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Durian, The King of Fruits

Durian, The King of Fruits

It’s durian season here in Penang, Malaysia and there are durian stalls selling this thorny fruit every corner you turn.

While a lot of people consider the smell of durian as “stinky” and “repulsive”–so much so that they are banned in hotel rooms in Malaysia!–I love this king of fruits. (For those who enjoy durian, we think of the smell as “aromatic.”) Some of the best durians in Malaysia come from the durian orchards in Balik Pulau, Penang, which is on the less-developed side of the island of Penang.

Growing up, my family–especially when my uncle and his family come to visit us in Penang–would drive all the way up to Balik Pulau, into the durian orchards in search of the freshest and just-drop-off-the-tree durians. At the durian orchards, we would sample various kinds of durian and pick the ones we loved the most to take back with us…

Durian, The King of Fruits

Once we get home, all my family would gather around savoring the durians, and the leftover will then be refrigerated for a “durian rice” dish (durian with steamed glutinous rice drenched in sweetened coconut milk). Eating durian is a family tradition, ones that I often reminisce.

I remember watching “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” (an American travel and food program) where Andrew Zimmern came to a durian orchard in Penang and described the taste of durian as “a rotten onion.” If you have tried them out, do let me know your durian eating experiences. I am very curious to find out what you think!

To learn more about the tropical fruits of Malaysia, please click here.

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58 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. worldwindows

    I have eaten durians in most of the South East Asian countries. The best available is still in Malaysia. In taste, smell, texture and variety. The best variety now, in my estimation is the Musang King. Price ranged from USD5 – 8 per kg (inclusive of shell). I once tried smuggling some durians into a hotel in Vietnam. I managed to get an elevator without passengers. As the door was closing 2 Caucasians rushed in. When we were alone they detected the foul smell. They started looking for the source of the offensive odor but could not have visual contact. I have the durians well wrapped up.

  2. Manggy

    Yeah, I recall there’s also signage for “No Durian allowed!” I have only eaten Durian candy which I thought was just okay. I’m not entirely sure I can eat a fresh durian. I’m very sensitive to smell, so much that even the television suggesting the presence of a smell can make me hold my breath. I’m actually curious to find out how there can be much discrepancy between taste and smell, especially since flavor depends on smell!

  3. FAL

    Durian rice, that’s an interesting idea. Personally i have never been adventurous enough to try it. Here in the States, i’ve only seen it frozen, maybe to reduce the smell.

    The American Food host…..was that Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods? He did a show in New York City and had featured Durian. It’s an amazing show.

    it’s also amazing how a fruit can bring back such memories. Thanks for sharing!!!!!!

    • Raspberrycat

      They sell frozen durian? I’d like to try that! I live in the middle of the U.S., so I’ve never tried one.

      • Back in Malaysia, we used to keep the leftover durians in the fridge. Imagine the smell when you opened it :O

        You should be able to find frozen durians in Asian grocery stores in the Midwest. I saw them very often when I lived there.

  4. Rasa

    Worldwindows – I can’t agree with you more that Malaysia has the best variety of durians. I personally find durians from Thailand to be less desirable in terms of taste, smell, and especially texture. I haven’t tried durians from Indonesian but I heard durian from Sumatera are equally good. By the way, durians from Penang often win the top honors in regional durian competitions.

  5. Indonesia-Eats

    Bee, guess what? I just visited my friend’s blog, she posted “jus durian”. She said, she was disappointed with the taste since in Canada, we only can get durian Monthong. The best durian, I’ve ever taste, is durian from Sumatra. I haven’t tried durian from Penang.

    Durian is also like grape to make wine. By the way, there is a website about durian that I found . It’s said also that “Gourmet durian culture will have to be centered on Sumatra and Borneo, just as wine and cheese culture is centered on France.”

  6. Salt & Turmeric

    oohhh im salivating now! i love love love durian and cant be choosy. beggar cant be choosy mah. haha. michael cant stand the smell but he’d go with me to find durian whenever i crave for it. ;)

  7. mooiness

    FAL: Andrew Zimmern hated it but gotta give him props for first trying it in Malaysia and then attempted it again in Chinatown, NYC. But his reaction was bordering on offensive to people who likes it. He can understand why ppl eat all those bizarre foods on his show but he can’t understand why ppl eat durians?!

