When Chinese national Guan Guoyu first tasted durians, he hated it.
That was a long time ago, when he was still living in China.
But when he finally sank his teeth into the flesh of a Malaysian durian here 10 years ago, his life was completely transformed.
From disliking the thorny fruit, he is now a big-time Malaysian durian exporter to his country.
When Guan’s family migrated to Penang more than 10 years ago for work, it was easy for him to fall in love with the state’s street food but his love affair with durians wasn’t at first sight.
Things changed quickly after he finally got a taste of Malaysian durians, eaten in the balmy setting of Penang.
“I finally realised my dislike for the durian was because I had not come across the really good ones, like the various species found here.
“Unique in variety and robust in taste, I fell in love immediately. From durian kampung to Udang Merah, Horlor, Black Thorn and Musang King, I love them to bits,” enthused Guan, 30, through a phone interview from Penang.
Since then, Guan and his family, in partnership with some Malaysians, have ventured into commercial durian farming.
Upon finishing his tertiary studies seven years ago, Guan took on a hands-on role in running the business and has since expanded it.
His company now manages two plantations in Penang and Pahang with about 10,000 trees bearing the Musang King and Black Thorn variants.
Each plantation is equipped with a processing plant that produces durian by-products.
And following the nod from China’s government for the import of frozen whole durians from Malaysia on May 30, Guan has dedicated his business to offer more quality durians to his countrymen.
“Many Chinese know little about how great Malaysian durians are.
“I want to change their perception and let them taste it for themselves what the king of fruits is all about,” he said, adding that his plantation exports an average of 200 tonnes of Musang King and 30 tonnes of Black Thorn to countries such as Brunei, Hong Kong and Singapore every year.
“The satisfaction is immense when customers recognise and love the good quality of my durians. I certainly want to spread more ‘durian joy’ to others,” he said.