Five days ago everybody went home from the Bao Sheng Durian Festival. I’m still here, and so is Grant and Olmo and Aviyah, but the farm is quiet. In the mornings I do yoga by myself. The blenders in the Smoothie Bar are still. It’s like the day after Christmas. I’m happy, but not quite ready to move on.
We’ve spent the last few days looking over the pictures, tidying up, paying the last bills. There’s still durian here, of course, and I know that in just a few days new friends will arrive to join me on the Malaysia Durian Tour. So I don’t feel too lonely. Yet.
Still, I miss everyone who was here. I miss the excitement and the stress and the community we forged over durian. It’s amazing just how diverse we were, in age and country and life experience. We had children only 5 years old and seniors over 65. Together we represented 17 countries from around the world, from Taiwan to Israel to New Zealand to Canada and everywhere inbetween.
I’ve always said that the thing I love best about durian is that it draws people together. Yes, it’s a creamy butter of dessert that somehow counts for your five-a-day of fruit, but it also fills some hole in my soul that is eternally lonely.
With people like you.
Here are a few snapshots of my favorite things that happened during the week. You can see all the photos in this gallery.
- The Durian
- Tasting new fruits at Penang Tropical Fruit Farm
- Vegan Local Cuisine Cooking Classes
- Cooking with durian
- Durian Ice Cream Party!
- Durian Hash
Eating Durian Together
That’s what this durian festival was all about to begin with, right?
A bunch of people. A bunch of durians. Magic.
So even with the dwindled stocks of durian this year (watch my video explaining why), the festival had all the right elements to make this:
This was my birthday Red Prawn, a gift from Zhi Vooi. And also this:
This is a Gold Fish durian from Green Acres, where we all just swooned over the 80+ year-old kampung durians, like this one:
Green Acres was one of two other organic durian farms that we explored beyond Bao Sheng Durian Farm, so that everyone got to experience and meet a few more local growers in Penang’s durian community.
And experience even more yummy durian. Which is the thing we all came together to do.
New Fruit at the Tropical Fruit Farm
Durian lovers have adventurous palates, and we love tasting new fruits too! Even I got to taste a few new fruits this year, like the Fijian Longans in the picture above, even though I’ve been to the Penang Tropical Fruit Farm at least 7 times!
Mr. Roslin was our guide, the same man who (unsuccessfully) tried to help Andrew Zimmern get over his durian fear. If you come on my Malaysia Durian Tour next week, you’ll get to meet him too.
Even fruit hunter Steven Murray, who has criss-crossed the globe looking for rare fruits (see pics on his Facebook Page) got to taste a few new things, like Araca Boi (Eugenia stipitata) and Velvet Apple (Diospyros blancoi) and later we tasted found some Artocarpus gomezianus along the roadside.
Unfortunately Steven didn’t get to taste Nam-Nam, which was on his list. We found it during the second week.
When I think about all the activities we did, it was really a week of experiencing culture through our tastebuds. We ate all kinds of new fruits, and then we also learned to cook vegan cuisine with local vegetables and spices.
Vegan Cooking Classes, Local Food
Nazlina runs a local cooking school to teach people how to prepare local ingredients with a Malaysian flare. She’s creative and really knowledgeable about using herbs and spices for amazing flavors, and when I approached her about recreating some local dishes vegan, she was gungho.
The results were incredibly tasty dishes spiced with torch ginger, limes, lemongrass and sweetened with dates or tamarind or coconut sugar. We learned how to make pineapple curry and nyonya spring rolls and kerabu (local salad) and rojak (spice fruit salad) and these amazing coconut stuffed peppers.
All those eating cooked vegan food really enjoyed the lesson and came away with new ideas for integrating more flavors into their cooking, and the raw foodies enjoyed the achar and kerabu salads.
Who says vegans and raw vegans can’t enjoy some local cuisine?
Cooking with Durian
Of course, we got creative with our durian too. We made two dishes with unripe durian, which has the starchy, pliable texture of mozzarella cheese sticks or half-cooked potato. It absorbs flavor really well, and I think most people really enjoyed the Durian Som Tam and Durian Massaman Curry that Parisa prepared.
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I also shared Chef Alicia and my new recipe for Raw Vegan Durian Mac’n Cheese, which with no humility I will say was a hit. I will share the recipe video soon!
Durian Ice Cream Party
In my family, our birthday cakes were made of ice cream. I love ice cream. It’s comforting and familiar and sweet and cold and it makes me think of my mom.
The moment I tasted my first durian, I thought it tasted like ice cream. The sweetest, creamiest, most vanilla-iest ice cream ever.
Then a few years ago I tried out Megan Elizabeth’s Mint Chocolate Chip Durian Ice Cream and I was hooked for good. This may be the best ice cream in existence.
So what more could I want for my birthday then a Durian Ice Cream Sundae party? (on Sunday, because I also have an unhealthy delight in alliteration)
It was such a party, I wanted to share the durian with even more people. So we packed up a big basket of durian and headed off to…
The Durian Hash
I use durian as a social icebreaker. Or maybe I just have low self-value. Either way, I felt like if our group showed up with a giant basket of durians to a local event, we would be a hit and make loads of new friends.
On the second Saturday of the festival, we joined the Penang Hash Harriers on one of their wild jungle runs, followed by an epic parking lot durian feast.
It was one of the most memorable experiences of the week!
After the durian, and an epic vegan Indian feast provided by the club (those guys can cook!) we were all “punished” by being forced to sit on ice!
I got punished first for bringing too much durian.
Then our skinny vegan guys tried to compete for the beer belly competition.
I think Olmo did pretty well. Thank you to Texas for providing these photos since I didn’t have my camera with me.
Download and Share the Pictures
Check out all my photos on this Gallery. If you attended the festival and you want copies for your Facebook page or your scrapbook, you can simply download the pictures and do what you will them. Draw durian thorns on all our faces. It was our week together, and the photos are yours too.
Please remember to share your photos on the Bao Sheng Festival Facebook Page.
Conclusion and Thank You
After many weeks of worry and stress, I had an amazing two weeks with the Bao Sheng Durian Festival. And I have so many people to thank, including:
- Nazlina’s Spice Station for coming all the way out to the farm to teach us vegan cooking
- Green Acres for basically donating the durians for the Durian Hash
- Timothy Tye from Penang Travel Tips for coming out to teach us Hokkien and local culture
- Zhi Vooi and Mr. Chang for hosting us
- Texas Bullshitter for hosting us at the Penang Hash Hounds and Sperm Whale for the amazing vegan feast
- Grant of Raw Aussie Athletes for being my co-partner in all this madness
- All the volunteers for giving it their all, unpaid, for two weeks
- Everyone who came and made putting in the effort worthwhile
2017 Durian Festival?
Before the festival started this year, I questioned whether or not we would do it again.
It’s a lot of work, doesn’t pay very well, and ends up being stressful for me. I’ve downloaded Headspace and am working on the stress angle of things, but still. In the weeks leading up to the Festival I questioned whether or not the work and the stress was worth it.
Looking back over the two weeks, I think it was.
So the 2017 Bao Sheng Durian Festival is on, with a few tweaks.
We will do just one week this year, not two. And we’ll also do it in July, when a greater diversity of fruits *should* (weather and all gods allowing) be in season.
See you next Durian Season! Please leave questions about next year in the comment box below!