I arrived in Chanthaburi, Thailand too early for the Chanthaburi Durian Festival but just in time for a gathering of durian freaks. My friend Grant Campbell hosts a shindig for raw foodists every year, usually during the festival. Grant is the two year reigning champion of the durian speed eating competition. This year’s festival was delayed to June 1-10th due to some bad storms, but Grant and his durian chowing cohorts are still here knocking back a serious quantity of durian and having a great time. Durian Part-ay!
I’m here to fill-in some of my research and work on an E-book, The Durian Tourist in Thailand. I’m hoping to gather information about where durian-lovers can stay on durian orchards and regions that specialize in different varieties. I’ll be doing a lot more traveling than we did the first time around, hitting up Uttaradit for the famous Laplae durians, Rayong and Trat, and Kanchanburi .
First I’m taking a much needed durian vacation in Chanthaburi by tagging along with Grant’s group and partaking in the never-ending consumption of durian. Chanthaburi province is the number one durian producer in Thailand, growing more than 40% of the country’s durian supply. This is so my style of holiday.
The majority of durian grown in and around Chanthaburi are the popular varieties, Monthong or Chanee. These varieties are the clonal offspring of a tree bred sometime in the last fifty years. The trees are always grafted and are unlikely to be more than 20 years old, which any durian snob knows isn’t old enough to produce really super duper high quality fruit.
Here and there are still a few relics of durian before the green revolution. At one farm, they had a tree said to be over 150 years old. The woman who owned the farm said it was already grown when her great, great, great-grandfather purchased the land. It’s been in the family all that time, and although they say it’s 150 years old to be safe, she thinks it’s probably closer to 200 years old. There weren’t any fruits yet, but I’m keeping the tree in mind for when I return in June.
|Translator Nong, Nong’s baby, and Grant devour some durian|
Being that old means that the tree was planted from seed, and should give a good idea of how similar the original, unbred Thai durian was to other durians around the world. In general Thai durians are markedly different – sweeter, fleshier, and milder. I’ve been wondering how long ago they were bred to taste that way.
Back in town one stall was selling durian from a 100 year old tree in someone’s backyard. The durians were small, about 1 kg each, and had a shape, color and spine very similar to a Malaysian durian. I actually thought it looked from the outside fairly similar to a Musang King. In flavor it was: WOW. Each swollen pod was slightly wrinkly and soft like a microwaved marshmallow. The flavor seemed similar to a Malaysian Horlor, peanut-butter sweet with an undertone of chocolate custard. Truly fantastic.
|A Thai durian from a 100-year old tree|
It seems that Thailand still has a lot of durian surprises. I can’t wait to keep exploring. But first, I’m revisiting to Cambodia.