Happy New Year again, Durian Munchers!
This is our annual spill of all our personal Favorite Durians of 2022! You guys ask us all the time for which durians we actually love the most, or our top ten all-time list! But while we can’t (or won’t 🤐) tell you our all time bests, I’m happy to share which durians we devoured this year with the most glee and then fantasized about after – the durians that shaped our 2022.
For us, this was a huge year for personal growth, learning new skills (especially in videography!) exploring new places, and maturing as a couple and a small business.
Please note this list is in CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER based on the date we ate the durians, not ranking them by preference or any other grading system.
Hopefully this post will inspire you to travel in 2023, and make sure to share your favorite durians of 2022 in the comments to inspire us to go hunt them down.
Here’s our lists from previous years:
1. Zanzibar Old Tree Durian
Where: Dole Village, Zanzibar
January found us somewhere completely new, a place I’d been dreaming about visiting since I read that durian grows on this island off the east coast of Africa. I’d been kept away for years by the fact that the Zanzibar Durian season usually conflicts with seasons in other intriguing places, like Borneo, which is also enticing, closer, and cheaper to fly to (from other SE Asian countries).
But with Malaysia and Indonesia’s borders still closed for the pandemic, we found ourselves with some free time and no durian season in particular calling us except Zanzibar.
We flew in with no idea how many durian trees we could expect to find. Worst case scenario, we figured, we’d find just one durian tree in the backyard of someone who went on holiday once to Thailand and pocketed some seeds. Best case scenario, a few farms. It didn’t seem like durian was very common from the information I could find online.
We found the even better scenario – a durian treasure island scattered with incredibly old durian trees, some at least 200 years old and potentially even 300 years old – trees that dwarfed the landscape, making us feel like tiny gnome-people wandering through an exotic landscape.
We quickly fell in love with Zanzibar and it’s epic-tasting durians, most of them from extremely old trees, milky, bitter, and strongly numbing.
The stand-out among the greats was the two yogurt-y, menthol-y, super strong cold-tasting durians we ate from this old megalith, a huge durian tree in Dole Village. It was strong!
Contact the guides at the Tangawizi Spice Garden to get a guided trip to visit this tree.
2. Khiao Tam Leung เขียวตำลึง
Where: Chanthaburi, Thailand at Baan Suan Plai Klong Phlio บ้านสวนปลายคลองพลิ้ว
On arriving to Thailand, we found ourselves extremely busy working to collect the last details for a new durian guide book we are planning to launch in April, 2023.
I’d started working on the book in 2019, but being based in Chanthaburi for the majority of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021 was really helpful to dive in deep and get to know the nooks and crannies of the durian world. Now it was time to check the last farms off our list!
One we’d heard of was a small homestay with a 100-year-old Khiao Tam Leung tree. We are a sucker for old trees, so we got on the wait list for fruits and came straight away the morning we heard one had dropped!
The tree is too tall to be climbed, so all the durians from this tree are allowed to fall naturally when fully ripe.
This one was smooth and thick like caramel toffee, sweet and butterscotchy with a satisfying saltiness and an intense menthol-like numbing.
Definitely one of the best durians in Chanthaburi, and among our top for 2022.
3. Nokyib นกหยิบ
Where: Chanthaburi, Thailand at Uncle Toi’s Organic Farm
One of our luckiest finds of 2022 was the small durian collection farm belonging to Uncle Toi. This. old farm has gotten the attention of the princess herself, H.R.H. Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
His Nokyib trees are among the oldest in Chanthaburi. He mostly harvests his durians (cutting them at maturity), and we were so impressed by the rich, creamy quality of his cut-harvested Nokyib.
But we got even luckier – while walking around the farm, a Nokyib tumbled from one of the oldest trees and hit the ground, bouncing and basically rolling to our feet.
We do typically prefer tree-ripe durians, and this was the best Nokyib we had all season. It was still a little fibrous (that’s a Nokyib thing) but the flavor was very nutty and fruity, with a milk chocolate earthiness that lingered.
