Previous Unloads:

1991 May: A Visit to Langkawi, the Land of Mahsuri

1991 Aug: Study tour to Medan, Indonesia

1994 May: First Asia Pacific Chitin and Chitosan Symposium (APCCS)

1995 Dec: Revisiting SAS

1997 Dec: Rally Nationwide Vision

1998 Apr MOU and Launching of Chito-Chem (M) Sdn Bhd

1999 Sep: The Officiation of Smart Technology Centre, UKM

1999 Sep 23: A Week on Leave

1999 Dec: Study Tour to Taiwan

2000 Jul: A MiniReunion of Class of 66

2000 Dec: Just An Unlucky Day

2001 Jul: 29th Covocation of UKM

2001 Dec: Digging Deep Into the Root: SKBT Revisited

2002 Sep: A Consequential Events from Feb 2002

2003 Apr: Reminiscing the Little Boy

2003 Nov: Reunion of Class of 66

2004 May: Cameron Highland Revisited

2004 Jul: In the Heart of Two Cities

2005 Jan: SAS Re-revisited

2005 Jan: Seri Puteri Eventually Visited

2005 Apr: In the Backyard (and Frontyard)

2005 Nov: Jalan Hale Revisited

2006 May: Kenyir, Here I Come

2006 Jun: Bidong Revisited

2006 Aug: Convocation UKM #34 2006

2006 Oct: The Faces of Ramadan

2007 Mar: Duku - The Fruit of Terengganu

Duku, (used to be) the Fruit of Terengganu (Dated: 2007 Jan)
Terengganu was known among the fellow countrymen to have several unique attributes: the beautiful citizen and their hospitality, the white sandy beach, the batik, the songket, (used to be) the turtle (now not any more), the nasi dagang, the keropok, and not the least, the duku fruit (Lansium domesticum Corr; family: meliaceae). The fruit by no means is the earth-mark of Terengganu; it is spotted in places as far as in Africa; it is ubiquitous in South East Asia. In the peninsular Malaysia, it is the Terengganu place-mark.
The tree as young as five years old, ca. 1.5 m, can bear fruit; could last many decades, to the height of up to 50 m; timber size. It branches a lot, spanning across all the spaces, giving a shadow for cover under it all day long from sun-rise to sun-set. We used to have one tree, inherited from my father who inherited it from his father, until it was felled down because it was in the land then owned by somebody else (traditional Terengganu people divide the fruit trees separately from the land - so that every brother and sister will get land as well as fruit trees from their parents). Duku could bless at least three generations, or perhaps as long as durian if it is properly taken care.

Even in Terengganu duku does not grow just anywhere; it grows in its home: slightly hard soil (where grass could well accompany), very slightly slopy ground (too slopy would dry the soil, too flat would bog the soil), cool surrounding (indexed by the fair skin of the inhibitants around it), slightly shadowy by distant big trees such as the timber trees, close to human smell, free from modern effluent such as noise and exhaust gases, hidden from the unsightedly painted brick buildings, never on sandy soil or swampy surrounding, it's ok on the river bank subjected to correct soil and slope specs, not too attached to grazing animals such as cattle (a few goats are ok), not in the jungle or even forest or woods, being owned by someone who could love it by trimming the undergrowth to only grasses and who are not too greedy to sell the fruit en block while still green before fully ripe;

The fruits come in bunch, ranging from about ten to as many as twenty per bunch, and several bunches per cluster, grown out from the tree branches. Some bunches are rather loose (giving round shape fruit), but some are very tight, causing its shape to distort when fully grown; some even forced to get detached prematurely because of lack of space. The duku fruit is round in shape, almost spherical, except those that are crunched by the limited space to grow; stick to the bunch strongly. The fully ripe fruit has a whitish yellow colour and very smooth (the native used to allegorise to a lady's skin). The receptacle stays with the fruit even the unlucky one that fall to the ground, or when the fruit is pulled from the stalk. The fall of the receptacle is the first step of the rotting process. The fruit scar is exposable only by hand. The scar (nose/mouth) is small, shallow and almost perfect circle like that of the meteorite crater. The insect, apart from ants, normally found grazing symbiotically in the grooves among the fruits on the bunches. Their homes are in the barks of the tree trunk.

