The road felt lonely. I was only 30 minutes outside of Malacca (Melaka), a town famous with tourists for Peranakan cuisine and historic buildings, but here the flat, curving road was lined with palm oil plantations and small orchards.
After so many empty kilometers, I was somewhat surprised to see a large crowd under the shade of this Melaka durian stall. On a Thursday afternoon, no less.
There were maybe 20 people under the canopy of a bus stop, to which Ah Heng had added beach umbrellas and a large white tent. A kampung durian tree hangs over the stall, filled with spiky balls.
I stopped my little rental car, pushed my sunglasses up onto my head, and got out.
Immediately, I was aware of everyone turning to look at me.
In Melaka Town, it’s normal to see clumps of Westerners wandering the convoluted alleyways, looking for temples and cold drinks. There’s the stereotypical European family with two red-faced boys looking bored and sunburned. The tall, clean-cut Brit looking for a bar. A couple of hippies perusing the many art galleries.
I guess it’s not that common for a Western woman to wander out here, alone, looking for durian.
Although the stall was busy, Ah Heng took a moment to greet me and offer a Musang King. It wasn’t what I was looking for, but I appreciated his friendliness. In my experience, durian sellers are often too busy to bother with a curious foreigner, especially if there’s a language barrier.
Luckily Ah Heng’s pretty daughter, Nicole, spoke enough English to help me make my first durian choice and tell me a little about her family’s orchard.
The durian stall sits at the edge of a 5-acre orchard. The land is flat, and the trees old. Nicole said that they were planted by her grandfather. She is the fourth generation in the durian business, a family business that involves wife, daughter, and Nicole’s older brother.
The family has another 100 acres elsewhere, and about 100 trees of their most famous durian: Kasap.
Since Kasap was the local favorite, I asked Nicole to choose a little one for me to taste. She did, and walked me to the back of the stall where there were tables and chairs.
The tent had been angled between a few durian trees, so that the covered area was literally in the orchard. A few large fans kept it cool. It was a quiet place to eat my little durian. Alone.
Kasap occasionally makes it to Singapore, but I’d never tasted it before.
It has pale flesh an a large seed. It must be from an old tree, because the flesh was really wrinkly.
The texture was creamy, milky, and very sweet with caramel undertones. Like a milk dud.
Back when I was in middle-school with braces, I love milk duds. These days, they’re too sweet. With no less fussy friends to foist my sweet little durian on, I asked Nicole to pack it up for me.
“Oh,” she said. “You like bitter?”
Yes, I said. Please.
Her dad, Ah Heng, sorted through a pile at his feet. I thought they were getting out another Kasap, but she turned to me with this.
It was a D4, a new catch for me in my quest to #catchthemall, pokemon-style.
Previously I’d found D1, D2, and D3. D4 was the next missing link.
For the record, here’s what a D4 looks like:
It’s a small, green durian with a funny curved stem and a pronounced crown nearly bare of thorns.
The bottom comes to a rounded point with a flat spot on the very bottom, where the thorns become really small and leave an almost bald spot.
Inside, the flesh is ivory-colored and thick.
It was so fresh the wrinkles hadn’t even developed fully. I’m sure that, given some more time, this durian would have developed wrinkles and looked very similar to the Kasap.
Although we durian hunters have all been trained to look for wrinkles, sometimes wrinkles just mean the durian has been off the tree too long. This one was a prime specimen of it’s kind, the plump, pillow-smooth flesh denoting a rich, stickiness.
It was so good I looked around for someone to share it with me. Surely someone wanted to experience this beautiful little catch with me. But the lunch-time crowd had dissipated, and feeling shy, I polished off the little durian by myself.
Next time, I’ll bring a friend.
Getting to Malacca Ah Heng Durian
The durian stall is located along Hwy 144, 18 km or a 30-minute drive from Malacca, on the way to Bemban.
GPS: 2.2379, 102.3636