George Town durian is hip these days. For many people — maybe you, dear durian lover — durian is the reason to travel to Penang. Yeah, sure, there’s artwork and beaches and architectural heritage and a million foodie hotspots, but here there is a durian connoisseur culture so strong durian stall hopping is as popular as bar hopping. Scroll down ↓↓↓ for a map and a list (with descriptions) of durian stalls to hop in George Town, Penang.
One of the unique things about Penang is that if you don’t have time to go out to one of the farms, don’t worry about it. It’s true that farm fresh is always best when it comes to durian, but one of the special things about Penang is that the island is so small your George Town durian only has to travel 45 minutes to an hour to make it to your table. It’s one of the few places a lazy, cafe-hopping city dweller can get seriously fresh durian without taking the sojourn to the countryside.
Good quality durian in Penang is part of the urban street scene, and that’s pretty cool.
Where to Stay in George Town, Penang
Common Durians Varieties in George Town
Nasty Durian Tricks By Durian Sellers
Prices for George Town Durian
George Town Durian Stalls
Other Things To Do Between Durians
Malaysia Durian Map
Where To Stay in George Town, Penang
If it’s your first time, it’s likely best stay in the winding narrow alleys of the old heritage area, where it’s easy walk to the old fort, temples, historical buildings, and famous murals (like the kids riding a bicycle above).
But George Town is bigger than you’re thinking, too big to comfortably walk around.
In the seven years I’ve been hanging around Penang, I’ve slept all over the George Town. I’ve stayed on Jalan Chulia, also known as Tourist Street, as well as in the more upscale heritage areas on Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling and Armenian Street. I’ve stayed in the cheaper, industrial areas on the other side of the Prangin Mall, but more and more frequently I’m staying in longer-term Airbnbs in the Gurney area, where I can take a rest from the durian trail, have my own kitchen, a sense of home, and I’m nearby the Tesco Supermarket, the Botanic Garden (for running) and my favorite Organic food shops in Pulau Tikus. If you have questions about longer-term stay in Penang, feel free to send me an email at lindsayATyearofthedurian.com
But here are some good options if you’re just starting out in Penang:
Normal Hotel Situation
I’ve never stayed at these places but I’ve had plenty of guests who have and have given good reviews:
*NOTE: The links above are affiliate links, meaning if you book a hotel, at NO extra charge to you, I will receive a small commission – which will help me continue writing and publishing this blog and staying at Airbnbs instead of the lowest budget hotels. Thank you for your help!
There are more types of durian in Penang than days in a year. After seven years munching my way around the island, I haven’t even tasted all of them. There are sweet durians and bitter ones, alcohol and peanut butter, durians that are white, cream, ivory, yellow, turmeric, and deep orange.
The diversity of durian in Penang is partially what makes a trip here so exciting. Unlike in mainland Malaysia, which is currently inundated by the Musang King monocrop craze, Penang has maintained an appreciation for flavor and contrast.
So while you’re here eschew the temptation to eat Musang King. Try something local. Below you’ll find a list of the durian varieties you’ll most easily find in George Town:
“Eating durians is like tasting wine for Penang guys. Everyone has their favorite,” says James Wong, president of the Sungai Pinang Durian Association, and he’s right.
Want an Identification Guide to these varieties? Also check out my new 360-page guidebook, The Durian Tourist’s Guide to Penang here.
- 604 – A sweet and silky durian, 604 is one of the earliest durians to drop in the season. It has a thin shell and cracks easily, so you’ll want to hit the stalls early in the morning to get the best quality 604.
- D11 – Milky and mild, D11 comes on toward the middle of 604 season. It’s pleasant but also has a tendency to crack easily.
- Kun Poh – Perhaps the most beautiful durian in Penang, Kun Poh originated in the Sungai Pinang region and still tastes bests from there. It’s a super soft and messy durian with a fragile skin that tears easily, spewing it’s creamy interior, but the messiness is made up by the gorgeous orange color and rippling wrinkles and complex milk-coffee flavor.
- Little Red – The sibling of Kun Poh, Little Red is sweet, creamy and shelf-stable. It’s a good one to buy in a packet on special offer.
- Green Skin 15 – One of the most bitter durians available in Penang, Green Skin 15 has shiny, ivory-colored wrinkles. It goes alcoholic quickly and is best enjoyed by lovers of Tekkah and Black Pearl.
- Kapri – The most alcoholic durian in Penang, this pale white-fleshed durian goes soupy-soft quickly in the sun and is best eaten soon after dropping. Read more about Kapri’s story at Goh Bro’s Stall.
- Hor Lor – Sticky and nutty, Hor Lor is an intensely sweet and dark yellow durian that my friends like to call Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups On A Tree.
- Red Prawn – Penang’s darling variety, Red Prawn ranges the gamut from intensely cherry-sweet to a mellow, cherry-wine cream.
