I’m writing this post from inside Ploy Chan Durian Cafe in Chanthaburi.
Behind me the walls are painted with durian murals and motifs representing real Chanthaburi varieties – Thongyoi, E-lip, Sarikei, Khiao Tam Lueng – the same rare varieties currently sitting in a basket on the floor waiting for customers. There’s coffee and sweet fruit drinks and if you get hungry there’s also durian cuisine like salty durian curries and spicy roasted durian salad too.
It’s the most duriany Durian Cafe I know of in the world, located in Chanthaburi, Thailand.
How Ploy Became a Master of Durian Dishes
Ploy decided to open her own Durian Cafe when the back room of her agrochemical and fertilizer shop, like this one, was starting to get used too often as an impromptu restaurant.
It all started when customers of her Agrochemical shop found out she was interested in rare old durian varieties. They started bringing her durians that most people have never heard of, durians like Sai Nam Pung and Klipsamut.
She posted a few pics on her Facebook, and soon was selling old Thai varieties by mail order. She also opened up a durian stall in front of her shop to let farmers sell these unusual durians.
Often, they would have leftover durians that had become too ripe to ship in the mail to online customers and couldn’t sell them all locally.
She didn’t like to throw these precious old durians away, so she began cooking them with sticky rice into Khao Lam, a chewy, salty, coconut-y dessert bubbling over with gooey caramelized durian.
Her Durian Khao Lam is so extra-special delicious that she very quickly became famous throughout Chanthaburi.
When a newspaper picked up the story, Ploy’s Durian Khao Lam became famous throughout all of Thailand.
Then people found out that she made Durian Cuisine too. She had begun roasting durian in her oven around the same time she made Durian Khao Lam.
It turned out that roasted, underripe durian tastes like an extra sweet, buttery potato that soaks up spices and sauces into rich and spicy mouthfuls.
The little stall at the front of her shop and the backroom of her shop became too small for all the hungry Durian Loving customers. So it was time to build a real Durian Cafe where she could share her durian cuisine.
About Ploy Chan Durian Cafe
Ploy Chan Durian Cafe officially opened in early 2020, just in time for the 2020 Durian Season and for the Thai government to close all restaurants due to Covid.
As of June 1, the cafe is open again in its new high-roofed, spacious A-frame with floor-to-ceiling windows draped in creeping vines. Murals on the walls depict real-life durians, labeled with their names in Thai.
The white tiles, floor-to-ceiling windows and patio furniture gives the feeling of being in a greenhouse.
There’s no AC either, but by sitting under a ceiling fan we feel comfortable enough here to hang out for a few hours with the speedy Wifi (one reason I’m writing this blog post here in her cafe).
The durians are on display on the coffee bar, as well as a few local durian snacks.
There’s also a double-sided menu of special local-flavored durian dishes, like Durian Jungle Curry, Durian Massaman Curry, Tom Yum with roasted durian and also a spicy noodle salad sprinkled with cubes of baked durian. And of course, her famous Durian Khao Lam.
Durian Cuisine at Ploy Chan’s Durian Cafe
We love to bring Durian Tour groups to see Ploy and take a cooking class in local durian cuisine.
It’s a great way to understand the range of flavors and flexibility in durian while learning about local Chanthaburi spices, herbs, and cooking methods!
Durian Gaeng Pa (Jungle Curry)
Chanthaburi jungle curry is one of the region’s signature dishes. It’s a blend of over 30 herb exotic herbs pounded fresh into a paste and stir fried. Other regions of Thailand have their own version of jungle curry, but what makes Chanthaburi jungle curry special is the inclusion of cardamom stalks from the mountains along the border with Cambodia.
First you take cardamom stalks, galangal root, culantro (not cilantro, but something else – Eryngium foetidum), lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and pound it into paste. Add plenty of dried chili peppers and stir fry until the paste is browned.
Add a meat of choice, usually pork (we used seitan for vegan power). Finally add cubes of uncooked crunchy durian and stir fry until you can poke a fork into the soft, potato-like flesh of the durian. The durian soaks up all the herbalness into lovely, mouth-melting bites.
Durian Massaman Curry
Durian Massaman curry is best eaten when you’re really hungry, because it quickly fills you up!
Massaman is a curry so rich it could be almost be a dessert. It’s thick and sweeter than most curries, with a Christmas-like blend of cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, and plenty of peanuts. It’s generally made with chunks of potatoes and carrots, but in this case Ploy substituted durian!