    Anyways, in comparison – Anthony Bourdain loves the durian but he hacked it apart wrongly in that ep when he was in Bali. :)

  8. Orchidea

    I have tested durian when I was living in Singapore. I have to say that I do not like the smell… but when you pass over that the taste of the flesh is pretty nice.

  9. Jane

    I’m British, lived for two years in Malaysia, and love all things Malaysian – including durians. I’ve only managed to eat them once since I left Malaysia though – in London’s Chinatown.

  10. Marvin

    I’ve eaten durian once before, and although it does have a very pungent smell, I thought it tasted great. I’m not sure what type of durian it was though, or what country it was from.

  11. Nate-n-Annie

    So sad that the only kinds we can get here are the frozen Monthong. Durians from Thailand are underripe when they are picked and frozen, so they don’t have a chance to really develop. Durians from Malaysia are picked when ripe, which makes them yummier but much harder to transport before going bad. I do hope that Malaysia can develop a durian that has the awesome flavors of the best varieties, yet travels well.

  12. Annie

    Bee, you and I must share similar family histories. We love durian too and after eating them fresh, leftovers always was eaten with rice (using hands)–I think it’s very Nyonya style of eating…

    I LOVE durian. I haven’t been home in more than 2 years and have no choice but to buy the frozen Thai ones when I have my cravings. It’s so sad. As a matter of fact, I just had some the other day and I’ve been feeding them to my kids so that they won’t become like that tv host who can’t stand it or Nate who can just barely tolerate it…Even if it’s just Thai durian…it’s better than none at all.

    Wish my mom could smuggle some for me from Msia when she comes. Hahahahaha…

  13. syrie

    Gorgeous picture Bee. I have to admit I can only eat durian in very small quantities as I find it really rich. I love Penang! We use go there for holidays from Thailand. We'd catch the train from Hatjai to Butterworth and stay at the Eastern & Oriental hotel.

  14. CECIL

    Come upon your blog and what a coincidence – Durian! :) Grew up in Sumatra and spend lots of time in Penang (aunt had durian tree in her backyard), I really have to say that Sumatra ones are a tad better.

    My dad would eat durian with plain rice. Or, using ‘days old’ durian in this spicy dish with shrimp – I have never work up the nerve to try it, it’s some kind of traditional dish in West Sumatra.

    Great post!!!

  15. Tabitha

    I love durians….and it’s not at all stinky or repulsive in any way. I have seen a food show (can’t recall which) where the host referred to the taste and smell of durian as worse than stinky tofu. While one friend of mine says durian smells worse than old gym socks. I beg to differ on both opinions. Durian is in no way in the same category as stinky tofu or old gym socks. I love me some durian fruit eaten as is or as a shake. Yum!

  16. yellowlinen

    In Sumatra, Indonesia, I once ate durian with lemang (sticky rice cooked in bamboo column).
    so delicious, so memorable.

    Thanks for this post-Beautiful durian photograph!

  17. Laura

    I love durian! And in portable snack form, freeze-dried durian is the best! I can’t seem to find it anywhere outside of Thailand or ebay (on which it is severely overpriced). It has excellent texture and next to none of that smell some people find offensive.

    Try it out :) (Freeze-dried durian is not the same as durian chips – it is not nearly as greasy).

  18. Jescel

    Durian does have a strong smell and the texture of the fruit (slimy, gooeey) can be repulsive to some too. But I’ve eaten them.. it’s just a matter of getting used to.. I love the durian candy and the durian ice-cream!

  19. Hillary

    I would love to be able to try durian! But unfortunately it’s not so readily available here in the US. It’s so intriguing though.

  20. babe_kl

    i missed those creamy and bittersweet durians from balik pulau! anyway it’s durian season now and the price is dropping as it goes haha

    btw bee, fancy cooking some noodles for this year’s Merdeka Virtual Open House? This year’s theme is Mee and My Malaysia.

  21. Vonn

    ahh! i love how durians are so much in season this year! and they are selling them at a really low price. 7 durians for RM20? i might make some durian sorbet out of that :D

    how much do the durians in penang cost though?

  22. Dwiana P

    Oh my goodness! I miss durian so much!!! During durian session I can find them so easy and cheap! but here? they are hard to find:(

  23. Cynthia

    oh my durians are my one big love! the ones you get here in sydney though have all been frozen and it leaves that ‘icy-water’ taste. i’ve been seeing more durian desserts in yum-cha restos though. they’re quite good encased in buttery flaky pastry – i can never stop just at one! :D

  24. noops

    i used to like it so much when i was a kid….could eat the whole durian by myself.
    not anymore. the smell doesn’t bother me that much but it’s just too creamy.
    the last time i had it was 10 years ago or something.