- Black Thorn – The latest in durian fashion, Black Thorn originates on the Penang mainland and that’s where you’ll find the oldest trees and best quality. However, since it’s so fashionable it’s widely sold in George Town. Just watch out for fakes.
- D14 – A personal favorite, D14 is thick and rich with just a hint of bitter and hazelnut nuttiness.
- D15 – Bitter and alcoholic, a tree-dropped D15 is hard to beat in my book.
- Ganja – An import from Thailand, Ganja is fleshy, sticky, and cookie-dough sweet.
- PG88 – Another personal favorite, PG88 can be hit or miss but when it’s good, it’s good with a beautiful sunset rose color and a flavor to rival Kun Poh.
Nasty George Town Durian Tricks
I love George Town durian sellers, I really do, and most of them are great guys who are truly generous and hospitable. But, if you’re an innocent durian tourist strolling through the main tourist areas, you still need to watch out that you don’t spend money on disappointment. Here are a few of the most common tricks I’m seeing with George Town durian:
- Mislabeling Varieties: It’s always been common for sellers to sell any yellow-fleshed durian to unsuspecting customers as a Musang King (here’s How to Identify Musang King so you can avoid being cheated).
Recently I’ve noticed a trend in Penang of selling “Black Thorn” durians that are pretty clearly not Black Thorn. Black Thorn is currently more expensive even than Musang King, so it’s only logical to hustle cheaper varieties to unsuspecting tourists. In particular, I noticed several vendors selling Kun Poh, a tasty but not expensive durian, as Black Thorn. It’s just not cool (here’s How to Identify Black Thorn)
- Durians That Are Actually From the Mainland: Everybody prefers to eat durians that grow on Penang Island for some reason, and Balik Pulau is particularly famous and desired. So many George Town sellers will tell you their durians are from Balik Pulau — even when they’re not. Many of the durians sold in George Town are grown in Gerik, Perak, in Kedah, or on mainland Penang. Varieties that are mostly likely to NOT be from the island are Butter (Mentega), D15, D24, D101 and Musang King.
That doesn’t mean they are bad durians, they’re just not from Penang Island.
- Super-duper old durians: In some of the really touristy areas, you’ll find durians with stems so old, dried out and withered the durians must surely be destined for the durian kek mixers, and not for the mouths of the hungry durian lover. On an island this small, there’s absolutely no reason that in-season durian should be anything but super fresh.
Prices For George Town Durian
The most expensive variety is Black Thorn, which sells for 45-65 RM per kilo. During an off-season time, I’ve seen Black Thorn for sale for up to 115 RM/ kg.
An averagely expensive durian, like Red Prawn, should sell for around 30-40 RM per kilo.
Inexpensive durians, like D14, Kun Poh, Little Red, should sell for less than 25 RM per kilo.
Kampong should be less than 12 RM per kilo.
George Town Durian Stalls
Ah Hoe is the affable seller on one of the busiest, most congested streets in George Town. His small folding table is set up right in the very heart of tourist n00bville, so the fact that he is one of the most honest and reasonably priced sellers in George Town is absolutely shocking. Most people get their very first taste of Penang durian from him. He could charge anything and sell the crappiest of durian and most people would be none the wiser. And yet.
He is one of the only George Town sellers to carry only durian from his own farm, all freshly dropped that morning or the night before. His specialties are his own variety, an intensely almaretto little durian called Honey, and some exceptional Kun Poh. Ah Hoe is one of those amazing anomalies that gives me a little hope about the world. I hope his folding table stays there, crammed between the key-smith and the juice-man, forever.
Read more about The Chulia Street Durian Guy Across From 7-11
Just opened in April, 2017, Shun Li is currently the only indoor durian shophouse in Penang. It’s owned and operated by Peter Saw, a Singaporean who moved shop here from a previous location in the Bayan Baru area.
The day I visited, the shop was selling D14 for 55RM per kilo, which I thought was overpriced for D14. Although D14 is one of my personal favorites, it’s not exactly in demand, and even the much-hyped Black Thorn sells for around that price.
His business partner was also selling a random kampung durian under the name Musang King. Later, when I inquired again what that durian was, Peter was honest and told me it was a “Kunyit.” Kunyit simply means “yellow” in Bahasa Melayu and can be the name for any durian with yellow-flesh. His partner also tried to sell me a Kun Poh under the name Black Thorn.
We did buy a D14 (hunger leads to questionable decisions sometimes, and like I said, D14 is one of my favs). The quality was good — sticky, nutty, a hint of bitter chocolate and very rich — but the experience imparted a little sourness.
