It’s been another year of durians, guys. Time is passing so quickly I’m worried I’m going to wake up tomorrow and find myself 90 years old with high blood pressure (which means I couldn’t pound durian. Oh no!) Where’d the time go this year?
If my photos are any clue, we spent a lot of time scarfing durian. This post is 100% durian pornography. Hope you just ate some fantastic durians, cuz otherwise this post is going to somewhat tortuous.
Remember, this is a list of the best durian we ate this year, not the best durian of all time everywhere. The durians we ate in 2013 were different, but equally good.
In 2014 we chose to spend more time in fewer places, both to treat ourselves to some stability (the joys of routine!) and also get more in-depth knowledge of farms, markets, and local wisdom. Total, I spent more than 2 months in Penang doing some groundwork for a new guidebook I plan to release this April.
Australia was probably the most exciting place for durian, due to the passion and innovation and sheer drive of those durian lovers, but none of their durians made the cut for best durians of the year. Just being honest guys, you know I love you. And your durians too.To make up for stiffing you I’ll be posting a sum up of our most interesting durian experiences next week.
The Most Delicious Durians of 2014
Where I ate it: Any durian stall in Georgetown, Penang
I first came across this durian at Ah Teik’s Durian Stall when Ryan, Steph and I spent an entire day flitting from durian stall to durian stall on our custom walking tour of Georgetown. That particular durian didn’t ripen properly, but what wasn’t hard and stringy was good enough that I marked it as one I’d like to try again.
I was given the opportunity a month later when a group of us went to the All-You-Can-Eat Buffet. Here’s what I said:
This durian is amazing. Each piece was swollen with a soft, silky cream that was both sweet, bitter, and a tiny bit salty. I imagine this, as well as it’s creamy color, is where it gets it’s name.
Read all about Georgetown’s All-You-Can-Eat Durian Buffet.
Where I ate it: Chanthaburi Durian Festival, Thailand
When: late May or early June
Puangmanee was one of our preferred durians in both 2012 and 2013, and it didn’t let us down this year. What a joy it was to see these glowing orangey pods neatly arranged on styrofoam trays, ready and waiting for us at a stall along the lake front during the Chanthaburi Durian Festival.
Rob and I bought several packs and sat down immediately to eat it all, making the durian seller laugh. Compared to other Thai durians Puangmanee is smooth, firm custard flesh with a smoky hint of chocolate.
While we ate people stopped to stare and take our photo. Eventually a news crew came by and had us say on camera that yes, we were really and truly eating durian.
And with pleasure.
Where I ate it: Green Acres Eco-Farm, Penang
When: End of June
At first the most exciting thing about D15 was it’s bulk. Just look at that heft. It’s like the Incredible Hulk of the fruit kingdom.
I almost didn’t want to love it. It was too hefty, an indulgent durian Bacchus. The fat you eat is the fat you wear, right? But it quickly won me over, for the joy of taking a bite that is completely filled with the softest, saliva-inducing butter-cream.
Ryan and I had the pleasure of caring for this D15 at Green Acres Eco-Farm in Penang, a really wonderful 100% organic and sustainable farm designed by a couple of environmental activists.
I’ll be sharing a post about our day at Green Acres as we start talking more about our Malaysia Durian Tour coming up this summer.
4. Hor Lor
Where I ate it: Bao Sheng’s Durian Farm
When: Early June
A severe drought in Penang this year affected the flavor of durians, some for the worse and others for the better. This year Hor Lor was one of my favorite durians, which was a shock because in other years I flat out refused to eat it. I thought it was too sweet, like a sticky version of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, my third most hated candy after Tootsie Rolls and Circus Peanuts (what are those things??).
Here’s what I thought of Hor Lor in 2014:
Even stickier than I remembered, Hor Lor had become a golden, fleshy mass of chaotic wrinkles with a rich, dark chocolate bite. It was like eating chocolate bark embedded with almonds. Heavenly.
Just goes to show that we don’t always know ourselves as well as we think. Did the durian change, or did I?
