Miss Loh's Guesthouse

This gorgeous bay is only a short hike from Teluk Bahang.
Until we reached Teluk Bahang, I thought Georgetown's sprawl might extend all the way to Penang's west coast. The city bus drove under towering seaside hotels, past malls and markets all the way through Batu Ferringi. This end-of-the-road, coastal village was different. Teluk Bahang is no backwater - it still has a few tall apartment complexes and its very own 24-hour Indian restaurant – but it is wooded and relatively quiet.

Recipe: Pulut Bubur Durian (Malay Durian Porridge)

Pulut Bubur Durian is the southern cousin of Thai sticky rice with Durian. It's essentially a sweet durian mush (called "porridge") poured over sticky rice. Pulut is the Malay word for glutinous sticky rice, and to make this recipe you can use the same sticky rice as in the Thai dish, Khao Niaow Thurian. Durian porridge can also be poured over the gorgeously colored black/purple rice called pulut hitam. 

Penang Times Square Durian Durian Fest Revisited

The first time I visited the Penang Times Square Durian Durian Fest it was the first day and little was set up. Corry Lincoln, the Events Manager, was running around setting up tables and electrical equipment, looking sweaty and as stressed as a chilled out weekend DJ can.

He invited me to the Press Release the following Monday. I was excited, as this is my first official Press Release and I was curious to see how the Malaysian journalists do their job. Corry told me there would also be press from China!

News of the Durian


Durian smell delays Indonesian flight

Go to Ucok's durian stall in Medan and you are likely to see stacks of freshly packaged durian being prepared for flights to Jakarta. This was a regular sight during our visits last February, but apparently not everyone who lives in the Big Durian loves the stuff. On a recent flight unappreciative passengers delayed take off for an hour when the odor filled the plane.

Read the original article at The Jakarta Globe.

Birthday Party at Bao Sheng Durian Farm

When Rob first asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I told him I didn't want to eat durian, see durian or talk about durian. I felt like a day without durian would be really special! Then we found out about this special durian tasting place, where durians are served in a special progression with descriptions like "chocolately", "flowery" and "wine tasting". After reading the pamphlet, I couldn't think of a more epic way to celebrate my Year of the Durian birthday!

Bao Sheng Durian Farm is a pretty special place. Mr. Sheng is a third generation durian farmer who has transformed his 6.7 acre farm into, as he describes it, "the paradise for durian lovers." Not only can you enjoy a two hour buffet of organically grown durian, but you can also stay the night in his new Durian Villas to get the freshest durians as soon as they drop. Rob and I were just arriving from Thailand, where durians are never allowed to drop at all. We wanted to see what all of this falling durians fuss was about.

Recipe: Durian Fried Rice (Vegan Friendly!)

I got the idea for Vegan Durian Fried Rice from foodandscent.com. I thought the concept of adding durian to fried rice sounded delicious. Durian is creamy and fatty, a little sweet, and has a pungent garlicky onion twang. Certain varieties of durian even taste like egg. Why not add it to fried rice?

This is a Chinese style recipe - and as seems to be common with some Chinese cuisine - not vegan friendly. At all. The original recipe contains braised pork, eggs, and luncheon meat, all fried in pork fat or lard, as we call it in the states. So I've made this recipe vegan friendly!

The Other Side of Durian Island

Balik Pulau literally means "the other side of the island."  It's a small town about 20 km from Georgetown, far enough away that most people don't go there. Except for true durian lovers.

I'd received a promotional flyer that advertised a durian festival in Balik Pulau. Miss Nadia Ali, a representative of Penang State Tourism Department, warned me that we wouldn't find much. "It's really just a gimmick to get people to buy durian," she admitted, "to support the farmers in Balik Pulau, because nobody goes there." All of the durians on Penang are grown in the mountainous region between Balik Pulau and Teluk Bahang, in the northeastern corner of the island. Most of these durians are gathered in the mornings and shuttled fresh to Georgetown on trucks. The 45-60 minute drive is windy, slow, and riddled with people passing on blind curves. Only the truly obsessed venture all the way to Balik Pulau to get their durian fix.

News of the Durian

Massive Durian Party

Want to raise loads of money? Start by pooling 7500kg of durian and inviting durian crazy Malaysians to eat all they can! The Children's Wish Society of Malaysia did just that on this Father's Day, hosting a 20 RM buffet and collecting donations from over 2000 durian-loving attendees at the event held in Petaling Jaya.

Read the full story at The Star.

Meeting Penang's King of Durian

Our first day in Georgetown Rob and I had the good luck to run into the "King of Durian." Mr. Lim Kok Leon has spent his life promoting the durian fruit, which he believes to be quite special. We were inspecting durians at a stall when Mr. Lim showed up to buy some durians to share with a friend who was visiting town. He owns  the Durian Herbal Center, a Chinese medicine and acupuncture clinic specializing in treatments with durian root. In addition, he has owned a durian orchard specializing in organic, grade A durian for over 40 years.

Mr. Lim and his coworker, Ms. Ng Goot Yen, picked us up the next day at the durian stall and drove us to a scenic picnic area overlooking the turquoise sea. Mr. Lim explained that we could not meet at a coffee shop or a restaurant because, well you know. He gestured at the three durian fruits he had brought along, fresh from his orchard.

News: Elephant Raids Durian Orchard

The 50 year old bull elephant was captured in Kampung Sauk, near Kuala Kangsar, Malaysia. According to one villager, he was in the area for a couple weeks without causing too much trouble other than borrowing some durians from orchards and knocking down a couple coconut trees.

The State Wildlife and National Parks Department will work together with the National Elephant Conservation Centre to relocate the durian thief to a more suitable habitat.

Read the original article from the New Straits Times.

