The Durian scene is changing.
It’s like this: Once upon a time, if you wanted a cup of coffee in Malaysia, you went to Uncle’s kopitiam with the ceiling fans and weird black streaks on the walls and overly bright red plates piled high with otherworldly succulent noodles.
But now, if you want a cup of coffee, you can go to Grinders or Perk or Wakemeup for an air-conditioned iced latte, potted plants, and better WiFi than you can afford at home.
DurianBB at the Aeropod complex is the new coffee. There are white tables and plenty of light from floor to ceiling windows. There are adorable throw pillows. There is WiFi.
Everything matches and is relentlessly durian themed and cute.
So don’t forget to bring your Instagram husband!
The Durian BB Cafe is maybe not what you’d expect for the northern coast of Borneo.
If you’re coming to Kota Kinabalu expecting orangutans and waterfalls, think again, because Kota Kinabalu is a modern city of 250,000 people and about that many cutesy artisan coffee shops.
Durian BB fits right into the cozy KK cafe scene, it’s just that no one has ever made a cozy durian cafe before.
The company originated in Hong Kong in July, 2015, when Hong Konger Adrian Choy began throwing catered durian buffet parties with fresh Musang King imported from Malaysia.
It was wildly popular, in part because no one had bothered to mention to Hong Kongers that there were other types of durian than Musang King.
The company began to grow very quickly. In just 6 months, Adrian and his team opened their very own brick-and-mortor Durian BB Cafe in Hong Kong.
Their goal was to offer an all-year-round durian dining experience, that would not only feed people’s durian desires but make them feel happy.
Their mission statement is to deliver happiness, sort of like a Durian Disneyland.
In 2017, the team opened an enormous 10,000 square foot durian eatery in the Imbi neighborhood of Kuala Lumpur called Durian BB Park (which I haven’t been to. Yet.)
And just this week, August 17, they launched the latest branch in Kota Kinabalu. I got to take part and help cut the ribbon!
Durian BB’s strength is its durian products. There is a whole wall of them, dressed in bright, cheery boxes.
What I noticed right away was that the ingredient list was fairly “clean” compared to a lot of other durian products I’ve excitedly pulled off the shelf and then put right back as soon as I saw the words “durian essence.”
We were able to try two of the products as they were vegan!
The durian popcorn was our groups favorite. I was honestly skeptical about this one. I expected it to contain a lot of hydrogenated MSG nonsense. But I was pleasantly surprised by the ingredients list — only corn, coconut oil, white sugar, and freeze dried durian powder!
The popcorn wasn’t stale, and it had a pleasant, salty, surprisingly cheesy taste. I shipped some to my Dad in America, who loves Boyscout popcorn. We’ll get his review in a few months when it arrives by boat.
Freeze Dried Musang King
You guys know from this blog that freeze dried durian is my favorite durian product. I really appreciate that it’s just pure durian flesh; no sugar or preservatives, naturally gluten free and vegan!
But there are a lot of not-so-good freeze dried durians out there. A lot of companies just processed their overripe reject durians. I’m really sensitive to overripe durian flavor, even in Freeze Dried Durian!
This one was in my top 3 for Freeze Dried Durian experiences. Each cube had the right amount of crunch and a strong, nutty, Musang Kingy flavor.
We didn’t taste any of their desserts for ourselves, as they were not vegan or gluten-free, but aren’t they relentlessly cute just like everything else?
The top is a Musang King ice cream, made with durians from their farm in Raub.
This one is the mooncake.
Durian Tasting Platters
This tasting platter is a signature of Durian BB, and obviously successful enough that others are copying (ahem, 99oldtrees in Singapore).
The platter features 5 pods of durian, each from a different variety, arranged on a plate. If you order online, it comes in a big plastic tray.
A little flag on each pod announces its D-# (if registered with the Department of Agriculture) and a cutesy name assigned by DurianBB to describe the durians.
Calling D13 “Golden Buns” and D24 “Borneo Gold” is entirely their own invention.
On the day we got to give the platters a try, we were served:
- “Prime” — which is their name for Kampung
- D99 or Kop Kecil, which translates as “Little Frog”
- D24 — which they called “Borneo Gold”
- D118 or Tembaga, which translates as Copper
- D197, Musang King
Unfortunately/Fortunately, my platter had misplaced D24 with an Udang Merah, which was actually tastier than the D24 on Richard’s plate. Lucky me!
It was fun to have the durians laid out for us so tidily with their names displayed, so we could see the color differences.
But we also find that durian refrigerated overnight typically loses a bit of its flavor, and the texture becomes grainy, and this was the case with the durian tasting platter.
No durian shop is complete without fresh durian! So of course Durian BB had some varieties out front.
We looked through the batch — D101, D118, Tekka, D24, — and selected a D101 and a Tekka (above ↑). All grown locally here in Sabah.
The Musang King is air shipped from the Durian BB orchard in Raub.
Here is the D101:
While they had a pretty good selection of durian varieties, it was again a situation of freshness. Most of the durians were at least 24 hours old, and were beginning to lose their flavor.
It was a little disappointing for a brand that is pulling off so much durian kick-ass-ery in every other department.
If they stock fresher durian, really, it might have been the most amazing in-city durian experience ever.
Durian BB is one of the first, maybe the first, recognizable durian chains in the world.
In the future, durian lovers hearts may jump at seeing a Durian BB the way mine does at 4am in the cold corridors of the Manila Airport when I see a Starbucks. It’s so familiar, so cozy, so trust-worthy. You know what to expect from a Starbucks, and durian fans can know what to expect from Durian BB.
But when I go to Starbucks, I don’t expect the coffee to super WOW me. If I want a really exceptional roast in KK, I’ll always go to the small artisan shops around the Australia District like October or Woo! or even Biru Biru.
And if I want an exceptional durian, I’ll always go straight to the farm.
How to get to DurianBB Aeropod Kota Kinabalu Durian Cafe
DurianBB Aeropod is located near the Kota Kinabalu International Airport and the Tanjung Aru Railway Station.
It’s in the very center courtyard of a housing development, meaning you need to go up the elevator past COF Coffee & Patisserie to find it.
Being so close to the airport, it’s a convenient spot to pick up some souvenirs on the way home or even vacuum seal some durian for the flight (just make sure to check it into your luggage, no hand carrying).