We thought 2012 was the Year of the Durian. Turns out, we may be in for a few years of durian yet. And that’s just fine with us. It’s hard to believe a whole year has passed since we returned from our epic adventure. We tried to settle down and be normal again, but it just didn’t work. Instead, this was one of the most hectic, fascinating and surprising years of my life, with some pretty awesome durians. Here’s a recap of my favorite durians of 2013.
Koh Chang, Thailand
the day I conquered my fear of driving a motorbike (I really will do
anything for durian!), I was rewarded with this magnificent beauty of a
durian. Rob was still working in Sri Lanka, and I was in Thailand doing a
little extra research for the book. I drove around all day visiting
waterfalls and looking for durian farms. This one was waiting for me at
the foot of Khlong Nonsi waterfall.
It was by far the
best durian I have ever eaten in Thailand, each pod an immense bitter
cream dumpling highlighted by spots of numbing. You can see the copious
black spots. The flavor was amazing, rivaling anything I’ve eaten at Bao
Sheng’s in Penang. But without Rob’s help, I couldn’t eat it all no
matter how greedy I felt. So I shared it with an elephant – always a
Veal Rinh, Cambodia
Great durian often has a trick up it’s sleeve, as did this Nungoye durian
in this random, dusty little town. I’m sure the teenager selling these durians out of a street cart was as confused by what Darrick and I were doing there
as we were.
At first I was even put off by the strange color striations, like albino streaks where the color didn’t set right. I worried that no color meant no flavor.
My misgivings were misplaced, this durian was one of the best I ate in
Cambodia, eaten with one of my favorite people, and now one of my
Nakhon Nayok, Thailand
This is a Monthong. Are you as surprised as I am that it makes my
list of favorite durians? I was shocked when this durian hit my tongue.
Instead of the flat, rather cloying butter sweet flavor I’ve come to
expect from conventionally grown (and picked) Monthong, this one was
complex, smooth, and might I even say milk chocolatey? It was
phenomenal, and gave me a new respect for Monthong.
Monthong deserves more respect. As much as we durian snobs like to
belittle it as the Wonderbread of durians and the poster child of monocrops
and the era of petroleum agriculture, Monthong is really one of the oldest durian varieties. When
grown with love and organic fertilizers and picked at the proper
maturity, as at Suan La-Ong Fah, it is definitely a durian worth raving
The trees were planted sometime in the 1870’s. We picked it up ourselves while walking around the towering trees, and it was so fresh the tip of the stem was still white. The old man in charge of the selling the government farm’s fruits didn’t want to let us have it, resulting in a fierce Tam-English debate between our tuk-tuk driver, Rob, and the old man. The rest of the durians for sale were old and split, and not worth the steep 700 rupee per kilo price, even to taste an Indian grown durian. What a treasure to get to taste this one!
I love finding new durian species, even ones that disappoint me. This mysterious durian species was first described in 1908 as having “Big, succulent arils.” That was enough to make me excited, but I couldn’t find any more information despite spending hours scouring botanical databases, old fruit hunting manuscripts and horticultural journals.
Then I found it. It was thrilling and intriguing, as it is when I find any new durians, but didn’t clear up the mystery. Because this durian had nothing to eat. Where were the big succulent arils described in the Kew Bulletin? They couldn’t be talking about this durian. So then…what durian were they describing? The hunt is on!
Once again Rob did his best to prove that a diet of primarily Red Prawn durian, which I’ve dubbed Angharianism, is truly a wonderful thing. His discerning taste buds decreed that the best Red Prawn of the year was a birthday gift from our friend Mr. Lim, the Durian King of Penang. He generously gave us and our friends a lift to a private durian smorgasbord of his special durians. It was a very special birthday gift that my stomach and I will always treasure.
New York State, USA
It ain’t nothin’ special to look at, but sometimes, it’s being with the other freaks who love durian that make
a durian experience worth cherishing.
The Woodstock Fruit Festival in New York State was a gathering
of over 600 Western people who love durian. That’s right – a lot of
American, Australian and European durian lovers who could eat your average
Malaysian under the durian table. I even made a video to prove that this actually happened. Think midnight durian smorgasbords, eating
competitions, and lazy afternoons eating durian on the lawn. Sometimes good times make good durian (and sometimes the other way around).
Mayaguez, Puerto Rico
Last but not at all least….
Oh Jackie Chan’s Wife, may I write odes to thee. And not because I’m a lesbian. Because you are my favorite durian. Rob may go on and on about his precious, delectable Red Prawn, but you, Lim Fong Jiao, will always be the prize in my eyes. So powerfully deep, dark bitter chocolate, you’re never too sweet nor too dry, but always the smooth, sticky soft treat I’m craving. May you always fall when I’m around.