I’m surprised there’s not already a hundred Malacca durian guides floating around the internet. Malacca has a tumultuous and lengthy history best expressed through the food — and that includes durian. Every layer of immigration and colonization can be tasted — Malay, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, English — making the old town area a popular weekend jaunt for food lovers from Kuala Lumpur and around the world, many of whom love durian too.
Sure, Malacca isn’t really famous for durian. It’s overshadowed by it’s neighboring province, Johor, which produces twice as much durian as any other province in Malaysia. But Malacca is about history, and here durian has it’s most ancient written record, too.
The Admiral Zheng He, visiting Malacca in about 1403, tasted durian here. His secretary, who wrote up a description of durian for the folks back in China, wasn’t really a fan.
Most of the early Westerners who came to Malacca loved durian. If you take some time to explore off the Jonker Walk and into the durian scene, I think you’ll fall in love with Malacca’s durian too. Here’s how to do it.
Arriving and Leaving Malacca
Where to stay
Common Malacca Durian Varieties
Malacca Durian Farms
Malacca Durian Stalls
Durian Hunting Map
No vacation in Malaysia is complete without a little durian! But as you likely have other commitments in Malacca (River cruise with the family? Restaurant hopping?) this guide is designed to help you easily access the durian closest to you, as well as help you budget time for a durian hunting mission further afield.
Remember you can always email me if you have more questions.
Arriving and Leaving Malacca
Malacca does have an airport (code MKZ), located about 30 minutes away from the city center. Despite being one of the most popular tourism destinations in Malaysia, the airport is currently serviced by just two airlines, Malindo Air and the Indonesian Xpress Air. My last trip to Malacca, I took Malindo’s direct flight from Penang.
The airport is small and the terminal closes between flights. There is a single cafe at the airport serving instant coffee and fried rice, so the Malacca airport is not really a great place to kill time. However, it’s less than a kilometer to the nearest durian stall and restaurant hub and Uber is easily available here, so no biggy. Warning: the staff in Malacca are bored and happy to spend extra time weighing all of your carry-ons and check-in luggage.
Self-Drive Car Rental
Perhaps the reason flights are few and far between is because Malacca is only a 1.5 hour drive from KLIA, the big international airport just south of Kuala Lumpur. It’s easy to rent a car at this airport and drive yourself. In the past I’ve used Easybook to rent a car in advance, but found the savings are marginal and it’s less hassle to simply walk down to the lowest level of the airport and rent a car on the spot. I had a good experience with Hawk Rent A Car. The cheapest car available was 120RM per day.
Bus from Kuala Lumpur
I’ve also used Easybook to book a bus ticket from Malacca to Kuala Lumpur’s Bersepadu Selatan, its southern bus terminal. From here I took the KMUTER train to KL Sentral. You can also take a bus from KLIA2 using Transnasional busline. I haven’t done this myself.
There are a few taxi drivers at the exit to the airport, but Uber is cheaper and works really well in Malaysia. If you don’t already have a SIM card, you’re out of luck as there is no Wifi or mobile phone kiosks in the airport. Using Uber costs about 25RM to the city center.
Within the oldtown areas, a fun if not particularly cheap way to get around are the tricked-out bicycle cabs. Pick your favorite cartoon theme and wait until dusk, when the drivers flick on their neon lighting and surprise you by blaring the latest pop favorite as you roll along.
Where to stay in Malacca
Malacca is both a city and an eponymous state, and has many kinds of experiences to offer. There’s a hotsprings with resorts in Alor Gajah, and an International Convention Center (MITC) in Ayer Keroh, but most people want to stay in the old city center around the street known as Jonker Walk. This is where the jostling night market, the museums, the cute little cafes, the artsy canal, and food scene are located.
Old Town Malacca
When I’m by myself, I like to stay at Tang House. This little boutique hotel is one of the best valued places I’ve ever slept. The rooms are located upstairs of an old Peranakan shophouse with gleaming dark wood, cute wooden shutters, and a nice patio out the back. The room is small, mattresses are on the floor, and the shower is down the hall, but if you need somewhere to sleep for less than $10 USD a night this is as good as it gets in Malaysia. However, because it overlooks the stage area of the Jonker Walk, you may not actually sleep on Friday and Saturday nights. Be warned.