Uncle Toi has many other varieties, so we are excited to visit him again in 2023 and share the details of the farm both on this website and in our new book.
4. Green Skin
Where: Penang, Malaysia at Penang Green Acres Organic Farm
This one was so delectable that I only managed to capture a pic on my phone before we sucked up its bitter honey syrup.
In May we returned to Penang after a 2-year forced hiatus, and immediately went to visit friends we hadn’t seen in what felt like forever.
I almost cried like 5 times, I was so happy to be back in Penang.
As we were leaving Penang Green Acres, Eric handed us this Green Skin which we immediately consumed on the car tail-gate for our lunch. The texture was pillowy and melting, the fragile skin spilling the grey-ish golden cream and the mead-like alcoholic rocketing us into gratitude.
5. Pekan (Durio lowianus)
Where: Sungei Sedim, Malaysia
In June, we ran our first Penang Durian Tour since 2019. It felt really good to be back with other durian-loving humans again, excited to explore and to whack as many durians as possible within a few days.
It was amazing and a little surreal how little things had changed.
There was a moment when Encik Adam, the national park and village guide, opened the tour van door, that I became overwhelmed by emotion.
Here was our durian team all together again, standing under one of my favorite trees.
It was like no time had passed at all.
We had made it.
And as if to celebrate, at the moment that we arrived the ancient Durian Pekan tree dropped a fruit just for us.
Pekan is a type of Durio lowianus. It’s strongly sweet and fruity, with an almond extract alcoholic bite that is next level when its fresh and leaves a carbonated tingling sensation on the tongue.
This one was everything I could have dreamed of and more.
6. Kapri from Eng Hoe
Where: Penang, Malaysia
Cruising Penang and reconnecting with our favorite farms, we dropped by Eng Hoe in Batu Ferringhi to get a taste of their Kacang Hijau, one of my favorite durians in Malaysia.
But on this day, it was the Kapri that stood out. This durian must have some Durio lowianus genetics, because it is so nutty and bananay-ey, with a strong rumminess and a pillowy, marshmallowy creaminess that makes people like us just obsessed.
It was good to remind ourselves why we decided to bring this white-fleshed, slightly unusual-tasting durian to the United Stats for all of you to try.
7. Sầu Hát
Where: Dak Mil, Vietnam
After an epic summer catching up for lost time in Malaysia, it was time to take a visa run.
Having had such an amazing trip to Zanzibar, we decided it was time to travel somewhere new again – this time to Vietnam.
I’d actually visited Vietnam in 2012, but it had been a long time, and I was eager to return to the place I remembered best, Dak Mil.
With my more experienced durian eyes, it was amazing to see everything I remembered but maybe didn’t understand on the last trip.
We had so many amazing durians and met so many generous and hospitable people, who took time and shared durians with us, but the stand out was when we visited Mr. Hong at his mixed pepper-coffee-durian interplanted farm.
The farm was a luscious green, the soil spongy and soft underfoot, and Mr. Hong laughed continuously, a full-body chuckle that imbued the farm in good times.
He shared several durians with us, but the best by far was a tree-dropped Sầu Hát, or seedling durian (similar to Kampung) that was so milky and intense it was like eating a rum-infused almond whipped cream dessert.
We can’t wait to go back to Vietnam and explore more in 2023!
8. Otak Udang Galah
Where: Limbang, Malaysia
In September we returned to Limbang, the place we’d just left in March 2020 when everything started.
It was like coming full circle, and the pandemic was starting to feel far away.
Here we re-united with a lot of friends and also one of my all-time favorite durians, Otak Udang Galah. It was just as good as remembered – ultra sticky and thick, like the texture of peanut-butter but flavored with the bitters of a cherry-liquor.
This is a must for your 2023 Durian Hunting Escapades!
9. Durian Kura-Kura (Durio testudinarum)
Where: Brunei, Meriuk Farmstay
Burnei opened borders to tourists in August, and with an epic durian season on the horizon in October we decided it was time to run a Borneo Durian Tour!
Thankfully the durians cooperated and it was an epic season, full of all the various durian species including a lot of Durio testudinarum, Durian kura-kura.
