How do you accidentally end up in Malaysia to try durians? This is exactly what happened to us! After seeing a video of workers collecting dragon fruit in a farm we thought – wouldn’t it be interesting to explore more the aspect of how fruits and vegetables grow, when we travel?
About a month before our trip to Singapore, we started looking for farms growing exotic fruit. One Google search lead to another and I remember thinking – what if this was finally the time that we try durian? Called the king of all fruits, this fruit is not well known in our country, and if someone has heard about it, they usually refer to it as “that stinky fruit”. Those people would also know that it is not allowed to bring it to hotels or to subway. There have been numerous cases of flights diverted and buildings evacuated due to it’s smell!
We had tried freeze dried durian and durian candies before, and were not quite sure that “tastes like heaven but stinks like hell” is an exact description, as it did not seem too good or too bad. But we were eager to try the real deal!
Making the Appointment to Try Durian
Looking for information on durians in Singapore, I found the site of All About Durians, where a a family, Yaan and Mrs Khoo, grow durians and deliver their friends and family. They also do tours, and that’s exactly what we wanted! We communicated in email and whatsapp and back and forth, but unfortunately, turned out that the farm is in Malaysia. My dear friend Ryan, who lives in Australia but is from Singapore originally, had a real laugh about it, saying that only tourists might think one might grow durian in Singapore! Land is too expensive around here!
It also turned out, that Yaan and Mrs Khoo where also not available on the day that we wanted to visit, so even if we could find transportation to Malaysia, we wouldn’t be able to go, and later we would already be flying back home. But then a miracle happened! Mrs Khoo texted me and said they will change their plans and bring us ourselves to their farm in Malaysia!
Meeting Yaan and Mrs Khoo
On the next day, at 7:00 we were in the car, ready to go! We had such a lovely time with the couple! I was glad that I had brought some small presents from Latvia, as these always come in handy, when visiting other countries! While we were driving, we had a chance to learn the story of the durian farm.
Turned out, growing durian is only their hobby! When Mrs Khoo was pregnant with her first child, she was craving durians and ate very many of them. However, when the baby was born, she thought she saw some skin problems, and immediately connected this with the pesticide used on durians. The durian attracts various types of pests, and without the chemicals, most of the places growing it would not be able to turn any profit, as large quantity of fruit would perish. So the family decided to grow the durians for themselves, without using any chemicals. They got workers, visited on weekends and experimented on what works and what doesn’t, which types of durian taste better and can grow in this conditions. Now during durian season (there are two of those, in June/July and December/January), they even deliver fruits to their friends and a small number of other customers. No whole sellers! Turns out, sometimes there even is a wait-list, despite the fact that these fruits are significantly more expensive than regular ones on the market!
How Durians Grow
We enter the farm through the gate and see the trees growing and lush green grass. We also see workers – someone is cutting grass, another one is working in the shed. They have to stay the night, as fruit is expensive and there have been attempts to steal it! The best of all durians, Musan King, grows here. Apart from it, also other premium class fruits as D17, Ang Hae and D101 are found in this farm, overall, more than 20 different types, and each has their fans!
Before trying the fruit, we walk in the farm and see how black peppers, mangosteens, rambutans, loquats, maracujas, papayas and other fruits grow. There are any durian trees as well, but not too many fruits on each of the trees. Many do perish! The family tells us that the fruit produced by their trees is especially good for one’s health, as comes from older trees and has higher concentration of valuable minerals.
Durian is considered a very healthy fruit in folk medicine, helping with cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal disturbances, works as an antioxidant and regulates glucose. It is also considered to be a “heaty” fruit, and can temporarily raise blood pressure or even temperature! That’s why it is not recommended to eat too much of it, and some people can only handle one or two fruits at a time, more causes soar throat!
We are less interested in the medicinal properties and more in the taste. Is it really as bad as some say? We saw a few places selling durian in Singapore and some people eating it, and you could smell it from a great distance! How can something that stinks so badly, can taste so good for people to buy it? Some say, it has buttery taste, others, like a spoiled onions, and others – like creamy nuts.
Trying Durian For the First Time
The time has come, we are ready to try durian for the first time! The worker expertly cuts the fruit in half and gives it to me, and Yaan says the characteristic smell is more from the peel and not so much from the fruit. I am to take the fruit in my fingers and try. Immediately, I remember seeing women in the city eating it in plastic gloves, here there are no gloves, just a small bowl of water to dip my fingers after.
I give it a try. The fruit has an unusual texture, and tastes slightly more bitter than I expected, reminds me of honey and coffee. But… it tastes good! Now it is the turn for my husband to try it. He tries a piece and I see – he won’t be eating more. While he does finish off that one piece, he refuses any more. But I gladly eat three more servings! I do start to understand what all the fuss is about, durian really is tasty!
While I eat, I keep thinking about unbelievable hospitality of this family – they changed their plans and accommodated us to take this tour. I ask them – why? Mrs Khoo says that we have traveled such a long way and it would be a wasted opportunity if we didn’t try the fruit. Yaan says that durian is infamous, and he would like that to change and for more people to discover how amazing this fruit is! I agree, and I wonder – how come there are so many videos of people just about vomiting when eating it? Yaan says that often, tourists will fall victims to buying spoiled fruit of low quality, so one must always eat it with a local! Local will be able to see if the fruit is damaged (and bacteria have gone inside), and avoid that. We don’t eat spoiled apples or watermelons, right? So why would a spoiled durian be any better? Same goes for frozen durians that lose a lot of flavor, and he does not recommend eating those.
We wash our fingers, although it almost doesn’t seem necessary, as there is no smell. We try the other fruit, and it is so much better than what you can buy at the store, fresh in the garden! Especially I am surprised about loquat, as I have not tried these before, and the family gives us a bag full of fruit to take along to the hotel! Obviously, no durian, as we would get in trouble for that! Mrs Khoo says that even when kept at home in the fridge, peeled, one must be careful. First, you have to wait for the fruit to be fully cold. And only then you can cover it. But best, only buy the quantity you can eat! Many people get together with families to eat them together. A good durian can also make a great present!
Malaysia from the Car Window
Having spent a few hours at the farm, we are ready to go on! For the way back, the car is packed with durian. We do feel a bit the smell coming from the peel, but soon we get used it. On the way back we stop to wash the car, fill up the tank, at the grocery store (of course, I buy some durian flavored chocolate, which tastes nothing like the real fruit!) and also at a restaurant for some pork soup. It is an interesting trip for us, as we have never been to Malaysia before, so we get a small tour of the Johor state! We hear that the prices are much cheaper here than in Singapore, so many people travel here on the weekends, as well as, many from Malaysia go across the border for work. Luckily, we don’t get any lines on the border and cross seamlessly back to Singapore!
Whenever I think about this trip, I remember the bitter coffee like, sweet honey taste of durian, and Mrs Khoo and Yaan! How lucky we were to be recipients of such kindness from this family, and they truly showed us a part of the world we would have never discovered ourselves! Meeting local people certainly is one of the greatest advantages when travelling!
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