In Malaysia, the jungle is never that far away. Even in KL, a city of 1.5 million people, you can take a 30 minute drive and hit some pretty jungle-ey stuff, where wild durian species like Durio oxleyanus and Durio lowianus and other botanical oddities can be purchased at stalls along narrow country lanes.
These are the fruits that make a Westerner like me stop and rubberneck. What the heck is that? Spotting a new fruit is like when I saw Penang’s intimidatingly giant black squirrels for the first time, except less scary.
So when I first got to Malaysia, I thought maybe me looking for wild durian species was like Japanese tourists visiting my hometown and taking hundreds of pictures of deer. Cute.
Deer are everywhere in my home, including places you really wish they wouldn’t be. No need to take a picture.
Over time, though, I realized that the majority of people who have lived in Malaysia their whole lives have never tasted a lot of wild fruits. I’ve often found myself pointing out trees of things like keledang or kuini mango or tampoi or even the wild and crazy tasting Durian Hutans (jungle durians) to astonished locals, who hadn’t noticed them before.
The thing is, they’re not even that hard to find if you know what to look for.
But I didn’t know just how close to Kuala Lumpur you can find wild durians until recently, when local durian lover Fais gave me a tip off and then permitted me to share with you his treasure spots.
This post includes the details of four places we picked up wild durians in the Hulu Langat area (including the 4 varieties of D. lowianus from my previous post), on the border between Negeri Sembilan and Selangor. I’ve included the GPS locations, so you can go exploring on your own.
Go catch them all! (↓scroll down for Googlemap↓)
Moir’s Durian Collection Point
The first place Fais took us was to a durian collection point, a rustic bamboo and tarp-roof shack that sees an impressive 30 tons of durian flow through it every day of the durian season.
That’s Moir in red, with a cigarrette clenched between his teeth. He’s the big boss of all the durian.
This is the place that locals come to dump the durians they collect on their properties or in the national park nearby. While we stood there munching and talking, three individuals put-putted in on motorbikes with enormous wicker baskets drooping from their shoulders.
It was really impressive that they could drive with that much weight on their backs. As they swung off their bikes, the durian sellers stood nearby to help ease the heavy load off their shoulders to the ground. It was a dance they’d practiced into oiled smoothness.
They tossed the durians into piles where we greedily snatched them, having done nothing more to earn a durian feed than navigate KL’s morning traffic.
Here’s the durian hutans (and others) we ate at Moir’s:
This durian is endemic to Peninsular Malaysia, and it grows wild up and down the peninsula. I’ve found it in a few different places, but I’ve been continuously impressed by just how many shapes and sizes and thorn-types and flavors it has.
This one was wet and slippery smooth, with a strong fruit and alcohol flavor.
This one was sticky and kind of pasty and barely sweet at all, with the underlying alcohol.
I think there’s an interesting future for this durian, especially if anyone manages to hybridize it with a normal durian, like maybe Musang King.
Can you imagine? This pungent business mixed up with Musang King? Yum!
I’ve described all four of the varieties of D. lowianus we found in my previous post.
I always get a thrill when I see this durian, which looks like some kind of underwater tentacled creature. With its long, curving, rubbery spikes, it would make a great pokemon monster (please someone do this).
It’s spikes make it distinctive, but D. oxleyanus is also really unusual because it has four sections rather than the normal five.
Usually each section just has one big pod with off-white or off-cream grey color that can be decently thick (but not of Thai proportions).
It’s one of the mildest and sweetest durian renditions, and a lot of people who say they don’t like normal durian find this one appealing.
In Ranau, this durian is purposefully cultivated, and really I don’t understand why it’s not more popular in all of Malaysia.
Don’t forget that the normal durian, Durio zibethinus, can also be found in the jungle! Although fascinatingly, they only seem to appear in abandoned longhouse zones or places cultivated by the native inhabitants. Either they co-evolved with us, or we bred them into their current form from a long forgotten “missing link.”
One of the durians they gave us was called Tembaga, the copper durian. I’ve had a lot of Tembagas now — first in Penang, later in Bali, most recently in Kuala Lumpur out of season — and it never looks the same on the outside. This durian was also a new rendition for me. But whatever. It tasted good.
Durian Kopi O
George got himself pretty exicted about this one, which they claimed came from a mother tree so large 8 men holding hands couldn’t wrap themselves around it.