Taking down duku from the tree had to follow a strict guides. In unsuitable time, the owners are very reluctant to take down the duku. Firstly it cannot be taken down by making it fall to the ground; doing so causes the fruit skin to slowly split; once splitted, they all render useless for sale. Sacks are taken up the tree, the fruits are hand-picked, piece by piece, NEVER by grabing the whole bunch and pulled away from the trunk; and fill into the sack gently. When the sack is reasonably filled up, it is lowered to the ground using a rope. Duku cannot be taken down at very early in the morning, for similar reason; neither in the high noon; its ok in the late evening. Duku is NEVER taken down during rainy time, not even drizzling. Doing so will split them, almost all of them contagiously.

To open the duku, one nicks the nose and pull the skin away; one normally use both hand to nick and open, three fingers each, including the thumb. Squeezing the nose between the thumb and index finger sometimes works as well, but with frequently accidental rupture of the ulas (the fleshy edibale part), because the ulas skin is only membrane-thin. Bigger hand can do with one hand three-fingers with the index finger to nick. The skin split longitudinally along the invisible fusion scar, smoothly like a surgical cut. The ulas sticks tightly together in their whole cluster, always a cluster of five-clove. Each ulas contains one seed; duku is a finite-complex fruit, unlike those infinite such as pineapple, or even mangosteen. The skin is not so thin; thick enough to nearly retain its spherical shape even after being peeled off. This behaviour is the characteristics of duku, all other cousins behave oppositely, except rambai. A non-compliant indicates an imposter.
It's hard to describe the unique taste of duku, other than that it is deliciously sweet. But every native Terengganu can tell if the taste is not duku. In the fully ripe fruit the ulas is transparent; to this state it taste sweet and characteristically duku. Unripe one is white in colour and sour in taste. A bite of the seed tastes unforgivably bitter. Toddlers tend to dislike duku because they accidently bite the seed, and are yet to learn how to avoid biting it. One swallow the seed together with the devoured ulas, technically pulverising between the tongue and the palate, cleverly crushing the fleshy ulas out of the seed without biting it. Each ulas is about the same size, unlike some cousins which varied greatly in size among each other.

The closest cousin of duku is langsat, very close and more ubiquitous. The native Terengganu are very familiar with these two species, both have their own well recognised characteristics, to the extent that, one may prefer either to the other over a certain characteristic. The trees of duku and langsat have similar features. Only highly trained horticulturist could tell the difference, and that is the difference in the leaves features. However, if grown on the same soil, langsat trees tend to be 'thinner', more slender, and less branches, whereas duku trees are 'fatter', and more branches. Duku trees could grow to become very big and shadowy. Not infrequent, one could see some children play-grounds under a duku tree because it provide a cool shadow all the day; but one rarely see a giant langsat tree.

Langsat always has an oval shape, sometimes egg-oval shape; never spherical round, the skin is much coarser than that of duku, and its yellowish colour is rather darker. The 'nose' has a deeper crater compared to duku, and has coarser edge. Sometimes langsat fruit has distorted shape due to the tightness pressure of too many on the cluster.

Fully ripe langsat taste sweet, but less sweeter than duku, and characteristically langsat, just like that of duku. To open the fruit, one nick the nose, then split open the fruit into two along the fused scar line, with each half carrys the approriate ulas; uniquely unlike duku which let the skin peeled off the ulas. Since the number of ulas is always five, the halves are never equal in size: one half carrys two ulas, the other carrys three. The ulas is then peel away from the skin. The native technique to eat the fruit is to teeth-lip the ulas away from the half skin while holding with the fingers of both hands. In both duku and langsat, the fused scar line is in the middle of the ulas back; thus when the skin opens, half of the outer ulas is exposed.

In these last few years, a foreign cousin of duku made a tsunamic invasion in the country. They are the dokong. It originated from Thailand; it is a Southeast Asian variety of lansium domesticum. The tree is more of as duku than of as langsat: 'fatter'and more branches. It was widely domesticated in Thailand, especially the south. Before recently, dokong was available only in Kelantan. It was rumoured that, although dokong was widely horticultured, the owners mass-contracted the fruits to the wine maker. That was why it was not widely available in this country. The recent 'invasion' was from the home farms in Pahang, Perak and Johor, not from the Thai farms.

