I’ve always wondered why there were no Bangkok durian restaurants. It’s a huge city, renown for cuisine and food, and yet I’d never heard of an eatery where you could sit down at a table, sip a cup of water under a fan, and dig into the gooey flesh of a durian opened on your table.
I figured it was eminent. How much longer could food and durian-loving Thais go on with crunchy Monthong on styrofoam trays? Not much when they have 234 delectable varieties to choose among. So finally, in April, 2018, “Andy” Nopparat Rianthong opened his new shop in Nonthaburi.
You might be one of his first durian guests!
About I’m Durian
Andy named his shop “I’m Durian,” which is perhaps more a reflection of himself than of the shop. He is, after all, a bit of a durian renaissance man.
Andy has made it his business to taste as many durians in Thailand as possible. He’s now tasted more than 100 — more than me!
Andy’s durian adventures has taken him all across Thailand and Malaysia in pursuit of the D, helping him to create a network of unusual suppliers, the folks who held onto their oldest trees. He has his own farm and impressive durian collection too, Rianthong Durian in Prachinburi, but the day we were there his farm wasn’t in season yet.
That didn’t stop his Bangkok durian restaurant from stocking some of the rarer durian varieties in Thailand — although you can get Monthong and Chanee and Ganyao there too.
But on the day we were there, we had eyes for only for the Nockyib, Chanthaburi 2, Kop Chai Nam, and Kop Pikul — and the Mednai Yai Prang tucked in the freezer.
Unfortunately, not all of the durians were ripe that day. In Thailand, durians are picked slightly underripe so that they can be more easily shipped and stored.
I’d had Nockyib before, but I’d never had Kop Pikul and rarely had Kop Chai Nam.
As this was Phillip’s first experience with Thai durian, I knew he was in for a really special treat.
Kop Pikul (Pikhun)
Price: 280 baht/kg ($3.99/lb)
We started our feast with Kop Pikul, an enormous durian with an elongated, pointy “nose.” It’s named for a pointy origami-like flower called the “Bullet Flower.” You can see photos here.
I was delighted, because when I checked my Thailand durian list I found I hadn’t yet photographed it. Fist pumps much? Yes.
I was equally delighted when Mrs. Rianthong easily popped it open with a quick twist of the knife. This baby was ripe, and cracking it open revealed massive, deep orange piles of cream. It was big and tantalizing.
I was less excited by it’s price tag. It weighed 3.04 kg (6.7 lb), which at 280 baht per kg made this durian more expensive than my budget hotel room. The biggest disappointment was that those three massive pods you see above were the only edible parts of the durian. The rest was shell, and two whole sections were empty. So despite the fleshiness of the durian, it still turned out to be pretty expensive.
But to be honest, it’s fairly common for me to blow my whole day’s budget just to taste a new kind of durian ?.
The flesh of Kop Pikul was so big and soft it could barely support itself, the cream spilling out and plopping back into the shell as we tried to dig it out. It tasted just slightly overripe, with a metallic after taste reminscent of Chanee.
That night, I scanned over my durian list again.
“I have a Kop Pikhun, but no Kop Pikul,” I texted my friend and Thai expert, Parisa.
So now I’m looking at my list again, and wondering if I should write it “Kop Pikhun” or “Kop Pikul” or both. I think both! What do you think?
Kop Chai Nam
Price: 280 baht/kg ($3.99/lb)
Next, we went for a durian I’ve had a few times at Suan La Ong Fah, but wanted to share with my friend Phillip, because it’s consistently good and kind of different tasting than other Thai durians.
Kop Chai Nam is a typically on the smaller side. Ours weighed 1.7 kg. It’s rounder, with a flat bottom.
This one is not for you bitter snobs. It’s a sweet, strongly nutty durian, like sweetened hazelnut butter with just the slightest hint of chocolate.
I imagine it tastes similar to Nutella, except I’ve never had Nutella so that’s unfair of me to make the comparison.
It’s not a durian I can eat a lot of, due to it being so sweet, but I can really appreciate the nuttiness of those first few bites. Maybe marzipan is a better description. Phillip — what do you think?
Frozen Musang King
Price: 600 baht per 400 gram box
Phillip had never had Musang King, and I had never seen Musang King available for sale in Thailand. So we decided to splurge and get a couple of pieces.
Musang King is a Malaysian durian. It’s currently the most famous and the most expensive and, I’ve got to hand it to Musang King despite my objection to monocultures and monopolies — it freezes really well. A frozen Musang King tastes almost the same as a normal-grade fresh one.
But we didn’t get the whole box. That would be crazy. That single box cost as much as our hotel room. So Mrs. Rianthong was kind enough to weigh out a couple of pieces for us.
It was yum. Musang King always is. And to be honest, I liked it better than the overripe Kop Pikul or the sweet n sticky Kop Chai Nam.
I hate myself for saying that. But truth.
Frozen Mednai Yai Prang
I couldn’t let Musang King win, so we decided to go for one last tasting of Thailand durian. Could Mednai Yai Prang, considered by many to be one of the best durians in Thailand, live up to MSK?
We each got one piece of the frozen Mednai Yai Prang, which cost us just 50 baht. After Musang King, the price felt a relief.
Frozen, it had a wonderfully dense and smooth texture, like a fudge-Popsicle. I could taste that it was sweeter than Musang King, and a bit creamier. The color wasn’t quite as deep yellow, but it was almost the same.
It was my favorite of the afternoon durian session. Go Thailand!
When I go back, I will definitely order Mednai Yai Prang again and let my wallet rest.
Getting to I’m Durian