|From left: Olivia, John, Terra, and Chris feasting on durian
Chanthaburi, Thailand has a reputation among fruit fanatics as the place to go in May. A lot of this hype is thanks to our friend Harley, a.k.a durianrider, who has been touting the wonders of Chanthaburi’s fruit to his following of fruit freaks on youtube (and 30bad). The fame is well deserved as the province grows nearly 50% of durians produced for export in Thailand, and a surplus of mangosteen, jack fruit, rambutan, and other tropical fruits which are shipped all over the world.
The city is a typical Asian city far off the tourist map. The handful of hotels are gathered along one street of the old town, and almost no one here speaks much English. But every April the westerners begin trickling in to settle before the Chanthaburi World Fruit Festival, sometimes referred to as the World Durian Festival because of the prevalence of durian. Many are here on Harley’s referral, and all are here for the durian. The locals must think all westerners are a very strange bunch of fruit-bats!
With all the durians in the area, you can guess why we’re here. But being fruit freaks ourselves, we are more than happy to indulge in the abundance of other tropical fruits and enjoy the company of others who share our fruit fixation.
Durian tastes best with company. At least this is what I have found. It’s a gooey, messy party food, and not a recommended experience for the germaphobic. High in tryptophan and other feel-happy chemicals, I think sharing a durian is a bit like having a beer with a few friends. It’s not as much fun to drink if your friends don’t partake, and the same holds true for durian. All my best durian experiences have been with groups of people who enjoy the fruit as much as I do. So after a day out in the durian fields, I was very pleased to be able to share some special varieties with others who really appreciate the uniqueness and variation among durians.
Rob and I spent the day visiting an experimental plot with Dr. Songpol Somsri, a durian breeder for the Chanthaburi Horticultural Research Center. After a morning wandering his 100 acre durian orchard, we were sent home with five experimental hybrids to test out on our new friends.
Two were a cross between a popular Thai commercial variety, Kradumthong, and a thornless native to the Philippines. Dr. Songpol warned us that he couldn’t guarantee these would be tasty, but that we would have to try them out. He also gave us a monthong-chanee hybrid that was more reliably tasty.
So how’d the durians stack up?
|Kradumthong crossed with Philippine thornless durian = not yummy
Sorry, Dr. Songpol. Your Kradumthong-thornless hybrid was a flop. It’s shockingly green exterior cracked open to expose surprisingly pale, snowy white flesh. It emitted an odor that Tarah compared to goats cheese. It’s flesh was soft, the texture smooth, but it totally lacking sweetness. We tried another with a similar exterior. Same thing. The Chanee-Monthong was much better, with daisy-yellow flesh, a slightly fibrous texture, and a sweet and nutty flavor.
We also had a few durian from the local market, including a Puangmanee that everyone agreed on was the best of the lot. A deep yellow-orange fleshed durian with a very strong flavor, this durian is usually shipped to Malaysia as the Thais prefer a milder fruit that lacks the odoriferous punch of the Puangmanee. This fruit had us oohing and aahing. Too bad they were so tiny!
|Chris Randall, from Real Raw Results.com
Sharing a durian with friends is a special experience, and I recommend everyone try it. More people will be coming in a few weeks for the festival, which runs from May 4th to May 13th this year. It’s not too late join us!
Read more about our visit with Dr. Songpol and his experimental durians in the next post!