Dokong has the combined properties of duku and langsat. Most non-natives got confused or simply ignorant about the duku, langsat and dokong. Dokong tree could bear massive fruit clusters and bunches. Many fruits on each bunches, and many bunches in a cluster; many clusters on the branches, and dokong trees have many branches. The fruits are tightly packed on each bunches, and sometimes the bunches are tightly packed in the cluster. Thus when fully grown, no fruit will have a round shape. Mostly with egg-oval shape, and frequently distorted, even edgy. The fruit is never spherical round. Some fruits even have to fall off prematurely after being squeezed out during the growing. By a quick look at the stall, while still in the bunches, dokong looks like langsat, not loosely like duku.

Like langsat and duku, the fruit is always five-clove. Peeling dokong is like peeling langsat. When the nose is nicked, and the skin is pulled away, the fruit split into two with the ulas follows the skin. Then one teeth-lips out the ulas from the skin held by the fingers of both hands; unlike duku, with which one could peel all the skin out leaving the five-ulas clove intact in one ball-piece and 'throw' it into the mouth. One need both hands to 'work' to eat the langsat and dokong until the ulas are safe in the mouth; but with duku one's skill fingers could 'workout' from one hand only, or at most with two hands only to peel the skin off. In short, for duku, the skin is peeled off from the ulas; but for langsat and dokong, the ulas is peeled off from the skin.

Fully ripe dokong taste sweeter than duku, this is the selling point of dokong, but having the blend of langsat; for certain, dokong does not taste like duku; dokong taste different from duku. Unripe dokong taste more sour than langsat, but less bitter than langsat. Less fully ripe dokong taste more like langsat. Untrained taste buds will equate the taste of less fully ripe dokong with that of langsat.

A cousin in Johor, mostly around Muar is also called duku, but it is entirely of different variety. The native Terengganu came across it only rather recently (during these modern times when transportation was not the reason), and thus call them "duku muar". The fruit is always round, twice, sometimes three times bigger, reddish yellow when fully ripe, and the flesh is surprisingly very similar in taste. The skin is very thick, so thick that it retains its shape after the fruit is opened; or the fruit could be 'reconstructed' after the ulas has been taken out. The sheer thickness of the skin made it closer to the its wild cousins such as 'sentul' or 'setia', 'ngekke', or 'pahit'. It is also five-clove, but each ulas is of various size; in the same fruit, there are small ones, but there is always one very big one, very much bigger than the rest; and the very big seed too in it. The big one occupies nearly 80% of inside space of the fruit.
For decades duku had been confined only to local consumption; its distance was dictated by the transportation. Duku is best when ripe on the tree, but lost its best after three days. When transportation had improved, and the available better roads that had made a faster journey, duku reached all over the place in the peninsular. With that, it inherently picked up higher and higher price. When duku first arrived in the foreign land, it was obviously an alien. The people did not know other than langsat, but strangely the taste was not like the langsat; only some Johorean knew duku (the big one), and strangely these alien taste like their duku. For that they first accepted as "duku-langsat" without bothering where the fruits came from. And could enjoyed a higher price because of the smaller size, more uniform ulas and lighter to carry. The Terengganu native did not have "duku-langsat", to them "duku-langsat" means just the fruits of the family duku and langsat, not in any particular one. Soon the distant people began to like the 'duku-langsat' more than the 'duku muar'. Obviously the price keep on increasing; in one off-season it could fetch nearly four times than that of langsat. This had lead to the demand of the customer to know why the price was so high. The trader resolved it by renaming the "duku-langsat" to "duku terengganu" which indicated where it came from and thus explained to the customer why the price was so high.

In Terengganu there was one more duku. It was called "duku hutan" (lit trl: jungle duku). Now duku hutan is almost extinct in Terengganu because no body care about it any more. The tree is like a giant langsat with a straight trunk that can make a timber; not many branches. A tree does not bear as much fruits as langsat or duku. The native don't quite like it because it is very sour indeed. Only the fully ripe fruit, and must ripe on the tree, is rather edible because it has about twenty percent sweet and the rest eighty percent is sour. The fruit is slightly bigger than duku, langsat or dokong, and has all the features of langsat, and none at all of the duku, although the name is preceded with a duku.

A kind of similarly less prestigious in the western states (but not in Terengganu) is called 'duku dewan'. The fruit is round like duku, but the skin is like that of langsat. The taste is more like the dokong, but less sweet plus some sour. Like duku hutan it is closer to langsat than to duku.

