- In Hong Kong, actor Liu Wai-hung had the derogatory nickname ‘Ah Chan’, but a move to Malaysia has given him a new, and different, lease of life
- Liu has forged a career tending to diseased durians and is now well-known in his adoptive home for his work with the ‘King of Fruits’
When Liu Wai-hung worked as an actor in Hong Kong, he earned the nickname “Ah Chan”.
Derived from his role as a mainland immigrant in the 1979 TV drama The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, which also featured Hong Kong super star Chow Yun-fat, “Ah Chan” also became a derogatory term for mainland Chinese immigrants who entered Hong Kong in the 1980s and 1990s.
Fast forward and Liu, now 65, goes by a very different moniker – “Doctor Durian”.
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The showbiz veteran’s new nickname comes from the spiky, pungent fruit that is popular across Southeast Asia and is often referred to as the “King of Fruits”.
“Doctor Durian” stems from Liu’s organic farming exploits in Malaysia where he has been living since the start of the pandemic.
The retired TVB actor acquired the fruity nickname after a visit to a farm in Malaysia last year during which he discovered that 200 of its 500 durian trees were disease-riddled and dying. The orchard was also suffering financial losses.
According to reports, Liu and his team – he honed his organic farming skills while living in Guangdong – got their green fingers going and introduced organic farming methods to the owner of the land, helping to nurse the sick trees back to health.
“I insisted that pesticides and chemical fertilisers not be used and organic farming methods be incorporated instead,” Liu was reported as saying.
“When the durian trees bear fruit at the end of the day, you will be able to eat them with peace of mind,” said Liu, who starred in the 2006 Malaysian film, Rain Dogs.
While the durian is rich in iron, vitamin C, and potassium, for many it is an acquired taste. Some people enjoy its sweet fragrance while others find the pungent smell of the fruit unpleasant.
“Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother,” is how the late celebrity chef and host of the hit show Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain, described its smell.
Despite its stinky reputation – it is banned in some hotels, airports and public transport – durian is a profitable crop for farmers and exporters in Malaysia, the second-largest exporter of the fruit in the world after Thailand.
China is Malaysia’s main durian export destination followed by Singapore and Hong Kong.
While some might be surprised by Liu’s career pivot, settling in Malaysia makes sense.
Liu’s wife was born in the Southeast Asian nation and his son Brandon also does business there. According to reports, he operates a bird’s nest business and has earned the nickname, “Bird’s Nest King”.
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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
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