Happy New Year Durian Munchers!
This is our Favorite Durians of 2021! The most delicious, the most unique, and the stand-out fruits we ate that haunt our memories and make us want to go back for more!
Hopefully this post will inspire you to travel in 2022, and make sure to share your favorite durians of 2021 in the comments to inspire us to go hunt them down!
Check out our Best Durians of other years:
After spending March to December 2020 in Thailand, in 2021 we apparently had the travel bug! Despite various restrictions, we managed to explore a lot of new Durian Hotspots, including through Java, Indonesia, Northern and Southern Thailand, Costa Rica and even Hawaii!
We LOVED Costa Rica and had an epic time there tasting all sorts of fruits we’d never seen before. But the best thing of all was seeing how many people were planting baby durian trees, and particularly Durio graveolens! We got so lucky we got to try the last fruit of a Red Durio graveolens before the end of the rainy season.
So we are very much looking forward to going back to Costa Rica and visiting again at a better Durian Time, maybe in 2022!
We were also early to arrive to Hawaii. We should have gone in December, but instead we arrived in November, just as durian season was starting. So Hawaii is another place we would really really love to go back and durian hunt on a longer trip. Hawaii stole our hearts 💜
This list of Best Durians is in chronological order of when we tried them, not in any other particular order.
I should just say: I am not sponsored by nor do I receive payment from any of the farms listed here. These are just the durians that made the biggest impression on us in 2021.
1. Durian Lai Subang
Where: Alvian’s Farm in Desa Bunihayu Village Subang Regency, Java Indonesia
We started the year on a mission: send Durian Lai to the United States.
Durian Lai is a hybrid of Durio zibethinus and Durio kutejensis. It’s a particularly sticky, dry, peanut-buttery textured durian that is all sweet and no funk. It’s very unique, and although doesn’t have any of the tingly, up-in-your-nose bitterness that we love in a good durian, Durian Lai is decadently delicious and we thought those of you who like tropical super-creamy things might really enjoy it!
Since we had no Durian Tours scheduled, we decided to put our energy into creating an Indonesian Durian-Tour-In-A-Box. So we teamed up with our friend Mas Alvian, who has a special variety of Durian Lai with a deeper, rosier red flush, a richer flavor, and a better texture than a lot of Durian Lai (some can be waxy).
It was an intense period of up-all-night work, transiting Jakarta daily to get to the freezing facility, driving in long loops throughout Java to pick-up fresh durians, and sitting in the kitchen watching the blast-freezer slowly moving down to -46C.
We were on a creative high, plus we got to eat any of the durian that didn’t look good enough to ship to you guys.
In the end, I think it was worth all the effort. If you got to taste this box, make sure to leave us a comment below and let us know what you thought!
And with the durians safely on their way to the USA, we were free to deep-dive into exploring Java.
I pointed our little car west, and from Jakarta we started a trans-Java journey of epic durian delights.
2. Durian Kani (Chanee)
Where: Kebun Buah Alam Segar, Cipatat West Bandung Regency
One of our first stops was Cipatat, about a 3-hour drive up the mountain from Jakarta. Kebun Buah Alam Segar sits at about 330 meters elevation (1080 feet). The name means “Fresh Environment” Farm, and it’s known to be cooler and more misty than low-lying swamplands like Jakarta.
I am almost always a Chanee-fan, but when you find a Chanee this shiny you might as well start salivating now. Just look at those folds, the way the skin dimples and folds over itself without rupturing, and you know this is going to be an epically creamy experience, with an aroma that fills your sinuses with something cool and metallic.
We visited Kebun Buah Alor Segar with our friends Sigit and Indra from the Durian Travelers group, and they made a video about our trip and the seriously EPIC Durian Kani (Chanee) that we ate there together.
If you watch the video, make sure to leave us a comment saying hello!
3. Durian Bido
Where: Wonosalam, Jombang Regency, East Java
After a couple of weeks in Central Java, where we had good durians at Mas Andri’s Gudang Durian, stopped in to eat more Durian Lai at Pasar Ace in Mijen, and visited our friends at Kholil Durian Semarang, it was time to head East.
I’d heard great things about East Java – the volcanic topography, the drier climate, the amazing quality durians. And East Java did not disappoint! At all. At all at all. It was incredible!
Among the best durians we found in East Java was Durian Bido from Wonosalam in Jombang Regency.
We were very lucky to be invited to Wonosalam by Ghufron, a durian seller in Mojokerto who found out we were in the area.
We met him at his house where he had a fresh Durian Bido waiting for us, then we drove together up the mountain about 1 hour to the durian farm where we met Bu Asih and saw the Durian Bido trees in a garden surrounded by gingers.