A distant cousin of duku is "rambai". It is interestingly unique because it is sligtly "accentric" in comparison with duku, langsat or dokong. To this date, it has not been horticultured, or 'adultrated' with any alike species, unlike the dokong which presently is farmed in a great variety of 'synthetic' reproduction technology. Rambai tree is even bigger than duku, and produce more voluminous fruits than duku and dokong. Among the native, perhaps rambai is the least prestigious because it is the most sour; and it never fetch a good price.

The shape of rambai fruit varies from pointed oval to spherical round like duku, depending on the 'health' state of the tree. And the flesh is also varies from single-clove, two-clove, the majority is three-clove, and sometimes four-clove; very rarely five-clove like that of duku, langsat and dokong. The bunches are like vines, longer than the duku, langsat or dokong, and the fruits are positioned very much less packed; rather loosely on each bunch. Rarely the fruit shape is distorted due to the lack of space to grow. Unripe fruit is green and taste very sour, unlike duku, dokong, or langsat which is bitter (kelat). When ripe on the tree, its color is just yellowish green. One had to taste in order to tell it has ripen. Over-ripen fruit is whitish yellow. Rotting fruit begin with brownish colour. The ulas has a stronger skin; in fact the content of the ulas could be emptied by punching the seed scar, and the skin virtually forms a sack which can hold air (like an air bag) or water (making a water bag). Unlike the skin of duku, langsat, or dokong which are membrane-thin and virtually diffuses with the flesh.
Rambai is the only member in this family the skin/peel of which is edible. It could be cooked to make a delicious veg dish platable together with any dish of meat, chicken or fish, for heavy dinner, among the family members, or even for the guests, close or distant. It was never a dish a host, poor or rich, would get embarassed to present to guests, even though this dish was traditionally more common among the poors. Its delicacy is a blend extraction of soury taste from the rambai skin itself, the fatty taste of coconut milk with a balanced saltiness, the 'prickly' taste of onion, the 'sweetness' of ground grilled fish meat, and the augmentation of hotness from the red or green chilly or pepper as desired. To cook it, firstly the skin pieces is splitted to somewhat reduce the size, and washed off any debris; remnants of other parts of the fruits are not undesirable. The washed skin is boiled in water to remove the bitter taste ("kelat" taste, not "pahit" taste); but boiling also remove the desired sour taste, so experience would judge for how long the skin should be boiled. It appeared that the bitter substance get removed faster than the sour substance. For sure, excess boiling removes the much needed soury taste. Then the boiled skin is toasted (do not wash or even rinse). Some water is added and reheated. While bringing it to boiling, stirring from time to time, pieces of onion is added. Red onion is more tasty than the big onion. This is followed by ground (or at least pulverised) grilled fish (sardin is always the best because it is sweetest in taste). On boiling, coconut milk is added, the amount is as desired, but the minimum is to cover the solid ingredients. Split chilly is added, as desired, the red or the green (another fraction of the chilly is added on serving for those who like the crunchy munch), some ground black pepper, and the salt to taste. The cooking is done, say roughly, when there are a lot of fumes on the boiling contents (uncook is not relevant here because all ingredients are readily eatable even before cooking) - the rambai skin shrinked somewhat. Excessive overcook will extract the oil from the coconut milk, and the rambai skin shrinked considerably; the dish is considered spoilt. Cover for a while to consolidate the taste and aroma; then it is ready to serve.
A jurassic cousin of rambai. Its commercial name is "tampoi". In Terengganu, it is called "ngeké" or "pait", "pahit". A bunch contains a few fruits only, a few bunch per cluster, grown out on the big tree trunk or the main branch. The fruit is almost ten times bigger than the duku, could grow to a small fist size. Round in shape, never oval, and coloured maron-brown and soft when ripe, and dark green and hard when young. It took more than a thumb-squeeze to break open the fruit, because the skin is very thick. But it has a fused fissure which when correctly located, a light twist will easily split the fruit (the very soft version of durian).
A normal size fruit will split into three pieces (three-clove) on correctly opening it, exposing a well-cladded flesh the size slightly bigger than rambai, but more rounded. And the fleshies hold to the stalk at the bottom of the fruit, just like rambai. Smaller fruit, split into two (two-clove). Like rambai, the fruit bears 2-, 3-, 4-, or 5-clove fleshies. The taste is more delicious than rambai, sweeter, and less sour. They are not as widely available as duku or langsat. They are available only in the remote areas.