian varieties to offer visitors, she said.
“With this festival, I hope all durian lovers can enjoy the richness of various durian breeds from all over Indonesia only by visiting Blok M Square,” she said, adding that the organizer expected to welcome around 40,000 visitors over the weekend.
Besides the fruit, some sellers are also offering durian-based food and beverages such as ketan durian (sweet sticky rice with durian flesh), es cendol durian (durian infused rice jelly with fresh coconut milk) and durian pancake. Meanwhile, some stalls are offering ready-to-plant fruit trees like mango, jackfruit and durian as well as the home farming equipment.
Visitors can devour the delicacy at tables lined up among rows of durian stalls.
Charlaeni, 56, who came with her husband, said she had always been a durian enthusiast.
“We drove from our home in Bintaro, South Tangerang just to eat durian here. It is a fun way to spend the weekend,” she said.
She said she had spent more than Rp 600,000 (US$41.95) on various kinds of durian to eat on site as well as to bring home.
Three best friends, Armita, Nida, and Sari, all 19 years old, visited the event to tryout the delicacies offered, as they claimed to be food festival enthusiasts.
“These two like durian, but I actually can’t stand the smell. Fortunately, this festival also has non-durian foods here,” Nida said as she enjoyed a portion of mango es teler (an iced desert with sweet fermented cassava, ripe mango flesh and coconut milk.
This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Dec. 3, 2018, with the title "‘King of fruit’ reigns as durian festival gathers crowd".