If you’ve ever experienced the rich custard in kahlua syrup of a Malaysian Tekka, you know the nasal burn and dense sugar high that we found in Durian Bido, the kind of high-caloric alcohol that goes straight into your cheeks and leaves you feeling rosy and cold at the same time.
This is a durian to remember, and hopefully one we will get to taste again in the not-far-away future.
4. Rainbow Durian
Where: Lumajang Regency
The most exhilarating week of our 2021 Durian Hunt was in Lumajang Regency.
With access to sunrise views of Mt. Bromo and Mt. Semeru via the B29 Ridge, ancient 200- or 300-year-old durian trees, and strikingly beautiful durians marbled with orange, red, gold, and pink, I was in love with just about everything Lumajang.
How can you not love a durian hotspot with topography like this?
Or durian trees like this?
But the durians sealed the deal. For those tender, delicate folds of the rainbow Rainbow durians with burnt caramel sweetness and nutty aroma, painted with those enrapturing, hypnotic colors I would travel halfway across the world.
I hope we can next season!
5. Kop Pikun
Where: Pause & Khanitt’s Farm Chanthaburi, Thailand
After 4 months in Java, it was time to head back to Thailand for the 2021 Thai Durian Season.
We were determined to send all of you in the USA and also in Australia an East Thailand Durian Box made out of GOOD Thai durians.
Thai durian gets such a bad rap in Western countries, and it’s really not fair – not when you have over 234 amazing quality durians floating around with histories dating back to the 1850’s.
It meant spending 10 days in an Alternative State Quarantine hotel in Bangkok, during which we ate 0 durians.
So when we came out, we were durian hungry!
Luckily it was season for Kop Pikun, one of my all-time favorite heirloom durians in Thailand. With it’s bright orange flesh and extremely soft, buttery, melt-in-your-hand texture, it’s a goopy milk-chocolatey pudding delight.
6. Kampan Nuealueang / Chaokromkhian กำปั่นเนื้อเหลือง
With a focus on heirloom durians, we started collecting. We collected and photographed over 30 varieties of durian in 2021, getting ready to release a new Thailand Durian Guide in 2022!
Among the stand-out durians was this tree-dropped Kop Lueang from an organic farm a bit north of Chanthaburi city. We love this farm, and the kind owners, who we have known for years. She has a collection of varieties and will allow them to tree-ripen and drop if you book them ahead of time.
The Kop Lueang was a huge durian, over 5KG, which also made it expensive to buy! Inside it had absolutely immense pieces, so huge that one rich, dense pod made me feel really full. It had a sparkling berry explosion that reminded us of a really ripe, old-tree Black Thorn.
A really amazing durian!
Where: Sukhothai, Thailand
Yes, this is Monthong with no color correction!
After 3 months in Chanthaburi, it was time for a roadtrip! We headed north, passing through Khao Yai National Park through the barren corn fields of the Korat Plateau to Uttaradit to taste the famous Long Laplae and Lin Laplae durians (we had a great visit to Summer Green Longlaplae ทุเรียนหลงลับแล Farm).
In North Thailand, we found a mountainous region with a new food culture, and all sorts of vegan goodies to try like Khao Kab ข้าวแคบ, Khao pan ข้าวพัน, and Khao Perb ข้าวเปิ๊บ soup.
It was exciting to reach a part of Thailand we had never visited before!
And here we tasted one of the best Monthong we’ve ever had, so good it made it onto our Best of 20201 list. For real! Monthong!
It had the same peculiar S-shape as the Pala-U Monthong that we loved so much in 2020, the flesh drier with each pod visibly holding separate from each other, with a thick oily skin that folded and wrinkled delectably.
This did not taste like the pasty, insipidly sucrose Monthong you’re probably imagine. It had a dark ivory cream color, a depth and richness, a custardy fattiness, and a slight hint of bitter. Yes – bitter Monthong – you read that right.
8. Pak Tam ปากถ้ำ
In early July, Bangkok went back into lockdown. We cruised over the top of the quiet city and headed south to our favorite southern Thai province, Krabi.
Finally we were early enough to catch the Krabi durian season! We stopped for Cannabis & Durian on the way, had a great visit to Suan Khao Kram and went back to visit our friends Daisy & Rak at the Nature Place Ao Nang.
But on one of the most magical mornings this year, we wandered with our friend Birdee through his organic orchard eating fresh-dropped Durian Baan from 100-year-old trees planted by his wife’s ancestors.
By far, the stand-out was a tree the family calls ‘Pak Tam,’ or “mouth of the cave” because the tree grows just outside of a limestone cave. The durian is so good, everyone in the neighborhood knows this tree, and Birdee no longer sells the fruits – he just shares it with friends.