Exploring Georgetown, Penang

Yesterday Rob and I celebrated the halfway point of the Year of the Durian adventure. We can't believe how quickly the time has passed! After six months in Asia, we've gotten accustomed to being unable to read street signs or understand people. Since people don't understand us, I sometimes say things to Rob that might be considered rude. Stuff that an innocently obtuse child might say, like "Rob, look at that guy's nose."

I have to watch what I say in Georgetown. It's a former British colony, and English is still widespread. Most of the streets have English names. English is taught in all public schools, and until 1969 was the predominant language of the government. Even the durian vendors speak English!

Penang Square Durian Durian Festival

Durian lovers worldwide - don't miss this durian shabang! This promises to be the biggest durian event in Penang history!

For the first time, Penang Times Square Mall is hosting a durian festival. It started today, so I moseyed over to check it out. Earlier in the week Rob and I walked by Penang Times Square, believing the festival had already started. There was nothing there. But today  the pungent odor of fresh cut grass, caramel, and volcanic farts was wafting down the street. I could smell the durians even before I spotted these megalithic fruits marking the mall's outdoor plaza.

Fine Dining with Durian at DiVine Restaurant, Phuket

The durian is a popular dessert item, whether baked into cakes, stirred into ice cream, stuffed into pastries, or simply eaten with sticky rice. This year DiVine Restaurant at the Thanyapura Sports and Leisure Club in Phuket, Thailand, decided to offer something new.

Rob and I missed their week long "Durian Festival" by only a few days. We hadn't planned on going to Phuket at all, as we were bee-lining to Penang, but Rob wanted to go to a dentist while we were in Thailand and our money was worth more. After some internet research, he discovered "Dental Tourism." Apparently, people travel specifically to Thailand to get some work done on their teeth in addition to taking the time to get cheap massages and hang out on the beach.

Hitchhiking to Penang, the Island of Durian

 I love the geography of southern Thailand - the incredible hillsides jutting out of the jungle. I was in awe the entire bus trip to Krabi, and once there, I didn't want to leave. But the idea of durian greatness in Penang was too big a draw.

Recipe: Durian Mochi or Tang Yuan - Vegan Friendly!

 Mochi is a Japanese cake made out of glutinous rice flour and usually served for dessert. The cakes can be a square slice, or round balls stuffed with red bean paste, whole pieces of fruit, custard, or even ice cream. Tang Yuan is the Chinese name for these dessert balls. In this version, creative blogger Teri from Borneo stuffed her mochi with durian. Brilliant!

Next step: Mochi with vegan durian ice cream inside...mmmmm. Can anyone make this raw?


Lang Suan - Durian Distribution in Southern Thailand

Rob and I stepped off the bus in Lang Suan, Chumphon province, not really knowing what to expect. As we decided which direction to walk, a few men with giant, lolling dragon heads passed by. We wondered what was going on! Not many people in Lang Suan speak English, but we ascertained that some sort of circus was passing through.

Chumphon province supplies 17% of Thailand's durian, with a season stretching between June and October. I'd heard rumors that this region was now producing out of season durian using a new pruning technique that doesn't have any detrimental effects to the tree. Normally, when a farmer grows out of season durian he has to apply an intense regiment of hormones and other chemicals which kill the tree after only a few years of production. Such a pruning technique would be a boon to the industry, allowing durian to be easily grown year round.

Ta's Durian Garden

"I guess you've seen the YouTube video," Scott said to me as he settled into his chair, re-adjusting the black, red and white plaid sarong wrapped around his waist. In the kitchen Ta fussed with blender. I acknowledged that I had seen the video. My friend Durian Darrick sent it to me a few months back along with a link to Scott's website. I'd also read about them years before in the chapter on durians and durianarians (people who eat only durian) in the "The Fruit Hunters." In the book, fruit journalist Adam Gollner visits Koh Samui and shares durian with Ta, Scott and one of their durianarian friends.

Koh Samui: Intro to Thailand's Wild Durian

More tourist trap than sleepy countryside, the island of Koh Samui is not typical of a durian growing area. More than 1.5 million tourists visit the island's balmy shores each year to stare over the turquoise waters and bask in doing nothing. 

Outside of the tourist areas, which are plastered in high-rise hotels and bars, the island is still largely agricultural. Few tourists see the fields of coconuts, rubber trees, and durians which cover Samui's interior hillsides and mountains. Coconuts have historically been the number one cash crop, with 2.2 million palm trees producing 51 million coconuts for export every year. But things have changed with the introduction of the Coconut Leaf and Rhinoceros beetles, which lay eggs in the flowers and kill the trees. In the last four years, many farmers have given up on coconut farming, and are moving on to new options.

Khao Niaow Tu-rean (Thai Sticky Rice with Durian)

Durian with Sticky Rice
Sticky rice with mango or durian is a common street food in Thailand during the fruit season. It's normally served on a white Styrofoam tray with pre-cut mango slices or lumps of durian, although vendors also sell it in tied-off plastic bags. While white rice is more common, I also sometimes see a luminous magenta mush called Thai black rice.

A Moped Misadventure

Lindsay taming the beast

My moped adventuring on Koh Phangan was short lived. Within hours of renting the scooter I had wrecked it, myself, and Lindsay. I wasn't doing anything daring or crazy, just hauling a big load with little experience.

I talked to a few rental agencies before settling on a trusty steed that came at a bargain price of 100 baht a day (about $3). This scooter had a 125cc motor, which is pretty normal in Thailand, but is massive relative to the typical 49cc'er in the States. So while it has the same neutered motorcycle form, it packs a lot more punch. Also it had a manual transmission with 4 gears operated by a set of foot pedals. With these upgrades, hurting myself was pretty easy, really.