Kopi-O for those of you not from Malaysia means dairy-free coffee, or black coffee with sugar. It’s vegan, and it’s what I order on the rare occasions I indulge in a little caffeine magic.
George was so curious about this supposed deep, acridly, bitter durian that he convinced the guys to let us hop on their motorbikes and cruise over to the tree, which was less than 500 meters away.
When we arrived at the tree, I looked it up and down. Sure it was old, but it wasn’t that old. I’d guess 70ish years looking at the trunk. What do you think?
A few had fallen around th base of the trunk, which we picked up and carried back to Moir’s to taste.
The durian had white flesh with some decent wrinkles, but the flavor reminded me more of the toffee-brown milk my grandma used to give me while she enjoyed her morning brew. This “Kopi-0” flavor was definitely not of the vegan variety.
Thoughts about Moir’s Collection Point
As we drove away, George chided me for being too excited and camera happy from the get go, and ruining our bartering chances. “You still have some things to learn about Malaysia,” he sighed gently. “Don’t show these guys you’re excited.”
I had to think about that one, because sometimes being the over-enthusiastic Westerner works in my favor. And they had given us a lot of durian to sample for free.
When went to other locations for wild durian, it was clear that maybe we had maybe overpaid a teensy weensy bit for our wild durians. Like maybe three times more. At Moir’s, we paid 30RM/kilo for the wild durians, which we found later for only 10 RM/kilo. Where? Read on…
More places to buy wild durians
Our day didn’t end at Moir’s Durian Collection Point. We continued onward on the hunt for the best durian hutan variety. Here are three more places we purchased and ate Durio lowianus and Durio oxleyanus that day (hint: the durian was a bit cheaper)
Roadside Stall with D. Oxleyanus and Keladang
We stopped at a grouping of three or four stalls just along the highway on the way to Broga Hills that had a lot of interesting stuff going on.
The highlight was these oversized Oxleyanus, which were bigger than the ones at Moir’s and also 1/3 the price.
We paid 10RM/kg here, the cheapest price we paid all day for durian.
Almost more exciting though, was the Artocarpus lanceifolius sitting at the stall just next to the durian hutans.
This cempedak relative has a texture more like a terap or marang, another smelly fruit that is sometimes banned on airplanes.
I didn’t notice this one having a very strong odor, but the flavor was intense. It was sweet and sour, with a wonderfully perfumed lemonade flavor. It was just as refreshing as a mangosteen, and the perfect thing to finish our durian meal.
I’ve found these growing wild in Penang’s National Parks too. Check out the video on my Youtube channel.
Durian Stall Nearby Moir’s
Leaving Moir’s, we hadn’t gone too far when George called a stop. He’d spotted more durians.
It was just a small stall set up next to one of the many eco-resorts in the area, but the ever curious George had a feeling we might find something interesting.
All their durians were in one big bucket, the durian hutan species jumbled up with the kampungs. We had to sort through to find the durians of interest to us. Sometimes we could tell by the spike type, and the bright green color.
Can you spot them?
Really, it was the aroma that gave away which ones were wild. They have an acrylic spice to their aroma that is truly unlike a normal durian.
We bought one durian from him for 20RM/kilo.
The Motorcycle Repair Shop
I’m not sure how Fais knew about this place, which I think was a motorbike repair shop in the small town of Semenyih. It had a large pile of durians out front and further inside, with a few varieties of D. lowianus hiding in a mixed pile of what looked like D2. See them?
I used this photo in the post 4 Types of Durio Lowianus, but I like it.
We purchased one durian hutan, which the vendor called Rojak. Rojak is a mixed fruit salad usually slathered in a sweet, sour and fishy sauce with peanuts. Interesting name, and interesting durian.
It was more fleshy than a lot of the Durio lowianus we purchased at Moir’s, with a sticky texture and a punchy sweetness that left me smelling something spicy and peanutty every time I breathed out. The rojak flavor perhaps?
We purchased this one durian hutan for 20RM/kilo.
How to Catch Them All
Since I put up the post about the 4 Durio lowianus varieties, I’ve seen lots of other people posting on Facebook about finding durian hutan in Raub and Janda Baik and Bidor and many other places. It’s lurking around; all you need to do is go for an adventure drive. Explore somewhere new, and see what happens.
Or use this map to navigate directly to the four spots mentioned in this article.
The map also includes durian stalls I’ve been to with links to reviews, so you can really get your durian hunt on. If you find anything interesting, be sure to share!