Year of the Durian is counting down. Since we started on January 1st, we officially end on December 31st at midnight. You better believe we’ll be eating durian! After our durian vacation at Bao Sheng’s Durian Villas in Penang, we had four days to kick it in Kuala Lumpur and do some Christmas shopping, as well as try to sate our durian appetite before heading back to the United States to spend Christmas with our family.
So we spent every evening hitting up our old favorite durian spots: Chow Kit, Jalan Alor, SS2, and Donald’s all-you-can-eat durian buffet for just 9 RM. Unfortunately, we are now official durian snobs. The durian at Bao Sheng’s was so amazing we were a bit spoiled, and even Donald’s best just wasn’t hitting our sweet (or bitter) spot. A fresh durian is truly incomparable to an old one, no matter the variety. We were distressed at the thought that we might leave Malaysia with only crummy city durian in our tummies, so on our very last day we took a hurried trip out to Raub’s Durian Orchard to get our one last durian fix.
Like at Bao Sheng’s, Eddie offers an all-you-can-eat durian buffet of fresh durian that falls only feet away from where you eat. We visited Eddie’s farm back in July and loved it. We were stoked that we had enough time for one more visit. Raub is only 1.5 hours by bus from Kuala Lumpur, and makes an easy day trip. Buses run every hour from 7 a.m. onwards. We left our hotel at 7 a.m. and were back in K.L. by 2:30 p.m., tummies full of some of the best durian in Malaysia. How satisfying!
Eddie’s specialty durian is Tekka (also called Tek Kah or Thrakka). While Musang King and D24 have stolen the hearts of Baby Boomers and younger, Tekka is often preferred by the older generations. An extremely bitter durian with voluminously fleshy and often wrinkly yellow flesh, Tekka was the commercial favorite for years. It’s softer, wetter, and fleshier than Musang King, and has developed quite a cult following according to the blogger at Durianlicious. Many orchards in Central Malaysia and even Bornean Malaysia are still filled with old Tekka trees which are slowly being chopped down and converted to one of the two more popular and valuable varieties.
Although I can’t find the word in any language’s dictionary, I’ve been told that the word Tekka refers to a Bamboo Shoot because of the durian’s curious lopsided shape. Tekka tends to develop large pods on only one or two sides, giving it a curved, crescent shape reminiscent of a bamboo shoot, which is a common vegetable in Asia.
The strange shape means that Tekka may be the most difficult durian to open. It always has an incredibly thick, cement-like core which makes would-be feasters work for their prize. The first time we visited Eddie, he dared Rob to open a Tekka. We weren’t yet familiar with the variety, and although Rob pushed and panted and sweated he could not rip that durian open. Good thing Eddie has such a handy-dandy durian opening machine, which opened the durian cleanly and easily with barely any effort. This invention is both the easiest and tidiest way to open a durian we’ve seen.
Besides Tekka, Eddie had plenty of fresh Red Prawn, Musang King and Horlor to which we said our our tearful goodbyes. All three were, as is normal with good quality fresh durian, outstanding. But just like last time, the Tekka really outshone the others. Maybe it’s the weather, or the soil, or the fact that Eddie’s Tekka trees are old, but these particular durians were really, really good. I have to say that in my book, Musang King and Red Prawn have a competitor!
Eddie took us on one last durian tour. As we walked around his orchard, admiring the heavy clumps of hazardous looking fruit, we could barely believe that this was the last time we would get bitten to death by hordes of mosquitoes while waiting for the resounding thump of a durian hitting the earth somewhere in the orchard. We felt sentimental, and Rob even teared up remembering all the good times and the many places and faces of durian; our first farm in Sumatera, the odorless durian in Thailand, Tina Chong’s Musang Kings, feeding monkeys durian, feeding elephants durian, eating durians. What will we do without durians?
Well, we’re not through with durians. Phew! I’m glad. Thankfully durian is available in Asian Groceries in the USA, so that we can share it with our families over the holidays. Rob’s family has never tasted or seen durian, so it will be interesting to see how they handle the taste and smell. I’m just hoping that my newly acquired durian snobbery won’t prevent frozen Monthong durian being good enough to tide us over until our next durian expedition (details coming soon(ish)!).
There’s still plenty to write about until then. When the year is officially over, we’ll be doing our top tens of the year 2012: top durian varieties, top durian species, and top durian vacation locations. We’ll also be finishing up our guides to where to go and what to eat for durian in each of the 9 countries we visited this year. It’ll be like the Lonely Planet of Durian! I think I’ll call it the Lonely Durian, because those poor durian fruits are just waiting for you to come eat them. It’s our Christmas gift to Durian freaks, fanatics and fans everywhere.
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! And good-bye to Southeast Asia – for now.