Addicted to Durian – I Found the Cure in Zanzibar!

By Mark Wiens 35 Comments

If you didn’t already know, I happen to be a raging addict of the “king of fruits,” and I don’t ever plan on going to rehab.

To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about it for a couple of weeks. I was traveling around Egypt and East Africa, it had been weeks since leaving SE Asia, and my mind had been thinking in terms of other delicacies like pilau and biryani.

I arrived to the island of Zanzibar, eager to begin a short holiday. After checking out a number of guest houses we decided to check into the Karibu Inn (a lovely guest house in Stone Town). After greeting the receptionist, my eyes were directed to a calendar behind the reception counter. The calendar was completely ordinary, except that it was a freebie from the Zanzibar Export Authority and YES, there were pictures. There it was, in the top right corner of the calendar, a halo of glory resting on a golden pillow…a Durian.

I was overjoyed and couldn’t contain myself. I started questioning the receptionist like I was with the CIA, where can I find that? What is the price? Are they easy to find?

Durian in Zanzibar
Durian in Zanzibar

Our receptionist, Mohammad, was ecstatic that I showed such interest in such a delicacy. “Yes, there are durian’s here in Zanzibar…at the market.” Mohammed offered to bring me a couple durian’s from the market the next morning to which I gladly accepted. I could already feel that Durian bond between us, a bond I believe is one of the strongest.  In the morning I feasted on 2 durian’s. I hadn’t been so satisfied since the legendary durian buffet in Kuala Lumpur (which by the way is worth an annual migration).

For the rest of my time in Zanzibar, I was wearing my Durian Goggles – keeping an acute lookout.

The next day we were, en-route to the East Coast of Zanzibar when I noticed a pile of spiky fruit sitting on a table at a village on the edge of the forest. I screamed for the van to pull over and proceeded to chat with the men hanging out around the table of glory. They chuckled as I started speaking to them in Swahili and they could tell, I was interested in one thing only: their fruit.

zanzibar-durian
Slicing Durian in Zanzibar

I picked a durian and the vendor sliced it up; I began to feed myself.  It was splendid, the flavor was exquisite. It’s a fruit that can’t be forgotten, a fruit that could foster migrations, and a fruit that I wouldn’t hesitate to spend the rest of my bank account on.

The men were entertained and laughed aloud as I licked every durian seed clean until the entire fruit had diminished before me.

durian-in-zanzibar

The Zanzibari durian’s have similar flavor to the South East Asian durian, but they are not nearly as meaty, hearty, or large. Just like any other durian in this world, Zanzibari durian’s are worth going out of your way and reversing your itinerary for.

zanzibar-durian-store

I’m quite certain that throughout the history of Zanzibar there has never been a parallel “white man,” so enthusiastic about eating durian on the island.

That evening I enjoyed another durian outside the Karibu Inn, sharing this time with a bank guard. We sat there eating, he had a chunk of durian in one hand, a sawed off shotgun in the other, and we both had smiles upon our faces.

– Migration Mark

35 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Shero behr

    12 months ago

    What is the Swahili name for Durian? Believe it or not am Kenyan but i have no idea because it is not a common fruit.

  • Jen

    6 years ago

    Hi!
    Thanks for sharing this!…
    This is such a great surprise, as i might travel to Kenya/Tanzania in a couple of month. I wonder, WHEN is the season? Do you know when it starts, and maybe how long it lasts?… I’m in Thailand, and, I just started eating durian, and yes, I LOVE IT…!

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Hey Jen, awesome to hear you like durian too, and also that you are going to visit E. Africa soon. Will you be going to Zanzibar? I’ve only really seen durian on the coast of TZ and on Zanzibar, and not near the quantity like SE Asia. I was there in December and was able to find some, but other than that, I really don’t know much about the season. If you’re going in a couple of months, you may find some, I hope so!

