About Suan Nam Suk
Suan Nam Sook garden is nearly as old as “Art” Manop Amornachara.
His father was a Chinese immigrant who arrived in Chanthaburi around 1945. He purchased some land and began planting watermelons.
Planting watermelons is hard work, and doesn’t make very much money. Around 1970, before Art was born, he decided to try his luck with rambutans. Rambutans were popular in the 1970’s, and considered to be a more reliable source of income than durians.
Twenty years later, around 1990, he transitioned the farm to durians and cut down the rambutans. He planted the commercially popular Chanee, Monthong, Kradumthong, Puangmanee and Ganyao — but also had an interest in the older and more rare varieties.
Art took over the farm around 2004 when his father passed away.
Today, Suan Nam Suk has 7 varieties of durian you will rarely find anywhere else — Chomphu Si, Ganyao Wat Sak, E-lip, Mednai Yai Prang (Nokachip), Sao Chom, and Thong Yip.
VIDEO: Tasting Cut vs Tree-Fallen Durian
Each durian variety has a slightly different harvest season. Mednai Yai Prang is early, while Ganyao Wat Sak ripens several months later.
If you would like to taste tree-fallen durians, you should contact Art in advance to notify him to keep some on the tree for you.
You can visit Art’s farm to eat or you can place a booking through Facebook for mail order.
Kampan Thong is an old variety that isn’t very easy to find.
Its name means “Golden Jewelry Box” — the kind of wooden trunks studded with gems or fancy engravings from the Rattanakosin Era.
Kampan Thong belongs in the family of “Kampans” — there are others, like Kampan Phuang and Kampan Sinak, Kampan Doem and Kampan Daeng — among others.
You can also spell Kampan like “Gumpun” — it’s one of those weird no-direct translations of the Thai alphabet.
Gumpuns are really common in Hawaii and Australia, but which one of the “Kampans” made it there I have no idea. Maybe this ID will help!
How to ID Kampan Thong
Kampan Thong has big, square “shoulders” around the stem and a slightly pointy bottom. You can’t set it up right or it will roll right over.
The spines are pretty big and blocky and it has really pronounced “lobes” — giving it the flower-shape when viewed from the bottom. We also noticed that the “netting” around the spines was a darker green color.
It has just a small little bald patch on the bottom where there are no spines, like a miniature belly button.
Cut vs. Tree-Fallen Durian
I was completely shocked how different the flavor was between a cut or harvested Kampan Thong and a fresh, same-morning tree-fallen Kampan Thong. They were like completely different fruits!
We started with the cut Kampan Thong, which had been ripened for several days off the tree. The texture was very smooth and lightly creamy, like guacamole or mashed potatoes.
The flavor was really unusual. It had an intense sweetness that was more like a dried fruit than a fresh fruit. It reminded me of the almost alcoholic sugary taste of raisins, combined with something lighter and citrusy. We called it the raisin rum ice cream durian!
The tree-fallen Kampan Thong was INTENSE. Whereas the cut one was lightly alcoholic, the tree-fallen was intensely so — the texture was rich and fatty, with a dark caramel and rum flavor that was just like a very fancy dessert.
To all of my Malaysian friend who have ever scoffed at Thai durians — you must try this.
The way we know this durian is a super old variety is the name.
People don’t call each other “Ee” anymore — but 200 or 300 years ago you might call someone “E” as a term of endearment or to be polite. “E” was like saying “Miss.”
This variety is still fairly common though! We’ve found it at a number of farms, but at Suan Nam Suk it was my first time tasting a tree-fallen E-lip.
How to ID E-lip
E-lip is a big, sturdy durian with very dark green, tidy looking spines. The spikes are smaller than the Kampan Thong and also had curvy hooks on the end that made it difficult to open without injury.
On the bottom, the spines kind of fade away into a little nubby bald patch.
Cut vs. Tree-Fallen Durian
Again, the difference between a cut vs a tree-fallen E-lip was huge and unexpected!
We started with the cut one. I bit into the huge, cookie-dough-like piece and nearly choked. It was like eating straight up sugar! You could totally cure hiccups with a pod of cut E-lip. Or make S’mores.
Actually, E-lip S’mores sounds like a great idea.
After such a glucose rollercoaster, I knew the tree-fallen E-lip would be intense but was not prepared for the level of alcohol.
Tree-fallen E-lip made the blood rush into my cheeks right away, like if I’d taken a shot of vodka. It reminded us a lot of Capri — a famously alcoholic durian from Penang.
There was also quite a lot of E-lip to eat, making the experience even more intense. The seeds were almost non-existent, just little bitty pieces of fiber floating in a marshmallow sea of flesh.
After just a couple of pieces we were feeling very full and also somewhat drunk.
Mednai Yai Prang (Nokachip)
Mednai Yai Prang is one of the most famous durians in Thailand right now. It’s an old variety originating in Nonthaburi, but as it spread from Nonthaburi to Rayong and from Rayong to Chanthaburi, it kept changing names.
Currently it often goes by Nokachip or Nokayib — depending on who’s telling the story.
Whatever its name, it has a deep, entrancingly beautiful yellow flesh.
We didn’t get to try this one tree-dropped, but cut it had an amazingly thick, nut-butter texture and a bakery-sugar flavor that reminded me of Challah bread.
Thongyip existed as a durian variety by 1884. It’s an oldie — but a goodie.
The immense fleshiness of this one is really impressive. Talk about “Golden Pillows.”
This one was cut and had been off the tree for three days when we tasted it. It was very smooth and light, more of a moist cooked potato texture with a sweet berry frosting flavor.
Farms like Suan Nam Suk are really special. In commercialized Chanthaburi, the home of the Chinese durian export industry, finding farms thaat still offer a variety of old types of durian is a treat.
And we didn’t even get to taste all the varieties!
I also really enjoyed getting to taste a traditional Thai cut durian — how they would be eating these durians — with the more Malaysian style, which let me experience the full range of flavors in a variety.
Experiences like visiting Suan Nam Suk just remind me how special durian is — I don’t know of any other fruit where you can find such a diversity of flavor!
We are very thankful to Art Amornaracha for this experience.
Getting to Suan Nam Suk Garden
*MAKE SURE TO BOOK IN ADVANCE* This farm is not open for walk in customers, so please make sure to book in advance: Art’s Facebook Page
The driveway to Suan Nam Sook Guarden is on the lefthand side of Highway 3 when you are driving to Trat from Chanthaburi.
Look for a small dirt road and make sure to slow down early or you will miss it. Pull off the Highway safely.
Use the Map below to navigate to Suan Nam Suk, or find the farm on our new Durian App.