Kampot was a durian haven from the early 1940’s on. It reached it’s peak preeminence in the 1960’s, right before the Khmer Rouge crashed the party. Durian orchards were burned in the areas considered suitable for rice growing, their wealthy owners murdered by the new anti-elite establishment.
|Darrick talks durian with the vendor|
There was far more durian this time around then when Rob and I visited last year. Later, I found out that a bad rainstorm had destroyed most of the durian crop last year, which explains why it was so difficult to find a wide selection of varieties, or really any quality durian. This year we were in luck. Maybe having Durian Darrick along is a lucky charm.
|Under ripe durian. Boo!|
This Dongkat was a bit of a letdown. I think it was under ripe, or at least had ripened unevenly due to being cut too early. A bit fibrous and very sweet, it had a subtle, chemical egg-ness which I really hate in a durian. I more than just dislike the flavor, I resent it, because it means that somebody cut the fruit too early and ruined what could have been a perfectly delicious durian.
With disappointment so recent, Darrick and I were both excited to head out to the farms and get some really quality stuff. I repeated what we did last year: hiring a guide and heading out the Teuk Chhou area, which is a really well known spot for durian. Durians are sold at farm stands up and down the road, converging in particular in the parking lot at Tuk Chhou rapids, a popular swimming area.
|Teuk Chhou rapids, kinda weird lighting|
We stopped at the rapids briefly to talk to the many vendors there and see if we could find a Juhout durian, a variety I’d been searching for for days. This is when having an English speaking guide comes in handy. I don’t know how I could have found the names of the different varieties without the help of a translator (Thanks again Alex! You were so awesome in Kep).
If you’re not conducting interviews or looking for specific, hard to find varieties, you don’t need a guide to
go to Teuk Chhou. It’s just across the bridge from town, and an easy
bicycle ride on flat road dotted with durian stalls, should you need sustenance along the way. If you can hold out, a durian smorgasbord awaits at the rapids, where so many independent durian stalls are set up I wondered how they could all stay in business. In between all of them wandered roving durian sellers, ladies with baskets of durian in each arm. The ladies were very persuasive.
|A roving durian seller at Teuk Chhou rapids|
But by that point, Darrick and I already had enough durian. We were packing three large durians, two from the farm earlier and my prized Juhout, in addition to having been fed a freebie by the wonderfully generous farmer, who gave us a Monthong seedling that had fallen off the tree that morning. Now that, my durian-loving friends, was a good durian.
I didn’t get a good picture of it, though. So enjoy this one, which is quickly becoming my fall-back variety.
Next Stop: Kampung Cham.
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I am in Phnom Penh now, and have had a couple small round durians (dare I say “pumpkin like”?) identified only as “Kampot.” The woman was selling another variety, quite a bit larger and more oblong with less dense spines, and she said it was “the same thing.” It clearly wasn’t. I got one of the small ones and it was wonderful. That perfect smooth creaminess held together by the delicate membrane… very fragrant in the head. Fairly orange flesh. I looked up “Dongkat” but couldn’t find much information on it. I did find the word “Tongkat” in association with coffee, and “Musang King.” The small one I got yesterday really did remind me of Musang King with it’s firmer flesh and almost coffee-like overtones. So I loved them both, but I’m still not 100% sure what it was I ate. 🙂
I like durian trading
Mike Czyzewski says
man, I love how crazy passionate you are for durian.