How to Appreciate Durian Taste in Southeast Asia

While on our quest for authentic food in Southeast Asia, we could not miss the infamous Durian. There is no other fruit that inspires much debate amongst visitors to Southeast Asia.

People either love durian taste or hate it, while remaining puzzled by the locals addiction to the fruit.

Durian is known as the “King of Fruits” in Southeast Asia. The name comes from the Malay word for thorns, durio. It is characterized by its large size, strong odor and thorned skin or rind.

Native of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, we encountered Durian in many Southeast Asian countries.

Here’s how you can appreciate durian taste while traveling through Southeast Asia.

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Different Varieties of Durian Fruit

There are different varieties of durian and the taste varies from one type to another. Wikipedia lists 30 recognized durian species, but only nine edible fruit and over 300 named varieties in Thailand and 100 in Malaysia.

Today, Thailand is the largest exporter of durian fruit and and is host to the World Durian Festival in Chanthaburi province.  Malaysia is also famous for their high quality durian fruit.

We saw durian fruit throughout our travels across Southeast Asia, and noticed a special reverence for the fruit in Malaysia.

Durian Varieties Durian Taste Authentic Food QuestTwo varieties of Durian at the market in Thailand

Our First Encounter with Durian in the Philippines

We saw durian for the first time in the Philippines while visiting a local farmer’s market in Manilla, Philippines. Legazpi Sunday Market, in the Makati neighborhood is a laid back market, with an array of local Filipino specialities, small producers and local restaurants.

As we were exploring the market, we stopped at a stand and watch amazed at the dexterity of a local vendor “breaking into” a durian fruit.  The short video below highlights the technique and strength needed to eat the “King of Fruits.”

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Experiencing Durian Taste for the First Time in Thailand

Or Tor Kor Market in Bangkok, is one of the best places to taste durian. It is one of the best fresh markets in Bangkok, and has even been ranked by CNN, as one of the 10 world’s fresh  market.

Or Tor Kor Market is a great place walk around, browse or do some actual grocery shopping. It is very clean, well laid out with different sections for fresh meats and seafood, flowers, vegetables and fruits.

It is very popular for fresh fruits of all kinds and varieties. If you have never experienced durian taste, this is a great market to try the “King of Fruits” as it is available all year round.

Durian Stand Durian Taste Authentic Food QuestDurian Stand at Or Tor Kor Market

Tasting Monthong and Kanyoa Durian Varieties

While walking around, we noticed two different varieties of durian –  Monthong and Kanyoa. Not knowing the difference, but curious about the taste, we approached a popular stall and friendly vendor.

In our discussion, we learned that the month of March is the Monthong variety, while April is the best for Kanyoa. We bought the two varieties and sat down to taste durian for the first time.

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While we both had different opinions of the durian taste, we both preferred the Monthong variety. Surprisingly creamy, the texture was quite soft and smooth. The aroma was not pronounced for either of the varieties.

Eating durian, is an experience that you must indulge in on your travels to Southeast Asia. It is an acquired taste and one that you can grow to love. The sweet and creamy Monthong variety is actually grown for export, to countries like the U.S.

For durian taste, visit your local grocery store and see if they have the Monthong variety available.

If You’re Hesitant About Durian Taste

Durian is used to flavor many sweets and desserts in Southeast Asia. If you are too skittish to eat it raw, here are a few treats made with Durian that will convince you to give it a try.

Durian Ice-cream

Durian is definitely less intimidating in the form of ice-cream. You will find Durian ice-cream or popsicles in Malaysia and in a few other Southeast Asian countries.

We found the Durian ice-cream to be quite mild and not too sweet making for a refreshing treat.

Durian Ice Cream durian taste Authnentic Food QuestDurian Ice cream in Malaysia

Durian Sticky-Rice

In Thailand, you can find Durian Sticky Rice or Khao Niao Toorien along the famous Mango sticky rice.

In the case of the Durian sticky rice, the fruit is sliced ahead of time and then placed in a container on top of the sticky rice for you to enjoy.