A good mid-range choice is the Quayside, a nice Western-style hotel overlooking the canal. River view rooms with balconies cost 205RM (about $50USD). This is where my tour group typically stays. I’ve chosen it because it’s an easy 5-minute stroll to Jonker Walk, but just far enough away from the congested madness to be quiet and serene. Plus sunrise over the canal is great.
Ayer Keroh (Convention Center Area)
On my last trip, we were promoting our new durian guide book at the 2017 Durian Convention. I based my durian hunts from the MITC Hotel, conveniently located right next door to the convention center. It was reasonably priced at 150RM and reminded me a lot of a Best Western back home.
Some Gear I Use
These are my favorite things I carry with me when I’m in Malaysia and pretty much everywhere (these are Amazon affiliate links). For more of the stuff I pack, see What’s in My Bag.
Common Durian Varieties
Okay, enough of the travel-tip stuff. What gooey deliciousness can you expect to feast on during this trip to Malacca?
Malacca does have it’s own farms, and it’s own durians (most noticeably, D2) BUT unless you physically take your durian-eating self to these farms, you’re likely to mostly eat durians grown in Johor, which is only an hour away. There is a lot of durian flowing through Johor to Malacca durian stalls.
So in general, the durian selection available in Malacca is more similar (but not exactly the same) as what’s available in Johor and Singapore, with a few exceptions.
D2, or Dato Nina
D2 is Malaccan born and bred. It is one of the earliest durian varieties registered in Malaysia, back in 1934. Which Dato Nina the durian was named for has been forgotten, but thankfully this little pear-shaped durian was not.
If you love Red Prawn, or think whipped cream with hints of wine and strawberries sounds like your jam, make sure to give D2 a try. It’s utterly fiberless, and while you may have to work hard to get it open, it’s worth the struggle.
Be aware though, that D2 doesn’t like too much rain. If the D2 is pale yellow or white, it won’t taste good and you should ask for another. The color should be pale pink to orange.
Kasap is a local pick for those who like bitter durians. White fleshed and small, with a large seed, Kasap is never going to burst into international fame, but it’s definitely worth a try if you’re visiting Malacca on the durian prowl. The flesh is fairly firm and sticky, with an herby sweetness similar to a Golden Phoenix.
It’s not as bitter as they come, but anyone who likes a good XO should be happy with Kasap.
D101 goes by many names. Originally it was Johor Mas, then it was registered with MARDI (Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute) under the registration D168, and at some point was given the nickname I-OH-I, and one-oh-one.
It gets worse. MARDI registered a completely different durian as D101.
But whatever the name, D101 should be top of your list to try in Malacca. It’s easy to find and is reliably delicious, although it has a tendency to be too strawberry caramel sweet when from a young tree. From an old tree, it’s soft flesh develops deep wrinkles and it develops a pleasant robust earthiness, liked milked down coffee.
Soft and a rosy orange, D13 is a feast for the eyes before it’s a feast for your stomach. It wrinkles easily and has a tendency to get overly soft and watery when too ripe, but when its fresh it’s got a beautiful honeyed coffee flavor and smooth smooth texture.
Many people on my durian tours have said D13 was among their favorites, and it might be among yours. Luckily, D13 is generally available throughout the entire durian season.
Udang Merah (Red Prawn)
Originally a Penang durian, Red Prawn has been grown en masse in Johor. It’s easy to find, and not as expensive as its northern relatives. However, a Malaccan or Johorian Red Prawn does not taste or look exactly the same as a Red Prawn from Penang.
Maybe it’s the soil, but the flesh of a Red Prawn in the southern areas tends to turn more yellow than pink, although it still likes to fade to grey in spots. It’s often sweeter, firmer, and a little more fruity than in Penang, perhaps because the trees are a little younger (but not much). As one of the more popular durian varieties in Malaysia, Red Prawn is easy to find. Just make sure you don’t get scammed (How to Identify Red Prawn)
I was surprised to see this unusual Penang variety at several durian stalls in Malacca. Even in Penang, Capri is rare, but here it’s rich, butter-brandy flavor seemed even more out of place. Capri has an alcoholic flavor, although I wouldn’t call it bitter. It’s unlike any other durian I’ve found.