Address: No. 64-G, Lebuh Kimberley, 10100 George Town
GAMA Supermarket Durian
This convenient stall right on the steps of GAMA Supermarket, across from Komtar, keeps changing hands. For years it was operated by Soon Huat Farm and was one of my favorite places for an easily-obtained and inexpensive box of Little Red or Ang Jin, but as of writing the stall has been taken over by Ah Boy’s, a newcomer with a farm in Balik Pulau that specializes in Black Thorn and Musang King durians.
The trees must be fairly young for these varieties, but the owners of Ah Boy have not been that forthcoming about their farm, which is closed to visitors.
Soon Huat Farm has said that if their durian season is big next year, they will be back on the steps of GAMA. But for now this stall is a bit unpredictable.
It’s open only during the main durian season.
Tel: 016-413-8772 (Ah Boy) 012-571-7157 (Soon Huat)
Address: 1 Jalan Dato Keramat, George Town.
Ah Teik is perhaps the most famous durian seller in George Town. His corner stall on Jalan MacAlister has stood there since the 1950’s, when Ah Teik was just a little boy helping his grandfather to crack open durians for customers.
His many years of experience and life dedicated to durians has helped to craft a brand that people trust, but his popularity has had some downsides. He’s often so busy that it’s impossible to get his full attention. Busloads of Chinese tourists flood the narrow sidewalk spaces. There’s nowhere to sit. If you get a bad durian (which has happened to me) it’s really hard to get the attention of one of his helpers for a replacement.
That said, he will replace a bad durian with no arguments, unlike some other stalls I can think of. He rents out his own durian farm and also personally goes to the durian wholesalers in the early mornings to select durian, so I believe that Ah Teik typically has good quality durian. But popularity comes with a cost, and unless you can find time on a weekday afternoon when the stall is sleepy and slow, you might have a more relaxed experience elsewhere.
Tel: 012-438 3881
Address: Corner of Lorong Susu and Jalan Macalister
Khor Hun Hin’s “Musang King” Durian Stall
Ah Teik’s is the most famous durian stall on Jalan Macalister, but quite a few set up shop here during the season. Just one block away from Ah Teik, Khor Hun Hin operates out of a small, snub-nosed white truck with sides that fold down to reveal his piles of durian. The truck was actually damaged in 2015, when in a freak accident a lightning rod fell from the top of the Umno building and buried another car 10 feet into the middle of the street.
You can ask Khor Hun Hin about it, when he’s there. The truck is normally operated by his friend, Ah Bing, or his wife. They’ve picked me out some good durian, although some of the names of their durian seem a bit imaginative. They have a mix of durians from Penang Island and the mainland, with many of the unfamiliar varieties coming from Perak state.
Address: 63, Jalan Macalister, corner of Jalan Kek Chuan
Ang Hock Leng Durian on Jalan Anson
Ah Leng’s durian canopy of tarps is another popular hotspot for George Town durian hunters. It’s a little further out than some of the other stalls, meaning you’ll have a bit of a hike from the heritage areas if you don’t drive, and after getting burned by a durian trick on my second visit I’ve actually never been back. Maybe I should.
The stall is small and consists of a truck with several folding card tables and chairs covered loosely by tarps to provide protection from sun and rain. However even on a sprinkly day you’re likely to get wet as the tarps leak profusely and water waterfalls in through the cracks. It’s often crowded with tourists from buses, and the prices are higher than other stalls. However some people swear by the quality of the durian served here.
Tel: 019-412 1616
Address: 123 Jalan Anson
This sleepy stall across from Air Asia’s Tune Hotel sells durians from Mr. Wong’s farm in the hills above Kampung Sungai Pinang, at about 750 feet (230 meters), on the hillside opposite of Bao Sheng Farm.
The stall is never empty, but somehow it always feels quiet. Unlike other stalls, jammed with tables and overflowing with crates of fruit and too many people, this stall has plenty of space. Traffic can whiz by down Jalan Burma and you’ll barely notice under the protective shade of the canopy. It’s somehow, perplexingly, relaxed.
Why so few people seem to frequent this stall, compared to the more famous spots along Jalan Macalister, is an absolute mystery. The durians are good and they have some of the older varieties. My favorites here are D14 and PG88.
Address: 100 Jalan Burma, across from the Tune Hotel
Jeff’s Air Tebu (Sugar cane) and a Durian Shop on Armenian Street
This small shop is located just a few doors down from Durian Haven on Lebuh Armenian, so if you leave the durian-specialty pastry shop just starving for fresh durian, you have an option.
The open-air shop sells primarily sugar cane juice and coconuts, with knickknacks and an art gallery in the back. This year (2018) was the first time I’ve seen them selling durian, and the rack of durian seemed almost a second-thought. It was as if they’d realized durian was popular with the tourists wandering the popular walking street and wanted to make a convenient pick up spot.
They had a variety of durians the day I visited, including real Musang King (no fakes) and a few Kun Pohs. The stems looked fairly withered, so I’m not sure how often they get fresh stock. The prices were higher than average, but not unreasonable.
