Tree-dropped durian in Thailand is not that rare, but it’s rare enough that you have to be in active durian-hunting mode to find it. So when you find a wholesaler dedicated to *only tree-dropped durian* it’s basically like finding the lucky pot of gold, and the end of the rainbow is Chanthaburi.
About Pa Lek’s Durian Wholesale Hut
Pa Lek, or “Auntie” Lek, sits on a wood platform behind an old desk half propped up by plywood. There is a giant calculator and a notepad sitting on the desk, as well as a whisk for cleaning durians, and a sun parakeet she coos and clucks over as she waits.
She’s there all day as long as its durian season, from 6AM to 7PM, as the durians trickle in on motorbikes and tricycles. Someone hands a few durians out the window of their car.
Unlike at the wholesale factories nearby, the durians here arrive in small batches – one-by-one sometimes, or in a basket of mixed varieties, or occasionally in a pick-up truck.
These are the forgotten durians, the ones that fell on accident before the climber could be called to cut the durians for the harvest, or the few forgotten on a tree after a harvest, or sometimes durians from an abandoned farm or a farm in transition after a death in the family.
They are tree-dropped, and if you are a lover of tree-dropped durian, Pa Lek’s is a Durian Gold Mine.
VIDEO: Pa Lek Video Farm Tour
She herself prefers to eat fresh, tree-dropped Monthong, and made the decision not to transition to selling cut durian back in the 1970’s.
Something people forget is that once upon a time, Thai people liked to eat durians that fell naturally off of trees too.
Today, they prefer to cut them early, which gives the durian an intensely sweet frosting-like flavor and texture.
But when Pa Lek began selling durian at the local markets back in the late 1970’s, everyone sold tree-dropped durian. When Monthong showed up in the 1980’s, many people began transitioning to cutting the durian.
But not Pa Lek. She has stuck to tree-dropped, making her wholesale a repository for all of the durians that don’t fit the industrial normative values.
Here you can find tree-fallen everything, and even the ancient durian varieties no one wants to sell anymore.
Let me be honest: Monthong is not my favorite durian. I am very unlikely to go out of my way to look for it. It’s everywhere – street corners, push carts, farm tours, your local 99 Ranch – and I almost never feel inclined to take more than a few bites.
The problem is its sweetness. Montong is a big, hefty durian that when cut early off the tree has this simple sweetness like sugar dumped over a sweet potato.
But sometimes….sometimes Monthong is a darn fine durian. These fresh tree-dropped Monthong had a very soft texture and a mellow, almost caramelized sweetness that reminded me of a coconut-milk khanom sauced in caramelized palm sugar. It was fantastic, and we ate a lot of it before remembering we were supposed to be sending it to the USA for the Thailand Durian Box.
Chanee is usually my favorite durian. It’s got this amazing yellow shine and very fine wrinkles that get me all excited, with an internal cream that is thick and fairly smooth. What I like about Chanee flavor is that its sweetness is more rounded and rich than Monthong (usually), with a bitter bite not unlike dark chocolate.
But today, amazingly, the Monthong won. It’s flavor was so unusually coconut-yogurt flavored that yeah – we almost ignored the Chanee in favor of the Monthong.
I really never thought I would write about the day I chose Monthong over Chanee. The world is ending – clearly.
There are hundreds of lost old varieties growing in Thailand, collectively referred to as Durian Boran, or “the ancient durians.”
Durian Boran could mean just a very very old tree of unknown paternity, possible planted from seed, possible grafted.
It basically means that its name died along with the past generations, and so did its market value. You can’t export a Durian Boran or sell it to durian stalls in Bangkok, so farmers dump it here, with Pa Lek, to be whisked away to the corners of the world that appreciate tree-dropped durians.
This one, to be honest, was not that good. The flesh was patchy, soft in some places and hard in the others, and it had the boring flavor of sweetened milk.
But that’s the fun with Durian Boran – you never know what you’re going to get.
How to Find Pa Lek’s Tree-Dropped Durian Stall
Pa Lek’s little house sits on the side Highway 3322 in the Khao Baisi sub-district of Chanthaburi. It’s very close by to Suan Itsaree.
Follow the map below or use our Durian App to navigate to Pa Lek’s Durian Stall.
When the durian season is over, the little house will be empty.