5. Unnamed Durian
Where I ate it: Malyamine, Myanmar
Burma was plain travel fun. A new country, a new culture, a new landscape that combined the colors and chaos of India with a certain Thai politeness. Rob and I rented a motorbike and went riding around the countryside, looking for the largest reclining Buddha in the world and any and all durians we could find. We found this one at an unobtrusive fruit shop just outside of Mawlyamine.
This durian didn’t have a special name. It was probably grown in someone’s backyard, and was super fresh. It was the best durian I’d had so far that year.
It was like sucking melted dark chocolate off the plump seeds. We had to use some serious self-discipline not to stuff ourselves prematurely and kill the motivation for the hunt. How else were we going to find the durian orchards and the giant Buddha?
6. Tenom Beauty
Where I ate it: Sabah, Malaysia
When I saw this durian my eyes lit up and I nearly squealed. Jess and I were walking along the Kota Kinabalu Central Market when I spotted them, and I knew from their yellow shells and slightly oblong shape I knew immediately what they were: Tenom Beauties (or a very close relative.)
Tenom Beauty is a natural hybrid between two durian species; D. zibethinus, and D. graveolens. IMO, it’s the best of both worlds.
It’s hard to say if my favoritism for Tenom Beauty comes from it’s densely creamy, nutty dark chocolate flavor, or simply because the intensity of it’s pinkness pleases me.
Where I ate it: Uttaradit, Thailand
This year, I might rate Longlaplae as my #1 durian in Thailand.
Longlaplae surprised me because it’s claim to fame is that it barely has a durian odor. It was true that the smell was pretty absent, but that didn’t stop it from tasting really amazing.
Unlike Malaysian varieties, they were not terribly bitter, but had a pleasant sweet milkiness to them, like whipped cream, and just a hint of that awe inspiring tingle – the numbing.
Where I ate it: Ranau Fruit Market
Sukang, or Durio oxleyanus, is a species that used to be found in Peninsular Malaysia (it was first discovered in Penang) but now is most easily found in Borneo.
Jess and I found it at the fruit market in Ranau Town after being turned away from climbing Mount Kinabalu. This durian made up the journey worth it.
Smooth and rich, with no hint of wateriness or that chemical, acrid aftertaste that sometime accompanies a low quality durian. These were pure milk chocolate.
9. Black Thorn
Where I ate it: Rumah Batu Durian Farm, or any stall in Georgetown
The color of this durian was the first to get my attention. It practically glows.
Black Thorn is the new Red Prawn. And in more than just hype. Like Red Prawn, this durian has no fiber. Each pod is a puff of melted-marshmallow delicately wrapped in a thin wrinkled skin.
Of course I’d heard of it before, but I didn’t get the chance to taste it until this year. And we had to really want it, because it was one of the most expensive durians I’ve ever bought. But it was good. So good, that I tracked down the original farm where it came from to talk to the farmer.
If you join us this summer, we’ll be going to that farm.
10. D158, Ganja
Where I ate it: Bao Sheng’s Durian Farm
I married a pothead, but the green stuff could never win me the way this Ganja durian did. Every single one had these perfect lines of wrinkles running in parallel across the flesh, creating a striatiog of sheen and shadow that would probably sell at a modern art gallery.
Ganja is same durian as Ganyao in Thailand, just pronounced differently. It’s a joke in Malaysia that the reason it’s called Ganja is because of it’s addictive properties. I can attest to that.
Sweeter than I normally care for, Ganja won in the flavor department. It was rich, super sticky, and had a mouthwatering aroma of fudge. This Ganja is my top pick for 2014 durians.
The Most Expensive Durian In The World
We all do stupid things with money sometimes. I chose to buy the most expensive durian in the world. It took me two years just to get the right contacts to be given the opportunity to buy it, and when I finally got the phone call, I just couldn’t say no.
Normally, only Thai royalty and upper government officers get the opportunity to taste this durian, believed to be the best durian in all of Thailand.
So maybe it wasn’t stupid to buy it. But was it worth the cost? Well… it didn’t make the top ten durians.
Read all about my trip to Nonthaburi to buy the durian and what my friends in Malaysia thought of its taste (I shared).
Tell us what and where!