Tel: 016-425 1553
Address: 46 Lebuh Armenian
Weld Quay Durian
If you’re a tourist in Penang, you’ll likely wander out into the Clan Jetties. These are historic neighborhoods set on stilts out over the water that were built in the 1800’s. Each pier is named for the Chinese family or clan that built them. Today they’re a cluster of small restaurants and knickknack stalls, a scenic spot for selfies and romantic walks at sunset.
There are a few different durian tables set up here, but the largest and most permanent stall is Weld Quay Durian just outside the Lim Clan Jetty. Even when it’s not season, you can recognize the stall by the durian ornaments strung from the trees.
The stall has good shelter from the elements and a comfortable place to sit, but tends to be low on stock and selection, with durians that look a bit on the old side. It’s definitely not a stall for true durian hunters, but more a convenient pit stop for the durian desperate — those of you with family or friends who can’t be dragged to a bigger and more well known durian shop, or those of you low on time, or those of you just too hungry for durian to wait.
Tel: 0135803030 / 016-921-2315
Address: 38, Pengkalan Weld, George Town
John Yu is a passionate defender of the durian lover. His whole shtick is to protect unsuspecting tourists from the wiles of tricky durian sellers. That’s why he calls his stall “Authentic” durians and puts emphasis on creating a quality experience.
The durian stall is located on one of the main roads heading north out of the main George Town area, called Jalan Burma. It’s a simple red-and-white striped tent with a few wooden tables and folding chairs, where Uncle John has a small stock of durians brought directly from his own farm on the mainland every morning.
One of the things that makes his stall unique is that he has planted a mixture of Penang varieties and mainland varieties, so you’ll find farm-fresh Tekkah and Musang King alongside Black Thorn and Horlor.
It’s a good blend of worlds if you’re curious about the durian varieties that can be found outside of Penang.
Address: 368-01-09, Bellisa Row, Jalan Burmah, 10350 Georgetown
George Town is world renown for foodies, and anyone with a culinary touch will want to experiment with durian! It’s increasingly easy to find durian-flavored goodies in George Town, but here are a few places in George Town with a big selection of durian things to taste.
- Durian Haven – this is a cafe dedicated to all-things durian, from durian ice cream to cakes to mochi. There isn’t an item on the menu that doesn’t have durian in it, which makes it pretty unique. There are now three branches of Durian Haven in Penang, two in George Town: on Lebuh Armenian Walking Street, and on the Chew Jetty.
- Men’s Kitchen – this popular lunchtime spot offers a lot of Penang favorite dishes, but also has a side menu dedicated to durian desserts. Their house specialty is a durian latte.
- Clan Jetty – Any kind of durian-pastry or ice cream you can dream of can be found in the Clan Jetties. There are a number of small shops here specializing in tantalizing tourist treats, from durian popsicles to cream puffs. Look for Dessert n’ Smile, Taste Better, and Durian Haven.
- Chowrasta Market – The dry-goods section of this market is open all day and is one of the best places to pick up durian souvenirs. You can find everything here from traditional durian paste/kek, dodol and tsar pneah biscuits to durian coffee, freeze dried durian, candies, and even durian gum (not joking).
Things To Do Between Durian
So you can’t eat durian all day, although I know you might try! You durian monster. Give yourself a bit of space in between durian feeds to walk up your appetite again by exploring George Town’s heritage and history. You’ll get a better appreciation for the culture and the story of what you’re eating!
Check out this Penang City Guide I helped put together in collaboration with my fav online travel journal, Roads and Kingdoms.
- Clan Jetties – These neighborhoods built on stilts over the water were the historic homes of different Chinese families or “clans.” They’re a scenic place to walk or shop for knicknacks. Many durian dessert stalls have also set up here.
- Art Walk – the artsy, hipster vibe of old-town George Town is complimented by the number of murals you can find hidden away on the walls. Here is a walking tour of all the wall art.
- Masjid Kapitan Keling Mosque (above) – George Town’s colorful cacophony of cultures was present since the beginning. This mosque was built by the Muslim Indian community around 1800. It’s a major landmark both in history and in your wanders around George Town.
- Khoo Kongsi Clan House
- Blue Mansion
- Penang Spice Station Cooking Class – Penang is all about food, so you might as well dive in and learn about it! My friend Nazlina teaches awesome cooking classes at her cooking school on Lebuh Campbell. She’s even an expert in creating authentic-tasting vegan versions of Penang cuisine! Her website.
Penang Durian Hunting Map
You’ll find a pin for every durian stall mentioned in this George Town Penang Durian Guide on the map below, as well as tons more durian stalls all over Malaysia! Just click on the link in each pin to navigate to the blog post, where you can find information for how to get there, what kind of durians to look for, and where to stay.
If you have travel questions just send me a message to lindsayATyearofthedurian.com