  25. silverrock

    OMG Durian is my favorite fruit. Although it’s fairly expensive to get it here in Westcoast Canada, I always have some money set aside for my frequent durian-craving moments. Mmmm… I’d eat it all day if I could :)

  26. Salak, Sarawak

    [“…Anonymous said…

    This year the most nice durian I had is “musang king” taste damn nice. :)
    1:14 AM …”]

    May I know where “musang king” could be found? Would you have a picture by any chance? Could you please leave an URL.

    You can upload pictures for free at without registering or just about anywhere nowadays!

    If you have a picture of “musang king” please kindly show us!

    You’re not kidding, are you? :))

  27. Arian

    Oh my goodness DURIAN! LOL
    I love the taste, oh ok put the terrible smell at a side… but I love durian a lot…1st trial was durian from Sipitang, its a WOWW…I fell in love…LOL
    Then durian from Segamat…double WOWW…
    I love sambal (durian) tempoyak from Raub, this type of sambal really boost up my appetite…Sambal should be alrite to bring home but I’m not willing to bring the whole fruit inside the house (smell will stay a week or so),will eat at park/playground or at the dusun durian itself…or at the road side next to the stall…
    Cheerrzz to all durian lovers!

  28. Salak

    Here’s to your tingling taste bud –

    —>Durian Tembaga [CLICK]<—

    This is a wild species from Sarawak; this one, I came across in Sibu, last week. Probably by now, it’s cultivated.

    It has a honey like sweetness, stinks less and which tempts you to a feast.

    The flesh has a distinctive copperlike color, hence Durian Tembaga. This picture makes it look more like golden color! Season’s on now and finishes by December end.

  29. Sherry

    I just tried a durian for the very 1st time, I bought it frozen from a market in Alhambra, CA, USA. To me it taste like a combination of a banana and an orange. A very different.

  30. Anonymous

    I feel very sorry for people could not eat durian or the smells of it.

    Durian is delicious like many people say. I can eat them all as I can.
    Its smell is very good to me.
    Love durian all the times. :)

  31. gee

    I luv durians, eating frozen durian is still better than none, its like eating ice cream, I read exported thai durians are cultivated so that they can actually further ripen after being picked! hooray !

  32. Raymond

    Hello Ames,

    Do you have address of MDK farm? Where exactly in Pengkalan Kempas? Also can i have the owner’s phone or handphone number? i will be staying in Guoman Port Dickson this coming June 2009.




  33. Reanna

    I really enjoy the taste of durian, but it’s hard to find fresh durian in the midwest United States. Finally, I found an Asian market in my current city that sells them! Most of my friends don’t enjoy the taste or the smell, but there’s just something unique and special about the taste. The store I found even has durian popsicles, for a quick frozen treat. They’re delicious and actually made with durian pulp.

    As to your question as to what others think it tastes like, it reminds me of a combination of bananas and nuts. My first durian-opening was a fun experience, and I keep one of the seeds as a memento.

  34. I am originally from the U.S. and had never heard of Durian fruit until I traveled to the Philippines. I was in a large wet market in Surigao del Sur when I first smell Durian. I smelled it before I ever even saw it! Then, when I found out the name and placed the fruit with the smell, I quickly turned down an offer to sample it.

    In my mind, something that smelled that bad couldn’t possibly taste good.

    I returned to the U.S., but Southeast Asia was under my skin, and within a couple years and travels to other Asian countries, I ended up moving to China to teach children. Although I saw Durian at some local fruit stands, I never tried one.

    I was on holiday in Bangkok, Thailand visiting a friend and one of the hotels I was staying at had a sign of a roughly drawn Durian with the big red circle around it and crossed out in a large red X. So, remembering, I asked my friend if we could find one so I could try it.

    I had switched hotels and was staying at the Malaysia hotel near Lumpini Park, which ironically allowed Durian in their rooms. We visited a local Tesco Lotus store and a rather plump, jolly woman selected a nice Durian for us and split it while I stood there pinching my nose. She handed the package to us and said to me, “Once you eat it, if you like it, the smell will not bother you again.”