The spices pair beautifully with durian, which is why massaman curry is the most easily found Durian Cuisine in Thailand. The durian rounds out the curry’s sweetness and richness with a buttery, smooth texture.
Ploy usually makes hers with chicken, but this dish can be veganized without anyone noticing the difference in flavor or consistency.
If anything, our guests on Durian Tours have told us they prefer the vegan version since you get more durian per bite and it’s slightly lighter than the chicken version, which they said was delicious but too rich to enjoy much quantity of, which was too bad because it tastes delicious and they wanted to eat more.
Durian Yum Woon Sen (Noodle Salad)
If you can’t take the heat, the durian really helps in this super spicy noodle salad! The chunks of roasted durian soak up the lime juice, vinegar and plenty of chillies, making each bite fresh and flavorful.
The roasted durian is chewy and vegetal, but still sweet, working really well with the crunchy fresh vegetables and beehoon rice noodles.
Ploy normally makes this one with fresh prawns, but she veganized it for us by just leaving out the prawns.
Durian Khao Lam (Sticky Rice in Bamboo)
Even after such a feast, I am always careful to save room for Ploy’s Durian Khao Lam. It’s one of my personal favorites in durian cuisine, and I’ve never had it as good as at Ploy’s.
There’s something about the chewiness of the caramelized, salty coconut rice slightly dried along the edges of the bamboo mixed with the thick, hot, gooey durian that is just so ultimately satisfying.
You do need to order the Khao Lam ahead, as she sells out almost immediately. As I’m writing, I’m wishing I had made a booking for today. They look so good.
Rare Durian Varieties
Ploy Chan Durian Cafe is one of the best odd-durian hunting grounds, because she usually has something interesting. Today, as I’m writing, she has Longlaplae, Ganyao, Thongyoi Chat (not ripe yet, I’ll buy one for later) and Kop Suwan.
She sources the durian from her neighbors and her own farm.
On her own farm she grows:
- Gan Sa Nguan
- Sai Nam Phueng
- Musang King
- Nam Dam (Black thorn)
- Kop Takham
- Yao Linchee
- Kop Pokhun
- Mednai Yai prang
- Kop Chainam
17. Chanthaburi 1
18. Chanthaburi 2
19. Chanthaburi 3
20. Chanthaburi 4
21. Chanthaburi 5
22. Chanthaburi 6
23. Chanthaburi 7
24. Chanthaburi 8
25. Chanthaburi 9
26. Chanthaburi 10
Durians We Ate At Ploy Chan Durian Cafe
Kop Suwan is an old variety. I’ve had it several times in Rayong too.
Ploy opened it when it was perfect Thai-ripe: firm to the touch, fibrous, soft like a bread, and icing sweet like some kind of Hallah or pastry.
We felt like maybe we would like it slightly more at a riper stage.
We also noticed this one had very big, heavy seeds in addition to the thick, heavy shells, meaning bang for buck Kop Suwan may not be our favorite.
Sai Nam Pung
This durian has curiously flat, deflated pods that reminded me of another favorite, Kop Lep Yiao, but more yellow and with a very vanilla flavor.
It’s not bitter or alcoholic at all, following Thai preferences, but has a very good sticky texture and a nice flavor not unlike cookie dough.
This heart-shaped durian has a curious, characteristic “nose” that makes it really easy to identify. It opened really easily, revealing large, bulbous yellow pods almost shaded with pink.
This one was again sweet and frosting, with an unusual damask rose flavor that made it stay in my mind, pondering that unusual flavor, long after.
This fatty with the thin skin was the perfect ripeness for us, it’s immense flesh almost falling off its little bitty seeds.
We’ve had E-lip before from Suan Nam Suk, and I can never get over its cookie-dough level of sweetness. It’d delicious, but the sugar high definitely comes quick!
It’s the perfect durian to share, because there’s always enough for everyone!
Namtok Phlio Waterfall Park
If you’re headed to Ploy Chan’s you might as well check out the Namtok Phlio National Park just 2km away up a durian-lined winding road.
There are actually 7 waterfalls in the national park, as well as a cave and several hiking trails, but the most famous is the Phlio Waterfall, which has a large and deep pool that is a popular spot for swimming.
Note that it costs a 200 baht entry fee for foreigners.
How to Find Ploy Chan Durian Cafe
Ploy Chan Durian Cafe is located on Highway 3, Sukhumvit Road, near the turn off to Phlio Waterfall and just 2 doors down from the LPG petrol station. If you are headed to Phlio Waterfall, make sure to stop by.