  • Murtaza Bandali

    7 years ago

    Durian they call it in Malaysia, Phillipines and Thailand. But
    the Zanzibaris call it slightly differently in Kiswahili which is
    Doriani. Yes, you are right Mark, Doriani is a fruit which some
    people say ‘it smells like hell but tastes like heaven.” A Zanzibari
    myself, I just love it.
    Murtaza Bandali

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Hey Murtaza, thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment – and glad to hear you also love durian! I was so happy when I saw doriani when I was last in Zanzibar, I couldn’t help myself from immediately stopping everything and eating a few. When I went back to Dar, it was much harder to find. In the doriani season, are there a lot available in Zanzibar?

      • Murtaza Bandali

        7 years ago

        Hey, Mark. Its nice to know that its not just the Zanzibaris and those in Far Eastern countries who have a crave for this heavenly fruit, Durian or Doriani but the ‘wazungus’ as well. Since I emigrated to England 35 years ago, I am not sure about the extent of the availability of this fruit. But I am told that you will still find plenty of it during its season which I believe is in June and July when you can relish and enjoy this exotic fruit. I understand that they even make Durian icecream in the Far East. Yummy !
        Murtaza

        • Mark Wiens

          7 years ago

          Thanks Murtaza, I hope to go back to Zanzibar again soon, specifically during durian season. In Thailand they have a couple of durian ice cream, and durian with sticky rice, that’s really amazing! Take care and thanks for the comments.

  • darrick

    7 years ago

    hi there!! this is amazing report…i appreciate you taking time to do this…..i ve been in asia 5 years and mostly <philippines eating durian DAily….2 or 3 fruits….
    im in kenya now…and due to your report heading to karibu inn in stone town…..how long is the season there??? march and april???
    please email me at [email protected]
    thanks!
    Darrick

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Hey Darrick, glad to hear you are also a lover of durian. Nothing is as good as durian! I’m not sure exactly when the durian season is, but hopefully during march and april they should be available. Head to the local Zanzibari markets and ask, and someone will point you in the right direction. Good luck and hope you’re able to enjoy some durian in Zanzibar!

  • Shirlene from Idelish

    8 years ago

    Amazing! I didn’t even know they had durians in Zanzibar! I too am a “raging addict” of the King of Fruits (I grew up in Malaysia)! Can’t wait to try out the durians at Zanzibar one day!

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Haha, awesome Shirlene! I hope you get to taste the durian in Zanzibar, it’s not as good as in Malaysia, but I’m sure you would agree that that familiar flavor of durian is good in any shape, form, or size!

  • Mya

    8 years ago

    Hi Im Malaysian i love to eat durian but sometimes the smell always spoils my mood to eat. LOL but people out there you guys should try Durian D24 or Durian Kampung (Village) its super delicious. ;D

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Yes!!! Malaysian durian is amazing, it’s actually where I had my first taste of the fruit! I live in Thailand right now, and I actually just bought a durian, a few hours ago! Thanks for the comment Mya!

  • Bluegreen Kirk

    8 years ago

    What would you compare them to? I have never had a Durian before but it looks interested. Are those spikes sharp are do they just look like there are? I always open to trying new fruits. Thanks for the post.

  • Mark Wiens

    8 years ago

    @Grace: Thanks Grace! It was so much fun eating in the Philippines, everyone was so enthusiastic for me to try the local food, and when I loved everything, everyone was so excited. It was really great! Still love the Bicol Express the most!

  • Grace

    8 years ago

    Durian Goggles!? LOL You sir, are one of a kind! I rarely find anyone outside of SE Asia who likes durian. I know you’ve been to the Philippines and we do love our durian there.

    I really like it when travelers go out of their way to sample local delicacy it just shows a lot of openness and enthusiasm to try something new.

  • Mark Wiens

    8 years ago

    @Bama: Yes, I am a huge lover of Durian! I would love to return to Indonesia when it’s durian season!

  • Bama

    8 years ago

    Hi Mark! This is the first time I read a story of a westerner who likes to eat durian. Fascinating! In Indonesia almost everyone loves it.

