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Lai durians are small to medium-sized fruits with a round to elongated, oblong shape. The skin is covered in many angular, blocky spikes with variegated hues of green, brown, and yellow. While the spikes may seem intimidating, they are not hard enough to break the skin, and the fruit can be easily split open by hand to reveal a layer of white, spongy skin with distinct chambers. Each chamber contains multiple brown-black seeds that are encased in a pale orange flesh. The thick, edible flesh is soft and smooth to the touch and has a dry, starchy, and waxy consistency. Lai durians do not have the pungent aroma that is often associated with durians and has a faint, rose-like scent. The fruit is said to have a subtly fruity, savory flavor with notes of whiskey, banana bread, and nuts.
Lai durians are available in limited supply in the winter through early spring in Southeast Asia.
Lai durians are botanically a part of the Durio genus and are believed to be a natural cross between the wild fruit, Durio kutejensis, and the common durian, Durio zibethinus. The name Lai, sometimes spelled Lay, is a term that is used throughout Indonesia to describe many different varieties of the wild hybrid fruits. Lai durians are considered to be very rare and are only found through select local growers in Southeast Asia. Also known as Durian Lai, Durian Lay, Orange Meat durian, and Pampakin fruit, Lai durians are highly favored by consumers for their extended storage capabilities, unique flavor, smooth flesh, and light fragrance. Many of the varieties found under the Lai name have become widely popular, with many durian enthusiasts seeking the fruits out when in season, but the potential of the varieties is still largely overshadowed by more common durian cultivars being advertised in markets.
Lai durians are a good source of fiber, which can help regulate digestion, and vitamins A and C, which can increase collagen production and boost the immune system within the body. The fruits also contain potassium, vitamin B, iron, magnesium, and copper.
Lai durians are best suited for raw applications as their unique flavor and drier texture are showcased when consumed fresh, out-of-hand. The fruits are easily split open, and the flesh is commonly consumed as a dessert or a snack, deseeded and used as a topping over ice cream, or blended into smoothies and shakes. The flesh can also be used as a filling in baked goods and pancakes, dried for extended use, or mixed into sticky rice. Lai durians pair well with coconut milk, sugar, salt, pandan leaves, condensed milk, and citrus juice. The fresh fruits are known for having a longer shelf life than other durian varieties, and once ripe, they will keep up to seven days when stored whole at room temperature. If the fruit is opened, the flesh should be consumed immediately for the best flavor and will only keep for an additional 1-2 days in the refrigerator.
In Semarang, Central Java, Lai durians are sometimes found at the Hortimart Agro Center, which is an agritourism farm that was established in 1970. The educational farm features twenty-five hectares of different fruit and vegetable varieties, with durians being one of the center’s main attractions. There are approximately ninety different varieties of durians planted, including many local, wild cultivars, and visitors can tour the fields, take pictures with the fruits, and sample the different varieties. The Hortimart Agro Center also has a large fresh market where durians, other fruits, and vegetables can be purchased for home consumption.
Lai durians are native to Kalimantan on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. While the exact date of origin is unknown, there are many varieties generally labeled under the Lai name that are the products of crossing wild durians with domesticated cultivars. Lai durians are not commercially cultivated and are considered rare as they are challenging to find in local markets. The variety has been found through select growers in Java, Sumatra, Thailand, Brunei, and Malaysia.