Durian Sticky Rice durian taste Authnentic Food QuestDurian Sticky Rice in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Durian Stuffed Pastries

In Vietnam, you will find soft durian cakes made with egg called Bánh Dau Xanh Trung or Bánh Pia. These soft eggy cakes are deliciously  sweet and filled with durian paste.

In Malaysia, you will find Tambun biscuits a Penang delicacy, made with Durian the “King of Fruits”.  Made from wheat flour, sugar, green bean paste, fried onions, lard, and salt, these pastries have an interesting salty and savory combination.

Durian Tambun Biscuit durian taste Authentic Food QuestDurian Tambun Biscuit

Fun Facts about Durian

If the durian taste is not bearable to you, know that you are not alone. Durian is the only fruit that is banned by airports, hotels and many public transportation spaces.

You will find signs reminding you not to transport this pungent smelly fruit with you. And if a hotel finds out that you had Durian in your room, they may fine you for that.

Durian Sign Durian taste Authentic Food QuestDurian not allowed in the Metro in Thailand

Needless to say, it’s safer and far more enjoyable to have it at a market or a fruit stall vendor. Not only it will be prepared so you can taste it in its best conditions and it will keep you out of trouble!

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In Summary

Undoubtedly, Durian is a fruit that gets a lot of attention on your travel through Southeast Asia.

Don’t be afraid to learn more about it and taste it on the many markets across Southeast Asia.

Take the time to appreciate the durian taste, even if it means easing into it  with flavored yummy Durian treats and ice-cream.

And if after many attempts, the “King of Fruits” is not quite your thing, then try instead the Mangosteen, also known as the “Queen of Fruits”!

Locations Mentioned

Legazpi Sunday Market

Address: Parking lot, V. A. Rufino corner Legazpi Sts., Legazpi Village, Makati

Hours: Sundays, 7:30 am to 2:00 pm

Or Tor Kor Market

Address: Kamphaengphet Road, opposite Chatuchak Weekend Market (Take the MRT subway to Kamphaeng Phet station)

Hours:  Open every day, 6:00 am to 8:00 pm every day.

Have you had durian fruit before? What did you think of the durian taste? Let us know in the comments below, how you liked it!

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16 comments

  1. Wait. How did I miss the durian sticky rice during my many trips to Thailand? Bummer! I’m one of those weird people who really likes the fruit. Agree with you about the durian ice cream-great for starters plus is very yummy.

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  2. As a local from the Philippines, I can’t even take the pungent smell lol. Hats off to you for trying! I tried the candy versions and didn’t like it so I don’t know if the fruit version is better.

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  3. Based on your first photo, the Kanyao variety appears to be the most popular variety of durian! 😉 It’s a popular flavor of ice cream here in Vancouver, though I think it’s an acquired taste, and smell. Its odorous reputation precedes it – totally understand how it’s banned for flight.

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    • That’s true Claudia, the Kanyao variety is the mildest variety and used for export, so it doesn’t surprise me that’s in Vancouver. Have you learned to enjoy the taste? It is an acquired taste and one that we enjoyed experiencing.

      Reply
  4. I tried durian in the form of ice cream, in Penang. The laughter the face I made elicited in the young vendor was priceless; she even summoned her husband from inside the house to come look at me. It was the worst and most interesting ice cream I’d ever had. One of these days I’ll try the actual fruit, and this guide will help.

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  5. I was really surprised when I heard that there were so many varieties of durian. I just learned that in Thailand, so I’m glad you’re sharing that too! I also first tried durian in the Philippines. It was potent smelling, but honestly, not as bad as I was expecting. I still haven’t tried Mangosteen, but I feel like I need to try the female counterpart to the durian 😉

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  6. You should include the Philippines as well, it’s not just a native fruit of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. During durian season, my family would have a sackful of these. I hate it but they love it! I can eat any product with durian (ice cream, pie, candy, etc) just not the actual fruit.

    Reply
    • For sure the Philippines is included. it is actually where we shot the first video 🙂 That’s funny your family likes Durian but you hate it. We actually learned to appreciate the natural fruit and also enjoyed the durian flavored products.

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