    The woman at Tesco was right. It took me some time to get my nerve up to eat it, but I did it and thought it was wonderful. Almost like a custard consistency, and very rich…something akin to a cross between banana, vanilla and strawberries. Wonderful. I loved it and after that, the smell never bothered me again.

    I’ve lived in Southern Thailand now for six years, putting China far behind me…and ironically my Thai wife and I live in a very small, rented cottage buried deep in the middle of a fruit orchard full of Durian trees, Longan, Mangosteen, Lime, Sataw (stink bean), and Pommello.

    Here in Thailand, like Malaysia, there are many different species of Durian, and farther north my wife and I noticed Durian selling for over 2000 baht in some locations…some special species that is supposedly the best…but a bit out of my price range. I also read in the Bangkok Post that a grower up north has finally developed a strain of Durian with little or no smell! Wouldn’t be a Durian now would it?

    I agree whole-heartedly…Durian fruit IS THE KING OF THE FRUITS!


    • Jeeem – when are you coming to visit Penang and we will take you to sample the best durians in Southeast Asia? Penang has the best durians and always won champions at regional awards. We can take you on a durian and food our in Penang.

      • chiah

        I have tried Penang durians. They tasted great. But they are not the best. The best durian variety currently is the Musang King, with the best produce coming from Pahang.

  35. Sharene

    GOD….How beautifully delicious it looks!!
    The last time I’ve ate durian was in 2008 during our holiday in Kuching Sarawak when I finally managed to initiate my French teenage daughter to eating durian. When she was younger, she used to shun it, comparing it to the smelly “munster” cheese! My tongue remember its creamy taste and I can almost smell its perfume.It brings back sweet memories of my childhood, my dad cutting them open with a big ‘parang’ and while the whole family gather round to taste…. it sure is a family business. My mom used to tell me at each durian “fiesta” how lucky I am…how I am always associated to durians! When she was pregnant with me, dad’s business was doing so well, he could pay for all the durians she’d craved for everyday during the whole durian season! Unfortunately here in France, we can only find durians from Thailand; so for me,being an unconditional fan of my homeland durians, I’d rather wait till my next visit home to taste this delicious fruit. I’m certain at least there will be no disappointment.
    Thank you for bringing back these memories…Bonne dégustation to all you lucky devils back home…Horray to the King of Fruit!!

  36. izza

    i love durian… in pahang we eat fresh durian (yummiii) and also rotten one which we make tempoyak (a bit sour compare to fresh one)… we also have a lot of food make from durian and tempoyak.. the famous one of course Gulai Tempoyak, sambal tempoyak and many more…. Do come to Pahang and enjoy all the food which make from durian here… you will love it… :)

  37. Joey

    Just spent a month in KL. The smell of Durian from street vendors was intoxicating. My wife and I met a group of Muslim women from Indonesia eating Durian who convinced us that it is delicious. Later we sat at a makeshift table and ate one that was freshly opened. Fantabulous!!! Now we are reliving the moment eating durian candy that i purchased at the airport, also really good. We will probably go down to Chinatown sometime soon and partake of the forbidden fruit for the first time on western shores. Goooo!!!!!.Durian!!!!

  38. Erick

    I tried introduce the Malaysian durians in the China market but sad to say, the prices are too high to be accepted by China peoples standard. The Thai durians which only cost for 2 Ringgit per kilo on the retail, are always a favourite because of the budget. China people also think the Malaysian durians are too heavy in flavor. They prefer the less strong flavor Thai and cheaper.

      • Erick

        it makes me laugh when there was this China woman, who i offered 1 musang king for her to try, she said…”is it too ripe? it must be too ripe…” i guess the thai durians have really spoiled the impression. but still there are many chinese people who love it.

  39. Gary S. Brackett, Jr

    Can anyone help me out with a purely Durian sorbet or Ice cream recipe (I prefer Sorbet). I know I have to use a little lemon juice and sugar and Durian, but I’m not sure about the ratio of Durian to sugar to Lemon juice for my Kitchenaid Ice cream attachment. I have looked but have only found one for a combo of mango, banana or banana durian.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated


  40. Fillmore C. Sagario, LGU Siayan, Zamboanga del Norte, Mindanao, Philippines

    Rasa, gud day, i am one among you who are fond of the durian fruit. How i wish someday i can taste the best durian variety of Penang, Malaysia. By the way, can you spare me a few seeds of it for me to try growing it from seeds? Thank you, and God bless you and all of the durian fans.

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