In Malacca, they were calling it “Susu” due to its white, milky complexion. Many durians go by the name of Susu when they have white-colored flesh and their owners aren’t sure what to call them. I recognized this one as Capri due to the flavor, the small round size, and large green spikes. I saw it being sold at HY Fruits as well as Ah Meng’s Stall.
D24 is common, but not as common as some of the other durians on this list. Although it is one of the most common durians grown in Malaysia, most of fruits not grow in Pahang and Perak, with just a few (at least as far as percentages) in Johor. There’s still a lot of D24 in the area, and a lot brought to Malacca from Pahang during the off-seasons.
People on my tours have called this the “cookie dough” durian. It’s thick and sticky, with that round, creamy sweetness of only partially dissolved sugar crystals. It’s lovely, almost every time.
Note though, that D24 also has a stronger onion or”durian” flavor than say, Musang King, so if you’re helping a Western friend taste their first durian, D24 might not be the best choice.
Last but not least, Malacca has lots of Musang King. Musang King (or MSK) is the most widely grown commercial variety in Malaysia, and the favorite of Chinese tour buses and anyone who’s heard of durian but not really gotten to know it yet. It’s a familiar name, and a respectably reliable durian.
The flesh is a deep yellow bordering on gold, shiny, and dry — you can easily peel the flesh off the seed with your fingers. It’s one of the sweetest durians, with a warm nuttiness that borders on chocolate and coats your tongue with a fatty sensation. I understand why people like it, but always encourage durian tourists to think beyond MSK.
Malacca Durian Farms
Most people who visit Malacca see only the congested inner labyrinth of the historic old town, but the province sprawls back along the flat plains to the mountains. It’s not a big province, meaning that most farms are an easy 30 minute drive from the city, but a drive into the rural farmlands is a sharp contrast to the heavily Chinese-influenced down town.
Visiting a durian farm is the best way to ensure the durian you are getting is fresh and top notch quality. Plus the durian farmers are generally quite knowledgeable and happy to share.
Here are a few Malacca durian farms to visit.
Durian Heng — It may seem like it’s in the middle of nowhere, but Ah Heng’s durian stall is always busy. It sits on the edge of a 5-acre durian farm, just one plot of the Heng family’s small fourth-generation durian empire. Both times I went they had a good supply of durians of good quality, and were honest and helpful in selecting some for me and my groups. I also liked that they had some rare finds, like D25, D4, and a few others in addition to the more common D101, Kasap, Red Prawn, and Musang King.
Eco Do Dem — This posh durian eatery is new, and has big plans. If all goes well, next year you can sip durian wine upstairs in their large terraced cafe, and eat durian downstairs. All this is the work of the younger Mr. Tai, who has just returned to working on the farm. The trees themselves were planted by the elder Mr. Tai about 25-years ago. They have a number of varieties, but their best was D101.
Mr. Tai’s Stall — For those looking for a little bit less upscale experience, just next door to Eco Do Dem, Mr. Tai’s uncle has a durian farm with seating under a canopy. His name is, unsurprisingly, Mr. Tai too.
Sim Koa Yen — Durian is a bit of a side gig at this Buddhist retreat center. This took me by surprise, as someone in the family has taken a lot of time to make very nice promotional materials, durian labels, and explanations of the many unique varieties. However, since the owner suffered a stroke and hasn’t been in good health, perhaps things were slipping a little more than normal when I visited. This farm is located near Durian Tunggul, and if combined with Lake Pesona, just 1 km away, makes for a nice morning or afternoon adventure from Malacca town.
Durian Hub in Tangkak — If you’ve got extra time for a durian mission, drive the 1-hour to Tangkak, Johor. The whole town gets inundated with durian during the season, and is on the route for durian tours from Singapore. A good farm to start at is the Durian Hub, as their Golden Phoenix is delicious. Just make sure to book ahead as the farm is really popular with busloads of Sinaporean and Chinese tourists, and you might want to both schedule your visit and reserve your durian to avoid the hordes.
Durian Stalls In The City
Don’t have time to head out into Malacca’s countryside to visit a farm? Or don’t feel like shelling out precious durian money on an Uber? Luckily, you can probably walk to the nearest durian hot spot. Here are a few stalls that I’ve found in my durian hunts (and there’s a few more on the map, so make sure to scroll down↓↓)
Ah Gee’s Stall — If you’re staying on Jonker Walk and don’t have car, Ah Gee’s small canopy is set up just next door to the Bayview Hotel and within walking distance of Jonker Walk. He’s been at the same location since about 2008, and says that he stays open all year (score). When we visited, his sign listed a lot of durians that he clearly didn’t have and he seemed to confuse some of the varieties. My advice here would be to use your own skills to pick out a durian, or just go with the flow and take what you get.
