Steven is famous for durian. Or should be. Or maybe will be after this post. Steven just brought me my very first durian of the 2017 Penang Durian Season. Happy New Year, durian lovers!
*Spoiler* It was a D600. Scroll to the bottom for pics and video.
You probably already know Steven. You just haven’t realized it yet.
You’ve seen Steven if you’ve ever been to the famous and very popular Bao Sheng Durian Farm in Balik Pulau, Penang. He sits all summer at a small stall just near Bao Sheng’s driveway.
You have to walk past him on your way to Titi Kerawang Waterfall, or to visit Ping Ku’s fruit stall for a coconut.
I’ve walked past Steven hundreds of times while staying at Bao Sheng’s. Finally last summer he called out to me.
“Hey! Hey you!”
“How come you always stay here, but never buy MY durian?”
Truthfully, I have bought his durian before. He just didn’t remember me.
I reminded him that I’d bought his durian for the first time in 2012. It was a Red Prawn. I was staying at Bao Sheng’s, and a Chinese tour bus swept through like locusts. So I went to see Steven.
In 2012, I didn’t know anything about durian except that I liked to eat it. Mr. Chang at Bao Sheng had always selected durian for me, shaping my expectations of what different durians should taste like. So I was disappointed to pull open the Red Prawn and find it firm, pasty, and cherry-colada sweet.
I now understand it was a young tree Red Prawn, which other people love, but I personally dislike.
I also bought durian from Steven in 2014, with my friend Steph.
It was a D24, and a big one I can’t remember the name of. The D24 was good. The big one was too soft and not as fresh as the durians I was accustomed to eating. That’s about all I remember.
So over the years, I didn’t make a habit of going to see Steven. I had all the durians I needed at Bao Sheng’s, so I just walked past. And he watched me walk past. It was that kind of relationship. Not very neighborly, if you think about it.
I’m glad he stopped me last summer.
“You have to see my waterfall,” he said.
About Steven’s Farm
Steven owns the farm directly across the street from Bao Sheng Durian Farm.
He has 30-acres, making his one of the larger durian farms on the island. Most durian farmers, Bao Sheng’s included, have fewer than 15 acres.
But Steven doesn’t have road access. His farm is up a narrow cement motorcycle track.
It takes about 20 minutes of walking uphill the whole way, a 400-ft (120 meter) climb that brings you to heights of 915 feet (278 meters) above sea level, according to my GPS watch.
Steven says he would like to have visitors to his farm, to eat his durian and swim in his waterfall, but few people are willing to take the hike or adventurous motorbike ride.
They’re missing this pretty sweet view over Balik Pulau.
Steven’s land abuts the Titi Kerawang stream, the same waterway supplying water to the Air Tejun Titi Kerawan waterfall near the roadside that everyone likes to swim in, and the same stream that fills the pools at Bao Sheng Durian Farm.
As we hiked, I could see some of the upper rapids tumbling down the mountainside.
We didn’t actually go swimming in those rapids, as Steven said it was too dangerous. Apparently, several locals have drowned there after being washed over the edge.
Instead, we hiked down a steep, overgrown trail to a small pool being fed by tumbling water.
There’s a small dam, and a bridge connecting to the trail leading to Penang Hill (that’s a long hike).
You could walk a loop if you wanted, up one side of the ridge, across the bridge to Steven’s farm, and down his motorcycle track.
It’s a pleasant afternoon adventure we’ll be exploring for the 2017 Bao Sheng Durian Festival.
But first things first: what was the first 2017 Penang durian like?
The First 2017 Penang Durian
D600: My First 2017 Penang Durian
There’s always something special about the very first durian of the year. It’s never the best tasting one — except it is. Always.
Because it’s the first, and we’re all starved for durian, and there’s something magical about heralding a new season — sitting together for the first time in awhile, cheering and waiting while one person forces it open, and knowing that this durian is the first of many many to come.
And I imagine the future, wondering who I’ll meet and what surprising things will happen this coming durian season as you all start to arrive too.
D600 is a large durian with a fat, short stem and large blocky spikes.
Inside, it reminded me of a Tub Tim from Thailand. It was sweet and with a slightly fibrous or “scrambled egg” texture. But the one that fell the next day was better. And the one after that, better.
And today, adding this note from four days after I started putting together this post, we finally had a really, really good durian.
About Steven’s Durian
I’m realizing right now that I didn’t take any photos of the D24’s that are also falling at Steven’s farm during this very very early season, which is a shame. The one I had at dinner tonight was excellent.
(The durian in the photo above is Steven’s Susu, one of his favorites)
Now that I’m older, and durian-wiser, I understand Steven’s durians better.
I think that Steven’s durians are as good as any you’ll find in Penang.
The key is being able to select from his piles to suit your own preferences.
Steven has been doing this for forty years, and he’s very much of the old-school way of thought. A durian is a durian, and he likes them all.
It also turns out that Steven likes his durian riper than I like mine. He kept encouraging me to keep durians overnight in order to let the flavor “mature.” I’ve met a number of durian growers who believe certain varieties need time off the tree to come into their own. They might be right.
Go taste for yourself.
I see Steven every day, but now I don’t keep walking. Sometimes we stop and chat. Sometimes he has a durian for me. It’s nice to get to know my neighbor.
Plus, an early season durian hook up is a pretty sweet thing.
This season, if you’re coming to Penang this May or June make sure to give Steven a call. He won’t be at his stall by Bao Sheng’s until mid-June, since he won’t have that many durian.
Just enough for me. And maybe you.
Call Steven for Durian: +60 16-437 6362 (also WhatsApp)