Red Durian Tempoyak, a Traditional Dish From Sabah (Recipe Included) | Kota Kinabatangan

The bus from Ranau dropped Jess and me off at Medan Selera, a small food court in Kota Kinabatangan on the east coast of Sabah.

We immediately asked for Durian Merah, the red durian prolific to the area. The staff was shocked that Westerners had heard of their durian - and wanted it - but after exchanging giggles and grins one of the girls invited us to hop in her car and head to the local market.

That's where we found Sabah Tempoyak, a unique side dish made exclusively out of red durian.

What Is Tempoyak? | Recipes

If fresh durian is said to smell like putrid flesh, overripe armpits, and fermented gym socks, can you imagine what it smells like fermented? Or what it tastes like?

Fermented durian, or tempoyak, is a traditional condiment in Malaysia and Indonesia often mixed with coconut milk curries or pounded with chilies into a spicy dip.  It was developed as a way to both use overripe or poor quality durians and preserve them through the months after durian season.

And it's actually pretty tasty.

Durian Street in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

You know you've come to a good place when you ask for directions to the Central Market, and the answer is "Just across from Durian Street."

And they don't mean just a street named durian, because Rob and I have found those too. They mean an actual legitimate street lined with durian vendors. If you ever find yourself durian hungry in Kota Kinabalu, make your dinner plans here.

Pink Durian at KK's Central Market | Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Like most wet markets in Southeast Asia, Kota Kinabalu's Central Market is most active in the morning and has more or less closed up shop by sundown.

That's when the nearby night market takes over.

But on the late afternoon that Jess and I were walking by on our way to Kota Kinabalu's Durian Street (more on that in a future post), we happened to see one of my all time favorite durians - the deliciously pink Tenom Beauty.

Pasar Terbuka Pekan Ranau Durian Market | Ranau, Sabah

I've known for years that Ranau town hosts a durian festival. I've just never been able to figure out when.

It's frustrating. So Ranau has remained on the back burner of my durian crazed mind, a geographical tease with the strong promise of some interesting durians and a dominant Dusun culture that I'd bused through but never found time to explore.

When we found ourselves with an extra afternoon after our half-hike up Mount Kinabalu, I knew exactly where I wanted to go. I was finally going to see what was up durian-wise in Ranau.

And it was awesome.

lllegal Durians: How Much Trouble Will You Really Get In?

I think the first thing I learned about durian is that it's banned in public spaces because of it's supposedly foul odor.

That's usually the first thing Westerners learn about durian. A fruit that is not allowed on buses, trains or in hotels has a certain shock factor, a fact that most journalists disclose in their "hook" or lead-in.

But how much trouble will you really get in for sneaking a little creamy fruit on the subway, a bus, or a hotel? I took the trouble to find out.

*Please remember, all photos published on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Year of the Durian and Lindsay Gasik . If you want to use one of them please contact me first. Thanks!