Pasar Besar Melaka — The big morning market is just a 10 minute drive outside of the old town and is worth a visit, even if you’re not durian hunting, to see some of the produce that will eventually end up in those fancy Peranakan restaurants you’ll be frequenting later. However, Haji Baja also sells durians from his own farm here, with a good selection of farm-fresh D101, D24, D18, Kasap, and other local picks. He doesn’t speak a word of English, but you won’t find a nicer durian guy.
HY Fruits Trading at Kip Market — This impressive fruit store is set up on the outside of a large department store called Kip Market. They sell everythign here — mangoes and papayas, rambutans, longkongs, mangosteens, coconuts, cempedak and durian cempedak, dragonfruits, and even imported fruits like persimmons and blueberries. And of course durian, which they also import from every region in Malaysia, ensuring that if there’s durian anywhere, it’s here. There are tables and chairs along the parking lot, so you can eat your goodies here. When we were here, we ate Green Skin 15, and Susu.
Ah Meng by the Famous Coconut Shake Place — Our Uber driver took us here on accident. He thought we should try the famous coconut shakes at this strip of fruit and food stalls nearby the Malacca airport. I wasn’t interested in the coconut shake, but I was interested in the durian. Ah Meng sources most of his durian from Johor, meaning the stall is only here when there’s durian in Johor, which these days is most of the time. The durians I saw were all of good quality and very fresh.
Durian Snacks and Cuisine
Every foodie has a checklist of “Famous Foods of Malacca,” and there are a couple of durian food items you, as a durian hunter, should make no excuses not to check off your list (unless your vegan, or allergic, and then you’re totally excused).
Durian Cream Puff
Durian Cream Puffs are very popular in Malaysia and Singapore. They’re bits of pasty stuffed with — you guessed it — durian, which comes out hot and gooey and looks delicious. I’ve never tried one because vegan. The most famous place for these is called Taste Better, which makes a miniature puff somebody with a large mouth could single bite, avoiding the spurt of cream from trying to bite it in half.
Cendol is very popular in Malacca, either with durian or without. But try it with the durian. You might find that the durian is one of the least odd ingredients.
Cendol is a fnely scraped pillow of ice soaked in coconut milk and the local gula melaka, or palm sugar syrup, and dressed with a combination of rice noodles, sweet beans, sometimes sweet corn, and a dollop of durian on top. This photo credit goes to Durian Cottage but I honestly think there are better cendols elsewhere.
In Between Durians
You can’t just eat durian, unfortunately, even though it’s hard to stop. You gotta give some time between durian attacks to digest and get ready for the net round. There’s plenty to do in Malacca, so distract yourself. these are some touristy things to do that I recommend for when you’re not durian hunting:
Saint Paul’s Cathedral — This old Catholic Cathedral sits at the top of a small hill just a few blocks away from Jonker Walk. It’s now a roofless ruin, complete with catacombs, old inscriptions, and probably ghosts. Go at dawn for a pretty view of the sunrise.
Baba and Nyonya Museum — Put Malacca in perspective by visiting what I think is the best museum in Malaysia. The Babas were Chinese traders and merchants who settled in the port and largely created Malacca. Their mansions were incredibly ornate and ostentatious. The guide tour was great, but it’s worth going to gawk if you can’t make it on time.
Menara Taman Sari — This rotating tower is great to get a view over Malacca, especially at sunset when all the red roofs simply glow and the sun turns the canals gold. I’ve been a bunch of times: it still doesn’t get old. There’s also a good place to get durian cendol near the entrance.
Jonker Walk — It’s congested and touristy as anything, but it’s a crazy enough experience with enough interesting foods, products, and people to make it worth going. Just make sure to escape before it’s too much.
Malaysia Durian Hunting Map
Use this map to find the farms and stalls mentioned in this Malacca durian guide, or navigate to other durian destinations within Malaysia. Click on a pin to find the link to a blog post, so you can get all the deets!
You might also like: Kuala Lumpur Durian Guide