Poh Beng Durian Stall attracted my attention because it is located very close to the Penang International Airport. Google maps tells me it’s less than three miles away, or a total of 9 minutes by car.
That’s very doable if you’re in a rush to grab a last hit on your way to the airport, or you get bored waiting for a connecting flight.
Poh Beng Durian was also in an area of Penang that I haven’t visited very much — Bayan Bahru. Bayan Bahru is in the southern portion of Penang, and is a residential area for people working in the Industrial Zone. As a tourist, I have very little reason to go there. Except: durian.
One morning in late July, Timothy Tye of Penang Travel Tips picked me up outside Xavier’s Hostel in Georgetown. We’d scheduled an early durian luncheon, based on the facts that durians are freshest in the morning and that Tim is hungriest at lunch.
Immediately, it became clear that Tim’s site is so complete because he is an incredibly energetic person and has an amazing attention to detail.
An example: Wikipedia has only 22 words to say about Bayan Baru. Tim has 902, with exhaustive lists of places to eat and stay and a short history of the town.
He also smiles constantly, which was a little unnerving until I got used to it, and then it was just awesome. Because he’s not being fake — Tim is just a genuinely cheerful person. I found myself wishing I had such an upbeat attitude. Can such things be learned?
Poh Beng Durian Estate
When we arrived, Chang Poh Beng himself was unloading durians out of a truck parked in front of his small house.
The durians had just arrived. We were right on time.
Ah Beng was busy when we arrived, hauling crates of durian off the truck and sorting them by smell. He was expecting us, and it became clear to me that he knew who I was. He began testing me, holding up a durian and asking me to identify it.
Green Skin. D15. Red Prawn. D24. I missed on Horlor, as I wasn’t expecting to see it so late in the season.
As I named them, his grin grew wider and his gentle, droopy eyes narrowed nearly closed. I found myself sneaking peaks at him, trying to figure out where I’d met him before.
He seemed so familiar, and seemed to know who I was, that I found myself wondering if I’d committed a major social faux pas.
“He seems so familiar,” I told Tim.
“Maybe it’s because he is actually Bao Sheng’s older brother,” Tim suggested. And then it clicked. I’d been staying all summer with Chang Teik Seng at Bao Sheng’s Durian Farm. The family resemblance was unmistakable.
I hoped it meant he had the family knack for durian.
Since Tim hadn’t been out for high end durian before, I wanted to treat him to the best available that day. So even though it was just the two of us, I asked Mr. Chang to help us select a very good Red Prawn, and two slightly cheaper varieties: a D78 and a D24.
Because it was so late in the season, the D24 and D78 came from Perak. I picked D78 because I remembered really liking it at King of the King Durian in KL. The Red Prawn came from one of Mr. Chang’s orchards. Let me repeat that: ONE of his orchards.
It turns out that Bao Sheng’s older brother is a bit of a durian tycoon.
He operates over 70 acres of durian orchards around the island. He doesn’t actually own all that land, but he rents it in 10 acre plots and cares for the durian trees. He himself owns only 12 acres in Sungai Pinang.
As we settled onto our table to eat, Mr. Chang joined us. I was glad we came in the morning, when there were no other customers yet, and also doubly glad I’d invited Tim along.
Since Mr. Chang doesn’t speak English, Tim translated — with enthusiasm. The three of us were able to have a great conversation.
I was having so much fun, I wished that I spoke Hokkien. I’d been hanging around Bao Sheng’s long enough to decipher a word or two, but suddenly speaking it myself didn’t seem like such a far off dream.
I resolved to start playing Tim’s Hokkien Course on Memrise (I’ve been playing for two months now. Join me, it’s free!)
Durian Connoisseur Opinions
The Red Prawn we dug into seemed to have been off the tree longer than the ones I’d enjoyed at Bao Sheng’s Farm. Tim asked Mr. Chang about it for me, and he smiled. We’d hit a point of contention between brothers.
This Mr. Chang believes that durians need time off the tree to develop more flavor, peaking at about 8 hours after falling.
“What about numb?” I asked him. He smiled, and said you have to choose.
Mr. Chang said you can’t have everything in this life. If you have numb, you can’t have the full flavor. If you have the full flavor, you can’t have numb.
He prefers flavor.
He’s not the only durian seller to tell me about waiting longer for flavor development, but how very Mr. Chang of him to make it into a life lesson, I thought. At Bao Sheng’s I’d heard many Yoda-like durian lessons. Some things just run in families.
Including ability to select good durians. Although the durians were expensive the price wasn’t unreasonable (Red Prawn was the most expensive, at RM40 for a large fruit) and I was very happy with the quality. Altogether the three durians cost RM83 (about $20 USD).
If you don’t have time to make it over the hill to Bao Sheng Durian Farm, his older brother’s stall near the airport is a tasty, high quality durian option. If you learn to speak Hokkien, you might even get a wise life lesson.
Getting To Poh Beng Durian Estate
Poh Beng Durian is located across the street from the Fire Station on Jalan Tengah, around the corner from Pantai Mutiara Hospital.
Address: 17, Medan Mahsuri 1, Jalan Tengah