Everybody forgets Brunei Durian, but you shouldn’t. This small nation is prime Durian Country, with some of the best Durio diversity and the best preserved forests you’ll find in Borneo.
Few tourists venture outside of Brunei’s one and only city, Bandar Seri Begawan, and so that’s what the tourist books feature — a small, quiet, pretty little city on the water bedecked with mosques, Arabic script, and ruled by an actual real-life sultan.
But step outside the city during the durian season, and you’ll find durians like nowhere else. Since it’s such a small country, you don’t even have to go far. Gerai Pengkalan Batu durian stall is just a 22 minute drive from the downtown apartment suites where we stayed in Bandar.
Make sure to scroll to the Brunei Durian Map↓↓ to help you get to the good durian. Each pin on the map has a link to a blog post where you can get more information.
About the Gerai KPLB Pengkalan Batu Durian Stall
If you’re speeding along with Brunei’s traffic on Jalan Mulaut-Limau Manis heading south from Bandar, it would be easy to miss the large stall set back from the roadside in front of a house and a small women’s clothing shop.
Unlike other durian stalls in Brunei, which are mostly middlemen selling durians purchased in Lawas or Limbang or Miri — all in Malaysia — the durians sold at Gerai Pengkalan Batu are grown just a few steps down the narrow road behind the stall and represent the efforts of the entire community.
The bright blue-sky afternoon we visited, the stall was teeming with people. We were visiting as guests of the Department of Agriculture to learn about the durian of Brunei, and some of the farmers had heard this rag-tag band of Western durian lovers on a Durian Tour were coming and were eager to see if we really could eat durian. We were eager to show off our durian eating prowess. It was a win-win situation.
A long table stretched from one end of the white canopy tent to the other, laden with durians divided into piles by type.
There were the red-orange Otak Udang Galangs, the bright orange Durian Kunings, a few Durian Pulus, and hybrids like I’d only remembered from my last trip to Brunei.
It was an exciting rainbow display that we just barely got to taste before we were whisked away by the excited stall owners to see the farm.
Even though the farm was literally on the back road behind the stall, they insisted we drive. So we ended up in a caravan of 6 cars inching the quarter-mile distance down a narrow dirt road to see where the durians sold at the stall come from.
About the Pengkalan Batu Durian Farmers
Like many Brunei durian farms, the 43 hectare farm is a communal farm, divided into 2 hectare plots among the community’s families. The land is still owned by the Sultan, but was leased for free in 1996 for an unknown amount of time. Not even the farmers were sure what the terms of the lease were, but they didn’t seem to be very worried about the Sultan taking the land away again.
According to the Agriculture Department, there are 46 communal farms in Brunei representing around 2,000 farmers. All are owned by the Sultan and leased out to encourage people to grow food crops.
The farm we visited was owned by Haji Selamat Nayan, the village’s kepala or headman, and his wife Haji Sainah. They are the ones who organized the community durian stall, and who can usually be found there along with their two sons.
They encouraged us to roam the farm, picking up durians from their now 22-year-old trees.
Back in 1996, they planted the kinds of durian encouraged by the Department of Agriculture, each registered with their own Brunei name.
Like in Malaysia, where all registered durians are given a D# (like Musang King is D197), in Brunei they are given a BD#. So they planted BD20 – Monthong, BD16 – D24, BD80 and BD102, BD1 – “Siunggung”, and a local grafted variety of Durian Pulu named BD26. The local 3 durians have done great, but the D24 and Monthong have never performed well.
“It rains too much here,” Haji Sainah explained. Rain comes more regularly on the coast of Borneo than on Peninsular Malaysia and Thailand, meaning D24 rarely ripens properly and Monthong falls off pre-ripened. We kept this in mind when we returned to the stall for our makan fest of local Brunei Durian Varieties.
BD1 – Siunggung
Siunggung was the durian I was most absolutely excited about, because when I found it once before in Limbang I No. freaking. idea. what it was, but it was one of the most delicious things I’d ever tasted.
It’s super fleshy and sticky, really nutty and not sweet in a normal durian way. The sweetness comes from an almost alcoholic, almost chemical, super intense nasal flavor that comes out only after you inhale.
Siti said that the name comes from the local Kadayan word, “unggung,” which means sickening. I don’t really agree with that, because I thought this durian was delicious!
And it’s massive. If a normal Graveolens weighs less than 1/4 kilo, this one was topping a whopping 2 kilos. Getting a full mouthful of that level of flesh density was a whole other experience than just licking a thin layer of sticky cream off the seed like you can with a normal yellow Graveolens.
I guessed it was a hybrid, but I had no idea that it was a grafted variety registered with the Brunei Department of Agriculture and distributed purposefully to durian farmers. Whoever was selling it in Limbang must have bought the young tree from Brunei.
From the outside, Siunggung just looks like a really, really, really big Durio graveolens. Its perfectly round, and its spines are wicked, dense and long, clustered closely around the almost perfectly round shape.
In hind sight, I don’t think the Siunggung I found in Limbang really was a true Siunggung, but maybe *another* hybrid of Durio graveolens x zibethinus. So the hunt continues.
BD119 – Kuning Pinang Masak
In Brunei, all orange-flesh Durio graveolens are called “durian kuning,” but most are just seedling trees and vary a lot.
I don’t know why I was surprised that the Department of Agriculture also distributed an “improved” variety among the farmers — super fleshy, super delicious, super sweet — called Kuning Pinang Masak.
It literally means “the cooked banana” durian, and I guess I can see that. The sweetness is unusual even for an orange Graveolens, which are sweeter than either the red or the yellow versions. It’s fleshiness was really satisfying, smooth and soft and kind of mushy but still sticky and starchy — maybe that’s why they call it cooked banana. I will definitely look for this variety again when I go back to Brunei.
BD102 OR BD80? – Otak Udang Galah
Otak Udang Galah literally means “Shrimp Brain” durian — and it’s the most popular in Brunei. You can find this durian anywhere south of Sipitang all the way to Miri, and it’s always expensive and in high demand. The color just pops, plus unlike normal red Graveolens it’s sweet.
I think it’s a hybrid of orange and red-flesh Graveolens, but I don’t really know. Yet. This durian has me intrigued.
In Brunei, the Department of Agriculture registered 2 varieties of Otak Udang Galah. This one ↑↑ I *think* is BD102, because it’s pods are smaller, rounder, lumpier, and the hilum area is larger. The other one, BD80, is orangier and more elongated.
But Otak Udang Galang is something to be investigated. Often, particularly when hungry, particularly when with a good rag-tag band of durian lovers.
Come along on the next adventure? Check out the Durian Tours.
How to get to Gerai Pengkalan Batu
Gerai means any shop or stall, so what you’re interested in is the durian stall in Pengkalan Batu Village about 25 minutes south of Bandar Seri Begawan.
From Bandar, turn left past the Sultan’s Palace (Istana Nurul Iman) and follow Jalan Mulait-Limau Manis until you see the stall on the left-hand side.
Or use the map below to get directions from your hotel and navigate to other durian hotspots in Brunei and Malaysia.