Durio kinabaluensis at Pasar Durian Ranau
“This was definitely NOT here two weeks ago,” Simon said emphatically. It was as if the stretch of durian stalls, the parking lot filled with open-bed trucks loading and unloading durian, had appeared overnight. Maybe the Durio kinabaluensis had appeared just for us.
Finding Pasar Durian Ranau
We were on our way to the Big Monthly Tamu in Ranau Town, but we never made it.
Every first day of the month, no matter the weekday, this cool mountain town hosts a huge morning jungle market from 6am -12pm.
We were already running late from Kundasang, where we’d celebrated the New Year enjoying the view of Mt Kinabalu at New World Resort.
It wasn’t a long drive, but as we came over the mountain and began to wind downhill toward Ranau, traffic slowed to a crawl. As we inched down the mountain, I realized that my dream of finding durian species unknown at the monthly tamu were fading away with each tick of the clock.
So when we saw the small strip of stalls loaded down with durians, cempedaks, and teraps, I pulled the car off the highway. We were by now hungry, and it was a big enough pile of durian to find something interesting.
We found the Durio kinabaluensis, a highland mountain durian species, right away.
In fact, there is a Durio kinabaluensis tree directly behind the stall, growing at 677 meters or just over 2,200 feet. That’s pretty high for durian.
About the Pasar Durian Ranau
This collection of durian stalls comes and goes with the durian season. Each seller buys from farmers who stop by in their pick-ups. Sometimes they come, sometimes they don’t. Most days the same durian sellers are there, but anyone can take a day off when they feel like it.
There’s no consistency to the supply.
But you can usually depend on finding something good. The location, right along the highway, means that the prices are definitely higher at the Pasar Durian Ranau than at the Central Market in Ranau Town. So that’s a good incentive.
Muin, the lady in the red shirt in the photo, has been selling durian here for over 10 years. She was the only one selling Durio kinabaluensis that day, in a pile right alongside the other durians, their off-yellow spikes nearly glowing against the ugly green table cloth.
The tree behind the stall wasn’t dropping yet, so for now Muin is buying from others in the area who have trees. It’s fairly common in these high hilly areas, and most people we spoke to seemed to have a tree.
But of course, they’ve never heard of the name “Durio kinabaluensis.” That’s a B.S. latin scientific name.
Muin, and all the other local Dusun people, call this special little durian “Tupoloh.” Which I still can’t say correctly.
It’s not TOU-puh-luh. It’s not Too-poo-LOH. Or Tah-POH-LOH.
It’s Too-PUH-loh, with the second syllable an “uh” sound. “oo” “uh” “low”.
Good luck, I still can’t say it right. But at least I can make Muin laugh.
Maybe that’s why botanists just named it after the nearby mountain.
Tupoloh is a petite durian weighing no more than 0.6 of a kilo. It’s got thick, yellow-brown thorns and a stubby stem stuck to the dried out, dead old flower petals.
Inside, the flesh is really thick and starchy in texture, almost bready like a tree-cut Ganyao in Thailand, but there’s not much flesh.
But unlike Ganyao, the flavor is really strong, a syrupy-sweet Cherry Cake doused in rum.
You could get drunk off this durian if you eat too much, I swear. Jess and I did back in 2014, when we first found it and went wild sucking on it’s super sweet cake-y flesh.
Or you could definitely get drunk on this:
Red Marahong Tempoyak
“It’s tastes nothing,” the vendor said. It was a great selling point. Now we had to taste it.
I suspected I knew what it was. Marahong, coming from the Tongod region, is a grafted variety of Durio graveolens red. It doesn’t have much flavor, but it definitely tastes something.
Somehow, it’s naturally salty and fatty. You could make a great guacamole from it. Or tempoyak.
Here, the ladies were aging the fruits on purpose, letting the shells get brown and yawn open revealing the bright pink/red flesh.
To protect the soft flesh from insects and dirt, they wrapped them in plastic wrap. It looked strange.
Then at a point when the fruits looked like you probably *shouldn’t eat them*, they scooped the flesh into plastic containers, mixed with salt, and sold it as a fermented paste called tempoyak.
I was skeptical. I was wrong. It was delicious. Buy some if you come here.
They were also selling quite a few varieties of durian I’d heard of and never heard of. In addition to Musang King (of course), they had a number of kahwin or grafted local varieties.
D8 caught my eye, since I’m currently on the hunt to document and record every. single. durian variety in Malaysia. I hadn’t bagged a D8 yet.
It looked beautiful, with snowy white flesh and delicate folds and shadows. In flavor, it was disappointing, sweet and milky with little bite or anything to get excited over.
We actually didn’t finish the D8, which was a pity, because at Rm30 per kilo ($3.64 USD/lb) this durian was expensive.
Oh well, sometimes you win a Tupoloh, sometimes you lose a D8. Tis the way of the world.
At least we had a great time.
The stalls had comfortable tables with seating behind the durian displays, so taking our stash we settled in to chat, catch up, and pick away at our huge New Years Day Feast.
With durian and friends like this, I didn’t mind missing the monthly tamu at all.
How to get to Pasar Durian Ranau
The Pasar Durian Ranau sits just off the highway running from Tamparuli – Ranau. It’s only 1.5 km from Ranau Town, in the valley below, so you could make the hike up the highway if you were staying in Ranau Town.
The market is only open during the Ranau area durian season, January to March and again in August-October.