Covered in orchards, Trat province and indeed Chantaburi Province are famous for their their fruit and at the peak of that fruit hierarchy, sits the durian.
It seems extraordinary that anyone ever tried to eat a durian in the first place. Often as big as a rugby ball and covered in a thick hard skin of prickles which make it tricky to handle, the stench is much more off-putting, stinky beyond belief and that’s being polite! It’s has to be the world’s smelliest fruit, like a pungent heap of sweaty socks and trainers, invading the air and lingering for hours. Think of a heavy garlic eater when they walk into a room and quadruple – or more – that effect.
Getting the Taste
Given that fabulous fruits are abundant in Thailand’s hot season,. anything from mangoes to mangosteens, rose apples and rambutans, why bother with the durian?
We used to be in that camp too but under the guidance and encouragement of our local friends, we eventually succombed to this most prized delicacy, the King of the Thai Fruits (as it is known). Some people fall in love at first bite, for others, it’s an acquired taste but however you get there, there’s no turning back from that durian taste once acquired.
Aficionados will drive along the roads of durian orchards and choose from the piles of fruit on the stalls that each farm sets up. They can tell whether the durian is good by the smell, the colour and feel of the thorny spikes. Most importantly, they know the sound it should make when knocked with a piece of wood.
There is a knack to opening it a durian, which involves following the seams of the segments between thes spikes. You’ll get a fair few sharp pricks from those thorns before you master it but the satisfaction of prising out the soft yellow, custard-like flesh makes it all worth it.
Durian on Koh Chang
There are something like 230 types of durian but on Koh Chang, look our for:-
- Mongthong (Golden Pillow) – large, the most common variety, great one to start with.
- Chanee (Gibbon) – smaller than above, richer taste.
- Kradum-tong (Golden Button) – the cheapest and the smallest variety, very tasty nonetheless.
- Kanyao (Long Stem) – perhaps the best out there, worth the extra cost.
You just have to ask and taste and over time, you may come to appreciate the differences, with some sweeter, some meatier. Everbody has a different description of its taste but for us, it’s like vanilla creme brûlée with caramelised onions.
Do’s and Dont’s with Durian
If you are going to try one, two pieces of advice:-
- Don’t Drink and Durian
- Skip the beer, durians don’t mix well with alcohol. Some people say that it can actually make you pretty sick, For sure it’s a combination that spoils and wastes the delicious tastes of both the fruit and the beer. Try it with mangosteen though – that works a treat.
- Best Eaten Outdoors
- For a novice, the smart bet is to get one that is already prepared for you, it’s a little less smelly, much less messy and it’s definitely a fruit best eaten outdoors. You can forget about attempting to sneak one past the lobby of your hotel and even if you love eating them, you really wouldn’t want the aroma lingering in your room.
They are not only exotic but expensive too, with some varieties of durian costing $50 or more, which weirdly can make the smelliest fruit in the world a perfect gift.
Airports, public transport systems and many hotels throughout South East Asia put up big notices in the durian season, forbidding the fruit due to its aroma. Indeed, the smell is the main reason whytheya re known outside the continent, imagine the problems of trying to transport plane loads of them.
Chantaburi Province holds an annual festival solely for the durian. Their experts have developed a variety with only a slight pong. The Thais scoff at this, they just can’t see the point, but a smell-ish free variety could be great for exporting and so maybe, one day, you too could be eating a durian bought in your local supermarket.