You will always remember your first bite of durian.
(At least for those of us who tasted durian for the first time as adults).
I remember my first time…
I was in Malaysia, walking through a night market with a friend.
I had just finished eating 3 plates of marvelous Malaysian food, when we smelled (first), and then spotted a white truck full of spiky fruit.
Having your first bite of durian is a little frightening.
Everyone has told you how bad it is, and you’ve seen people on TV shows who just can’t stomach it.
Your first bite, you’ll probably be a little nervous (I was) – after-all, just look at the outside shell of a durian – it can, and has, literally been used as a weapon.
I scooped my first bite of durian, super ripe, yellow, and custardy; It was like picking up a small half-melted block of butter.
My first bite was an eye opening moment of awe.
It was sensationally custardy, like all-natural pudding with a seed in the middle. It tasted like pungent vanilla ice cream, sweet, buttery, creamy, like blobs of frosting, only much better.
I fell in love, the type of unbelievable love, where you can hardly believe it.
How could a natural fruit be so unique and spectacular?
Nonthaburi Durian, Thailand
Living and traveling in Southeast Asia since 2009, I’ve been able to sample quite a few durians, and every single good durian is a sensational treat, and a moment to remember.
A friend of mine Lindsay from Yearofthedurian.com, is probably the most passionate, and knowledgable durian lover that I know.
When she invited me to go on a durian adventure to Nonthaburi, in search of the world’s most expensive durian, I couldn’t resist.
In Thailand durian is grown in a few different provinces, and there are a number of different varieties.
However, as all Thais know, one of the most expensive and best quality durian varieties cultivated in the country is a kanyao, or translated as a long stem durian.
The most famous of them all is the Nonthaburi Kanyao (ก้านยาว นนทบุรี), the world’s most expensive durian.
You can’t even buy them at stores or in local markets in Bangkok (the authentic, best quality ones, you won’t even find at Bangkok’s upscale Or Tor Kor Market (video).
The best quality authentic Nonthaburi Kanyao durians are pre-sold, even before the season begins, the entire stock bought out by durian obsessed businessmen who can afford to fork out the 10,000 – 20,000 THB ($305 – $610) price tag for a single fruit.
Lindsay had actually been in contact with the farm, Suan Toorien Padoi (สวนทุเรียนป้าต้อย) for months, and the time had finally come to purchase and sample one of these high esteemed fruits.
I was actually surprised how small the farm was, just a small plot of land, where the owner could take extreme care of each and every durian tree.
Growing durian in Nonthaburi
Probably the most interesting thing I learned about durian during this adventure, was the unique durian growing method in Nonthaburi.
As the tide of the Chao Phraya river rises and falls, it brings new waves of fresh water, mixed with just the right amount of salinity, and a host of other healthy growing minerals.
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The durian trees at orchards in Nonthaburi are planted in mounds of dirt and mud, all surrounded by canals.
Every year, the canals are dug out, and scoops of mud and minerals are piled up onto the durian mounds to heap them up and ensure the soil is prime for durian nurturing.
Due to the canals, the durian trees have access to a year round supply of water and nutrients, while other durian orchards around Southeast Asia often go dry during the periods of dry season.
Nonthaburi really is the durian Garden of Eden.
One of the things that Suan Toorien (Durian) Padoi (สวนทุเรียนป้าต้อย) is especially known for, is producing Thailand’s best quality, fully organic grown durian.
Walking around the durian orchard, I noticed how all the durians fruits hanging from trees were covered in clear plastic wrapping.
This provided protection, especially from insects and bugs – I know for sure if I was a bug or a bird, I would definitely have eyes on an organic durian.
Every durian tree at the orchard was tagged with information, like a newborn child at the hospital.
The care of each and every tree at the orchard was amazing.
For the first part of our visit to Suan Toorien (Durian) Padoi (สวนทุเรียนป้าต้อย), we walked around the small orchard, taking a look at the durian selection.
Another thing that was very cool, was the cross pollination farming technique used.
While many durian farms grow only durian, one of the things I loved about walking around here, was that there were multiple things being grown together, polyculture farming.
Next to a durian tree there were mangosteen trees, banana trees, and even fresh peppercorn vines (which I couldn’t resist sampling right off the tree, tasted amazing by the way).
Ok, moving on, after we walked around the farm for a while, taking as many photos as possible, we then headed to the small entryway hut.
The owner had already picked a few durians for the day, and they were waiting and ready to be purchased by people who had already reserved them.
Types of durian (and the famous kanyao)
There were two different kinds of durian to choose from, Nonthaburi Kanyao, which is the most expensive and highest grade, and then Nonthaburi Monthong, which is one of the most widely available varieties in Bangkok.
Lindsay came for the kanyao, and after some negotiating, she owned a beautiful, football (soccer) shaped durian, spiky, with a long stem, and as precious as ones own.
Eating our durian
Unfortunately, the kanyao was not ripe, it needed a few days to ripen up, but there’s always a back-up plan, and so we additionally got a perfectly ripened monthong (หมอนทอง นนทบุรี), to eat on spot.
