This year, the Chanthaburi Durian Festival moved away from it’s old comfy if squishy headquarters around King Taksin Lake Park to a new location about 12 km from the city. There it sprawled into something not quite recognizable as a durian festival.The most fruity part of the festival was the enormous Free Fruit Buffet, a madhouse of fruit and fruit eaters that took place every day from 11-2 AM and 5-7 PM. Along with all-you-can-stomach mangosteen, rambutans, snakefruits and of course durian, they served platters of durian cooked into four traditional Thai desserts.
The Free Fruit Buffet is a longstanding tradition of previous Durian Festivals, and those of us who eat mostly fruit as our diet have used and abused it’s bottomless trays of mangosteens, rambutans, and of course, durian.
This year, the Free Fruit Buffet was enormous. It was in a hall the size of an airplane hanger, lined with food stalls and yellow tables for enjoying the pomological bounty. There were the usual three fruits – fuzzy piles of rambutans, a landsliding mountain of mangosteens, the snakefruits I’ve just recently come to appreciate, and the obligatory chopped slices of durian on trays, all Monthong.
But what I thought was most interesting was that in addition to the fresh fruit, the Fresh Fruit Buffet now included four freshly made durian products. This is new and different, and possibly more popular than the fresh fruit.
4 Ways Thais Cook Durian
1. Durian Chips
There was a lady making durian chips in two enormous woks of sizzling oil so close to the throngs of fruit freeloaders I had recurring waking nightmares of being jostled in the crowd and falling in. The chips are made from unripe durian, sliced thin and fried like a potato chip.
2. Durian Sticky Rice
There were also about a million pink cups filled with Khao Niaow Thurian – durian cooked with coconut sugar and coconut milk, and poured over sticky rice. Recipe here.
3. Durian Guan
Durian Guan is normally sold in plastic-wrapped logs, stacked into pyramids. Durian guan is pure durian flesh, usually with some sugar, cooked down into a sticky, toffee-like paste with an oily sheen. It’s dense, sweet, and slightly fibrous, like a really wet ball of banana bread. Recipe here.
4. Candied Durian
Then there was this – Thurian Chuam. It’s durian boiled in sugar until it basically tastes like sugar with a sticky, slightly creamy texture.
These things interest me in an intellectual way, although they don’t call out to me “Eat me! Eat me! ” the way I can’t resist a ripe Chanee or Green Skin.But I wasn’t really at the Free Fruit Buffet to eat. I was there because people.
There was a sea of humanity surging around the fruit, everyone vying for a piece or laughing with their friends as they are bumped and jostled in the surf.
There was music playing too loud, and a man on a loudspeaker narrating the actions of the fruit eaters like it was some important event.
People were smiling. It was like arriving at a party for a very popular guest, when you have never met the hosts or the guest of honor.Sometimes hunting durian, we can become too focused on finding new varieties or looking for a special flavor, when half of tasting is environmental. The people, the places, the smells, sounds, and feelings make up at least half of the way we experience taste and later how we remember (or completely forget) that taste.
So sometimes the durian is amazing, but mostly durian lovers are amazing.
After I’d enjoyed the crowd, I penguin-shuffled my way out of buffet area, snagging a handful of rambutans for the road.
How To Go to The Chanthaburi Durian Festival
The Chanthaburi Durian Festival was located about 12 km from where it was held in previous years, outside of the city near the new Chanthaburi Provincial Administration Building at the intersection of Hwy 3 (Sukhumvit Road) and Hwy 3493.