You can drive to Kampung Ku yourself, if you’re willing to brave the hill.
It’s the hill that partly makes Kampung Ku special. The 4-acre farm perches at some 324 meters, just over a 1,000 feet, above the township of Balik Pulau. From the shady durian picnicking area, you have a full 180° view over the red roofs to the sea. You really couldn’t ask for a more picturesque place to share a durian or four with a good group of friends.
We went as part of the Bao Sheng Durian Festival. We wanted to get out and see more of Penang’s beauty, as well as taste some new tastes. Here are the five durians we ate under Kampung Ku’s shady arbor.
About Kampung Ku
Kampung Ku is owned by the Ong family. They have a house just across from the Balik Pulau bus station, where a small road shoots up the hill to their durian farm.
Because their road is so steep, dotted with twisting offshoots, they usually ask people to meet them at their house below. Here you can also buy durians to take home, as well as dragonfruit and soursop.
In addition to durian, last year the family planted over 1,000 organic dragonfruit “trees” on other properties and in between their durian trees, so they always have plenty of the refreshing, beautiful fruits around to share with guests or available for purchase at the house.
From the house, someone from the family will drive you up to their lookout.
The land on this hilltop has been in the family for four generations. It was first planted out by Great-grandpa Ong, and added to by Grandpa Ong.
Grandpa Ong is the one who named the farm “Kampung Ku,” and who insisted on organic principles.
“Ku” means us, so the name of the farm literally translates as Our Village.
These days, Grandpa Ong tends to stay at the house, while it’s the younger Ongs who will drive you up to eat. It’s a true family operation.
There are three brothers: Leng, Andy and Ron. But mostly likely, you’ll meet Leng.
That’s because Leng is the oldest. He’s already back from his studies, while the other two only come back for a few weeks each summer.
Both he and Andy were there the day we went (Andy not shown, that’s his friend…)
They both speak impeccable English and are really friendly. The group had a good time just chatting and… oh yeah, plowing through their durians.
“We make you pay to open the durian yourself,” Leng joked, bringing out a silver durian opening device.
Actually, we decided to depend on child labor. The kids didn’t seem to mind.
The durian opener works by placing a metal pyramid-shaped bump on the bottom part of the durian. You push down with your body weight, forcing the tip down into the durian’s base.
Then you pull the durian apart.
It’s a little messier than opening with one of the small, narrow-bladed knives preferred by durian farmers in this area.
But it is safer, safe enough that even a five year old was able to operate it without help, and we adults just got to stand around and eat.
Starting with our first round: a white durian Leng called Chae Phoey.
This just means “Green Skin” in Hokkien, and I had to wonder a little bit about it. It’s not the same durian as Green Skin 15, a variety registered with the Penang government.
The blessing and curse of Penang is that there are so many varieties, and each farm has their own. It’s only fair that physical descriptors like “Red Flesh” or “Yellow” or “Green Skin” get used for multiple durians. It makes it hard to catalog and categorize it.
Not that I don’t try.
Ang Bak Kia
Ang Bak Kia means “the seedling of” or a “smaller version” of Ang Bak, which is any orange fleshed variety but probably Kun Poh.
There are a number of Ang Bak Kias floating around Penang. This one was nice, with a gentle, milky and floral flavor. Like a milkier Little Red.
Huang Jiang (Yellow River)
My favorite of the day was what they called Yellow River. It’s a Kampung variety only found on their farm, and the tree is about 40 years old.
Leng said he saved it for me, even though it is in really high demand with his customers. He knew I would like it.
It is a funny looking durian.
The spikes are big, and it didn’t pollinate evenly, giving it an elongated, stretched out and dangerous shape.
I liked it though. Sticky and bitter, with a chocolate nuttiness. That’s more my style than the fruity, milky stuff, or Capri, which we had next.
Their Capri was a little more ivory colored than I see in others, which tend to be spotlessly white, except for the shadows of some wrinkles.
I don’t typically like Capri because of it’s strong banana-rum flavor. I took a nibble just to see what this one was like. It was really sweet, strong banana with that funky alcoholic kick.
The group finished with a Musang King from their orchard, because they’d never tried it and this was likely their only chance this trip. Otherwise I probably would have discouraged them, since it breaks all my eating regionally rules.
Penang isn’t really well known for Musang King. It comes from another state.
It was also the most expensive of the bunch by far.
But the group liked it, dry and sticky, and really intensely dense. I forgot to ask them which one was their favorite.
I know which one was mine 🙂
Getting to Kampung Ku
Call: 012-483 6858
GPS: 5.35401, 100.24893
Use this map to find Kampung Ku, both the house and the lookout, or navigate to other durian hotspots in Penang and Malaysia! Plan your trip here: