Red Jungle Durian with the Iban Tribe

Durio dulcis is one of the rarest durian species. With it's bright red shell, it's the sweetest of the durians (as suggested by it's Latin name) but isn't cultivated and is only found in the highland jungles of interior Borneo, where it is becoming increasingly more scarce due to illegal logging. It's even listed on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.

We were actually on the hunt for a different rare durian, the kura kura, or tortoise durian (durio testudinarum) which grows fruit on the roots and trunk of the tree instead of the branches. But when stumbling upon rare and delicious durians, who's going to complain? We were having bum luck anyway - KOMPAKH really and truly is the only resource in Putussibau for tourists and all their guides were out of town. Then we bumped into Linda, a part time English teacher at the high school, who thought we might score some neat durian near an Iban longhouse along the road to Lanjak. She was right! Not only did we spend our Thanksgiving eating the sweetest durian of them all, we had a pretty amazing cultural experience.

Kalimantan: Finding Durian in Borneo's Wild Wild West

Very few people visit Kalimantan, the forgotten Indonesian side of Borneo which actually comprises nearly two-thirds of the island. Huge and sparsely populated, with the largest tracks of virgin rainforest left on the island, Kalimantan is still relatively unexplored, which means there's very little information about where to go and what to see (the best reference is Lazlo's Kalimantan Guide). For those of us trying to figure out where to go for durian, it's a blank map. We spent hours and hours on the internet plugging in every search term we could think of and coming up empty.

Durian Nutrition 101

Most durian lovers know someone who knows someone who got sick or even died from eating too much of this ultimate fruit.  So, it is no surprise that many people worry whether indulging in durian is healthy. In fact, concerns about durian's impact on health are numerous and varied, ranging from the development of conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and sore throat, to becoming drunk, or overheated, and even plain ole fat. We will be addressing each of these issues and more in a new series of articles that explore durian's role in health and nutrition. First up is a short overview of durian's basic nutritional properties.

Ancient Durians in Uma Bawang

Some of the durian in Miri is sourced from Marudi, a small town in the interior of northern Sarawak on the Baram River. When I looked it up on wikipedia, (the most accurate source of information), it mentioned that Marudi is considered the heartland of the Orang Ulu, the people of the river. We had hopes of learning about native customs and traditions concerning durian, and wondered if Marudi might be a place we could meet someone knowledgeable about the old native ways of life.

How to Choose a Ripe Durian

Durians can be eaten at various degrees of ripeness. Some people, mostly Thais, actually prefer their durians slightly under ripe, like those who prefer their bananas green. Others, notably the Indonesians, often prefer a durian so ripe it's developed an alcoholic bite. I like neither.  I chase that perfection of flavor when the sweetness and caramel-stink are at their peak and the texture is smooth as silk and sticky as cream cheese. Here are our tips and tricks to picking the perfect durian.

Batu Niah Caves and Durian

The search for wild jungle durians is on. So far we've found three: durio graveolens, durio oxelyanus, and durio kutejensis. I want more. In fact, I have my heart set on finding all nine edible durian species.

Our durian contact in Brunei, Mr. Jumat, thought that we could find a few more of the edible species in a tiny town called Bekenu, just south of Miri. We decided we would have to check it out - but in addition, I contacted Mr. Bajut Guruna of the Niah Forest Research Center to see if he could help us understand how durian grows naturally in the jungle. While we waited to hear from Mr. Bajut, we took the opportunity to explore the caves at Niah National Park, the site of the oldest known human settlement in Southeast Asia. What a cool bonus!