What is Durian?
Durian is a Southeast Asian fruit that’s most popular in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines.
Many durian trees are large and can grow anywhere from 20 – 50 meters in height. There are many different species and cultivars of durian, some with a more pungently distinct flavor while others are calmer and less strong.
Though I have seen a photo of a thornless durian, the most distinct characteristic of any durian is its lethal thorny outer shell. Rather than a fruit, a durian looks more like a medieval war club – just one of the many reasons it’s so enchanting!
Wrapped within the dangerous exterior is soft creamy flesh that’s normally yellowish or cream in color and firm to soft depending on ripeness. Each pod of the fruit flesh is sectioned off in separate segments.
Durian is most notorious for is its smell.
What some describe as rotting socks, fermented garlic and onions, or just straight up barf, to me is the sweetest perfume known to man. But somehow I just love odd edibles durian, stink beans, and wood apples.
The aroma is so strong, it can linger for days, making durian illegal in many air conditioned or public buildings in Southeast Asia.
When you’re out exploring Bangkok, look out for these delicious durians.
1. Monthong – Golden Pillow
Monthong, which translates to golden pillow in Thai, is probably the most widespread durian in Thailand; It’s also the most famous exported variety.
If you stumble into durian in another part of the world, like North America or even China, it may be a Thai Golden Pillow.
The fruit is large, often 3 – 5 kilos per fruit and is characterized by large triangular spikes. The flesh of the fruit is very meaty and can be considered one of the least pungent in both aroma and flavor.
It’s rich and sweet.
The chunks of durian that emerge from a monthong are gigantic, honestly, some are the size of personal baguettes.
The largest monthong durian I’ve ever bought in Thailand was over 10 kilos.
After spotting it at a vendor at Samrong Market, my friend Joel and I had to purchase it merely because of its huge size. Unfortunately, it was watery and not very good, but it sure was fun!
If you’re a first time durian sampler, you may want to go with monthong.
Price: About 50 – 100 THB per kilo
2. Chanee – Gibbon
Chanee is more pungent, softer, more buttery, and stronger in nearly every way than a monthong. Yet at the same time, for myself personally, it’s not quite as rich and I can eat more volume of chanee than monthong.
The flesh is often eaten very ripe, when it turns to a gorgeous golden yellow. The riper a chanee gets, the stronger the luscious aroma becomes. The meat turns bitter adding an extra wonderful dimension to the sweetness.
Price: About 50 – 80 THB per kilo
3. Kanyao – Long Stem
Kanyao, or the long stem durian, is normally the most expensive and high class durian to eat in Bangkok. If you have a chance to eat kanyao, take it!
It’s medium in size, and distinct because it’s normally quite round like a volleyball, not in in rounded segments like a monthong.
The flesh is very sweet, incredibly creamy and even when overripe it doesn’t become too mushy.
I’m undecided as to wether chanee or kanyao is better; Both are wildly delicious.
There’s also the famed “Nonthaburi Kanyao,” the most well known durian in Thailand that can fetch $200 per fruit. I’m still waiting for my first sample!
Price: About 80 – 150 THB per kilo