This unusual durian species isn’t creamy, but juicy like a jackfruit. I’d never had a lot of appreciation for it, but this year it was absolutely delicious.
The kura-kura fruits we found were thick-fleshed, so juicy they dribbled down your chin and elbows, and sweet like brown sugar. Suddnenly I understood why so many people in Limbang and Brunei keep these old, weird trees around.
Our group was lucky enough to try this style of kura-kura, as well as lot of other types of durian in an 8-Day Tour of Sabah and Brunei.
It was a good reminder that there are always surprises around every corner if you just keep going!
Where: Karak, Malaysia. Karak Orchard Resort
This one was impressive. Not only do I just adore old varieties, but D28 is routinely one of my favorite durians in Malaysia. It’s like Black Thorn, Next Level.
It’s thick and hefty, a beautiful orangey-grey color that leaves shadows in its rolling folds and makes it look oily and voluptuous. The flavor has the rosy red-wine-like notes of Black Thorn, but is not as sweet and has more of the chocolate bitters a that make this durian an incredibly rich, dessert-like durian. I can see why the old folks lvoved it, but am not sure why it’s not more common.
The season for D28 is just getting started, and we are in ther ight area to enjoy a lot more in the beginning of 2023!
10. Black Pearl
Where: MyLoh Orchard, Damak, Malaysia
Toward the end of the year, we headed into Damak, a small village in the foothills of the Titiwangsa Mountain Range in Peninsular Malaysia.
This village is famous for durians, and although we’d driven through in 2019 and pinne d it as a place to revisit in 2020, we hadn’t yet been able to spend time there.
We were so happy when Frankie Loh from MyLoh Orchard reached out and invited us to visit their farm.
This old farm was planted in the 1960’s and has preserved a lot of older durian varieties. I was excited to find things like D7, Super D10, and D8, but the stand-out durian was the Black Pearl (Taiyuan).
It was thick-bodied, intensely creamy, with a strong maple-syupr sweetness and a menthol-alcohol that left our mouths tingling and crying for more!
12. Durian Sempe
Where: Kuala Gandah, Malaysia
We ended the year visiting another old guide-friend, Kamil, who helped us send one of my absolute favorite-est durians to the United States last year, during the height of the pandemic restrictions.
This is Durian Sempe, a Durio lowianus variety that has incredibly sharp thorns and a beautiful purple latticework along the skin. The flavor of this durian is incredible – it’s strong and very very sweet, almost like a powdered sugar infused with fruity banana and the flavor of almond extract – not American almonds, but the strong sweet Chinese almond flavor that you get in fortune cookies or apricot kernal milk.
In the beginning of 2022 we had pledged $5 per sale of Durian Sempe packet to Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, and we were proud to be able to be able to deliver over $1,000 USD of your donations to help feed the injured and orphaned wild elephants in Malaysia.
We still have a few of these Durian Sempe packets left in our online shop if you’d like to try them yourself.
Weare looking ofrward to our next projects with KamilWe are looking forward to our next projects in 2023, brining amazing quality and weird varieties to the United States while reaching out to the communities here in Malaysia.
Writing now, in December, it’s hard to believe that we did not one, but 2 quarantine sessions in 2022, just 7 months ago! The pandemic is starting to feel far away and we are traveling as normal again, planning our 2023 Tour Schedule and looking forward to a year not only full of durians and full of other travelers like you!
But as things normalize, I’m realizing how in how many ways we are still adjusting to all the changes that happened. At the start of 2020, Richard and I were just dating. Now we are full business partners and husband and wife. In 2020, we had only done one small export of 3 varieties of durian to the United States. Now we hold 18 varieties of durian from both the Philippines and Malaysia, plus 3 varieties of cempedaks and jackfruit and more!
I think 2023 is going to be the year we hit our stride.
This year of the rabbit is also special year for me, personally. The Year of the Rabbit in 2012 was the year I started my First Initial Year of the Durian, and now it’s 12 years later. It feels like some things are starting to come full circle.
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.
– Lindsay & Richard