The monthong was nowhere near the price of the kanyao, and the entire fruit cost just 1,000 THB (though for a regular monthong in Bangkok during durian season you’d only pay about 60 – 80 THB per kilo).
Let me tell you though, 1,000 THB for this durian was a small price to pay for the quality, freshness, and natural taste (but I’ll explain this eating part more below).
While a kanyao is usually nearly perfectly round, a monthong is more oval shaped, with random knobs, even sometimes sort of looking like a heart in shape.
The durian, though very ripe, hardly had a rotten egg smell like it sometimes does when you see durian on the street.
Instead, this one smelled of sweet honey.
Judging from the stem, Lindsay guessed that the durian had just been picked that morning, so it was extremely fresh, and tree ripened (instead of being picked early to ripen).
This ensured it could nurse all the nutrients from its mother tree before its umbilical cord was cut for our consumption.
I get a little crazy taking photos of food, especially when it’s something so fascinating and amazing like durian. But finally after we had captured our durian in the garden in every angle we could think of, and it was time to dig in.
The durian was soft and slightly mushy (perfect), and just slightly golden yellow in color.
The durian flesh was incredibly creamy and smooth, and just absolutely packed with an amazing sweetness.
I think the texture and feel of durian can be compared to a very ripe avocado, but just bump up the creaminess one more notch, and decrease the firmness by one notch, and you’ve nearly go the texture.
Flavor-wise, in comparison to other monthong durians that I’ve eaten in Thailand, this was probably the best.
Eating just a normal everyday monthong durian on the streets of Bangkok, versus tasting this same variety, but grown in Nonthaburi and fully organic at the farm, was way different.
I could honestly taste the freshness and naturalness of the fruit.
It was extraordinary, surely the finest monthong I’ve ever consumed.
Like I mentioned before, at Suan Toorien (Durian) Padoi (สวนทุเรียนป้าต้อย), they not only grow durian (even though that’s the main thing), but they cross pollinate for the farming process.
This means other delicious fruits too.
I tried a piece of their jackfruit, again, it was one of the most memorable pieces of jackfruit I’ve had in a very long time.
The seed was tiny, about 1/3 the size of a normal jackfruit seed, and the meat was thick, smooth, and tasted like banana cream dipped in honey. I only wish they grew cempedak (video) too.
Durian and mangosteen
Durian is commonly consumed with mangosteen, at least that is the case in Thailand and Malaysia.
Durian is a warming fruit, and you will actually start to feel a little warm when you eat durian, and mangosteen is a cooling fruit. As they say in Thailand, durian is the king of fruits, and mangosteen is the queen.
I thought the mangosteen at this farm didn’t actually look so good from the outside. There was a small basket, picked right off the tree, sitting next to the stock of durian.
But after a few logs of durian, I decided to go for a mangosteen. Though the outside appearance wasn’t that beautiful, wow the fruit was stunning.
Again, it was such a pure flavored mangosteen – I can seriously say I could taste the naturalness of it, in comparison to mangosteen I normally buy at the market.
It was sweet and juicy, and almost creamy milky.
A few mangosteens later, and we dug back into the good stuff.
The final log of durian, looking like a small baguette nestled into the shell, included four seeded segments – a beauty of a durian chunk.
Can fruit get any more unique and beautiful?
I always like to savor and dream about my last bite, before I take it.
The final bite of any durian, or any amazing feast, is always something to cherish.
On my last bite of durian, I also like to usually suck on the seed for a while, to ensure all the flavor is completely extracted.
It didn’t take too long before our beautiful durian from the orchard was reduced to a thorny empty shell.
Another durian down, another round of extreme satisfaction and happiness.
It’s not such a bad dog’s life, hanging out at a Nonthaburi durian farm in Thailand, enjoying the peacefulness, and licking out durian shells.
But all good things normally come to an end, and so is the case with eating a durian on the farm.
The owners of the farm were extremely kind, and what I really loved about them, is that you could just sense their passion, pride, and dedication to nurturing their organic Nonthaburi durians.
Watch the video of this amazing durian farm:
(If you can’t see the video, watch it here: http://youtu.be/dPnZP8_QjKE)
Durian is one of the most unique and amazing natural fruits on the planet.
The outer shell of a durian is spiky and scary, but the inside is warm and inviting, and tastes like honey custard injected with the creamiest whipped cream you’ve ever tasted.
You’ll find durian all over southeast Asia, and scattered throughout Bangkok, but there’s nothing quite like eating durian at the farm, in a peaceful garden.
I really enjoyed this Nonthaburi durian adventure, and would recommend it to anyone who is a durian lover.
Suan Toorien Padoi Farm (สวนทุเรียนป้าต้อย)
We went to a durian farm about 30 minutes outside of Bangkok known as Suan Toorien Padoi Farm (สวนทุเรียนป้าต้อย). This farm is not a tourist attraction like the Thai fruit farm I visited a while back is, but instead it’s more of a place to go if you’re serious about durian. It’s not just an open farm, so in order to go there you need to pre-order a durian and be ready to purchase.
For eating durian in Bangkok, check out my guide here.