I needed help with this durian mission, so I recruited some friends. Eric’s farm has a lot of durian varieties — more than 30 of them — and a lot of them old relics from the 1970’s. I wanted to try to capture as many as possible, and I couldn’t do it by myself. I needed more mouths to help me.
We caravanned across the Penang’s northern bridge to the mainland, then north across the Penang/Kedah border to a small town just off the highway called Gurun.
I was glad Justyna and Simon were following me, because the farm is a little tricky to find. The first time I visited Eric’s Gurun Durian Dusun, I ended up wandering through the red-dirt roads of an extensive palm oil plantations for about an hour, wondering if I would ever get out again.
The trick is that, when you get to this intersection, Google Maps will tell you to go to the right and stay on the paved road. DO NOT STAY ON THE PAVED ROAD. Go left, up the slippery, red-dirt road.
After a few minutes, you’ll pass a house with a lot of small goats in the road. Please don’t run over the goats. They will move, slowly, after staring at you for awhile. Just don’t be a rush, because when you see the goats, you know you’re almost to durian.
Eric’s Gurun Durian Dusun farm is at the end of the road, through a small gate. There’s a big red earth parking space between the durian trees, next to this large covered area filled with tables.
And finally, after your long journey, you can sit back and let the number of durian varieties overwhelm you.
Simon & Justyna’s Video of our visit to Eric’s Gurun Durian Dusun
Simon and Justyna are Youtubers, and posted their video of our day out to Eric’s farm on their youtube channel, Fit Shortie Eats. Our visit starts at 3:07 in this video. They covered just 6 durian varieties, but we actually ate 9 varieties on the farm.
A note about Gurun, because you probably never heard of it before
Gurun is a small city and district with about 40,000 people spread around through the palm oil plantations. Most of the land is owned by Sim Darby, and what’s not a palm oil plantation is either a corn field or durian.
If you like staying in quiet areas, the Jerai Hill Resort offers the best view of the sea and the palm oil forests below.
The most exciting historic thing that happened in Gurun was likely the death of Sultan of Kedah, Sultan Jaafar Mad Azam Syah, whose death christened the city with its name.
In 1876, Gurun was unhappily owned by Thailand, a quasi-autonomous state that desired full autonomy. The Sultan went to war, and was ultimately crushed by an elephant during one of the epic battles behind what is today the Gurun Police Station.
According to the official Gurun wikipedia, the word Gurun means elephant in one of the Thai dialects. I don’t know which one, because the Thai word for elephant I know is Chang.
About Eric’s Gurun Durian Dusun
Back in the 1970’s, Kedah was the biggest producer of durian in Malaysia. Hard to believe, right?
The state is right on the border with Thailand, and was one of the first to start introducing grafted durian varieties to its farmers. Mostly they were Thai varieties — like Monthong, Ganyao, and some weird ones like Katoei Neui Khai. You can find them on the official MARDI registrar.
Eric’s father ditched rubber trees and began planting durian sometime between 1976 and 1978. Eric isn’t sure, since he was just a kid. But his trees are now over 40 years old, and he has some weird old relics from the Kedah agricultural department that you won’t find on most farms.
In total, he has over 30 other varieties. We tried as many as we could in one day, but to taste all of Eric’s durians, we’ll definitely have to go back.
D99 – Kop Kecil
We started our durian tasting with Kop Kecil, a small, pumpkin shaped durian with dandelion-yellow flesh. I wanted to start with this one, because I expected it to be the sweetest and most buttery-boring of the durians.
It’s pretty clearly exactly the same thing as Kradumthong in Thailand. The flesh is thick compared to the seed, buttery, smooth, and very sweet with a hint of caramel. Some people adore this durian, like Parisa’s husband Damien, but I’m just not a fan. Marcus (guy in the durian shirt) loved it.
Thong Yoi is a really old Thai durian variety, which has been mentioned in records as far back as 1884. It’s a fatty, with thick pale orange custard plumped around the seed. Just one of these would have you stuffed, and I was really glad we had big durian eaters with me to help us keep going.
Thong Yoi is one of my favorites — slightly bitter, milky cream — and without help I would have eaten the whole thing and been unable to continue. .
Eric says this is his specialty durian. As he cracked it open and that amazing orange-gold color came streaming through the green spines, we couldn’t help but ooh and aah and get really excited.
Our excitement was quickly dampened by the flavor, which was a little one-dimensional. It might have been a little overripe for my taste, the complexity turning to plain sugar. It was very sweet, with an intense gummy-bear aftertaste that made me put down my piece and wait for the next one.
Good thing there were other mouths that didn’t mind.
The next durian was more my style. It opened beautifully, the thick undulating wrinkles reminding me of a Hor Lor.
It was thick and sticky, with a hint of the brown-sugary granules of unbaked cookie dough, and I loved it. But then, I like mild-tasting durian as long as they’ve got the right texture. Simon and Justyna were less impressed. There were lots of jokes about its name.
Which ultimately means none of us will forget it. So it works.
This durian was a curiosity. We kept spinning it around, wondering what it *almost* looked like.
It was perfectly round, like a little pumpkin, with a big fat orange smear down the center of the core just like a Black Thorn. But how could it be related to Black Thorn with flesh that pale?
It was, as promised, bitter sweet, and fairly similar in texture to the Unforgettable.
“Are you done?” Eric asked us after 9 varieties of durian. “Are you sure? Are you sure you’re sure?”
“Yes,” we groaned. “We had enough durian. We can’t eat for a week.”
“Then you can have one more,” he said, and pulled from his pile a surprise.
After the Jack Sparrow, we were less impressed by the color, which was too bad because we should have been. The smell was overwhelming, a hint of berry, a hint of cream, a hint of something alcoholic.
“This is the best,” I proclaimed in the video ↑↑ and it was.
Numbing and smooth, we left with our mouths tingling, happy to have shared an afternoon of tasting unusual durians in Kedah.
How to get to Eric’s Durian Gurun Dusun in Kedah
Eric’s farm is not that hard to drive to, but you need a little confidence.
From Penang, take the AH2 Highway north and get off at Exit 170. Follow Google’s directions until you get to the split in the road I mentioned above. Then turn LEFT.
If needed, Eric or one of his workers will rescue you from wandering the rest of your life in the palm oil plantation. Just keep his phone number handy, or bring snacks, a flashlight and a whistle so rescuers can find you.
Contact Eric (Teoh Seng Koon): Facebook / 012-631-8893
Use this Malaysia Durian Hunting Map to find Eric’s Gurun Durian Dusun, or navigate to other hotspots nearby.