  • Mark Wiens

    8 years ago

    @Jeruen: Yah, same here, that’s why I was so ecstatic about finding Durian in Zanzibar!!!

    @Kat: Oh Kat, you need to sample some next time you Uncle brings it! I’m sure you will love it!

    @Cathy: Great!

    @Julia: It’s a most peculiar smell (I do like the smell too), and a creamy pudding like texture. The flavor is sweet and just so unique it can’t really be compared with anything! Let me know when you come to SE Asia and we will do some sampling!

    @Juno: Hehe, yes, the outer shell is so cool and spiky!

    @Rebecca: Hehe, I’ve now grown to love the smell!

    @Jill: Yessss! I agree, thinking that Thailand has some of the best durians. It’s getting close to durian season (and I’m back in Thailand now!)! The ice cream is great too!

  • jill- Jack and Jill Travel The World

    8 years ago

    Love durians!!! In Indonesia we have the local version — bigger, but not too sweet. But my family’s favorite are the ones from Thailand — much smaller, yellower in color, and intense flavor. Ooh, it makes me crave some durian ice cream right now.

  • Rebecca

    8 years ago

    Ew, ew, ew!! Stinky feet!;-)

  • Juno

    8 years ago

    I remember that!! 🙂 Durian is.. actually taste quite normal than the smell, right? The outfit of the fruit is really intimidating though.. 🙂

  • Turkey’s For Life

    8 years ago

    I’ve never even seen or heard of a durian before – I bet most of your comments are going to say that. What does it taste like? I’ve got to say it doesn’t look too appetising but I guess it tastes better than it looks.
    Julia

  • Cathy Sweeney

    8 years ago

    Wow — I guess I have to put eating durian on my bucket list. Those spikes look dangerous.

  • Kat

    8 years ago

    A couple of weeks ago, I went to the office pantry and was hit with a smell so intense and distinct, it could only be one thing: durian. It’s pretty interesting that you fell in love with this fruit. I haven’t tried it even though my uncles used to bring one all the time from Davao. 🙂 The candy is the closest I’ve ever had to eating it.

  • Jeruen

    8 years ago

    Oh, I never knew that durian can be found outside of Asia. For Filipinos, it’s usually just found in the south of the country, near Davao, and yes, it stinks.

  • Mark Wiens

    8 years ago

    @Tijmen: Yah, Durian might be hard to find in Holland, it’s usually a SE Asian delicacy. Hope you get a chance to taste it, it’s much much different from all other fruit, but I find it extremely delicious!

    @Joel: Kuala Lumpur for the annual Durian buffet pilgrimage!

    @Christy: A bit hard to describe, it has a flavor unlike any other fruit I know of. I think a lot of people don’t like durian for the texture, but it feels just like a soft creamy pudding!

    • edeko

      6 years ago

      Durian with no doubt is the king…the taste? for the first taste, you will probably not like it. there is even high possiblity that you will hate the smell….but push yourself for the second time let’s say after few weeks…then damn! here you are and the king together:)
      i tell you how it is to me: there is a milk cream with honey inside…for a good start , try durian types d2 or d24 ! this is the taste which will blow your mind…

      • Mark Wiens

        6 years ago

        Hey Edeko, glad you love durian so much as well. I agree, if you don’t like it your first try, you’ve got to keep trying… because you’ll soon LOVE it!

  • Christy @ Technosyncratic

    8 years ago

    Yeah, I’d love to know what they taste like as well! The one cracked open kind of looks like coconut meat, but the outside looks like a prickly pineapple. 😛

  • Joel Bruner

    8 years ago

    Dude. amazing. they have discovered the cure for sure
    Cure for most ailments haha, comes in the green and spiky package. Yesterdays todays and tomorrows ambrosia at the same time…:)

  • Tijmen

    8 years ago

    I have to say I have never seen or heard about Durian before, but after reading your article i’m vary curious to find out what they taste like. I dont think they sell them over here (Holland).