We felt very honored to be allowed to eat everything that fell while we were there, and this durian by far gave the most intense numbing sensations of any durian we ate in 2021. It made our mouths feel smooth, our breath cold when we breathed out, and it’s heady aroma completely filled our noses and sinuses for a durian eating experience that is very rare and very precious.
9. Red Durio Graveolens
Where: Dominical Costa Rica
I was not expecting to find fruiting Durio graveolens in Costa Rica, but on the day we arrived to the Pacific side of Costa Rica we had a phone call and suddenly there we were, face to face with the wee little fruit that is one of my favorites in all the world.
Since this year we weren’t able to make it into Borneo, where this little guy originates, it was such a gift to see it across the whole frickin’ ocean in Costa Rica.
It tasted just how I remembered, like sticky almond-butter and port, with something sharp almost like a cough syrup. Just amazing.
Check out this interview with the tree’s owner, Jesse Blenn, who planted it on his farm in Costa Rica around 20 years ago.
10. A69 Durian, Hawaii
Where: Bobbi’s A69 in Puna District, Big Island
After 6-months in Thailand, we made the difficult decision to leave. I (Lindsay) was particularly reluctant to go. But with lockdowns and cases increasing, it was beginning to feel uncomfortable even in our sleepy village.
I’d fallen in love with Hawaii years ago, but Richard had never been. So we decided this was an excellent opportunity to show Richard one of my favorite places in the world!
Luckily, durian season was just beginning there too! 😉
Hawaii was a literal breath of fresh air. It’s one of the cleanest places I’ve ever been, and with an impressive assortment of fruit trees brought from every corner of the planet, it’s a fruit hunters dreamland.
And that includes durian! One of the very best durian we ate in 2021 was an A69 from the Puna District. A69 is an old grafted Singaporean durian that was brought to Hawaii in the 1980’s. Since A69 is not longer easy to find in Singapore, we haven’t been able to verify it’s identity, but we can verify that this durian was GREAT!
It had the softness and luciousness
Where: Kipahulu, Maui Island
On our first day on Maui Island, we were blessed with a visit from an old friend who brought us the very last fruit from his Pohakulani tree for the season.
Pohakulani may be among my favorite durians ever. It’s a Hawaiian-variety, first planted on Pohakulani Street in Hilo, Big Island, and then spread around the islands via grafting.
The durian is perfectly round with a flat bottom, so it sits upright like a pumpkin. Inside it has enormously fleshy pods that glow a dark gold. It’s buttery and rich, very nutty, and has a punch that you will never forget.
12. Durians from Malaysia
Where: San Francisco
In December, our durian boxes from Malaysia arrived! We went to San Francisco to meet them and assist with the unloading and packing to send these durians to YOU!
Not to brag, but the durians our friends sent us is really, startlingly good, better than a lot of fresh durian we ate this year. Damn, I thought, they really hit it out of the ballpark. Like, if frozen durian can be this good, it was an epic durian year in Malaysia this year.
No wonder we used to hang around Malaysia so much!
I was particularly impressed with the organic Musang King from Jimmy’s Farm, just because we’d just eaten frozen MSK on our Honolulu Durian Hunt and San Jose Durian Hunt. And Jimmy’s MSK was, to my mouth, more melting, silky, luscious, and alcoholic.
But my personal favorite from this box was Red Prawn from James’s Farm.
I love it’s delicacy, the absolute fiberless cream that still holds its shape inside a wrinkled pearl of skin until you rupture it with your teeth, spilling out its pinky innards with a mild sweetness and hint of rose wine.
But, Richard disagrees.
His favorite durian of the box is the Black thorn from Ah Heng. He likes its alcoholic punch and deep flavors, more like a port than a wine this year.
We are definitely eating these and savoring them with gratitude for all the people who helped us put this project together despite all obstacles faced in 2021.
Much thanks to James, Eric, Elvis, Tiger, Ah Heng, Ivan, Mr. Ghey, Steven, Jimmy, Firdaus, Mr. Tan, Benson, and Kamil for making these durian boxes possible.
I’m most grateful in 2021 for being able to continue to durian hunt, to continue to durian blog, and to be able to send Durian Tours In Boxes back to those of you still waiting out the travel restrictions at home.
As we go into 2022, I’m really not sure what the year will bring. I have some goals, some missions, but I have no idea how many times we will need to adapt, to go another way, and to explore unchartered territories. But to be sure, there should be plenty of durian!
Thank you to everyone for following along with our durian adventures for all of these years. If you have any questions about durians, about durian hunting, or about traveling for durian, I’ll do my best to answer them in the comments below.
Happy New Year!