A Thorny Tale

The durian is not called the King of Fruits for nothing. The durian season in Penang, which happens every June and July, is anticipated with bated breath and thousands congregate at Anjung Indah in Balik Pulau each year to savour its creamy, pungent, sweet and sticky-soft flesh. Some suspect that the durian is single-handedly responsible for the steady tourism numbers in Penang during these two months, made up by its fans from as far off as Europe to as close by as the neighbouring towns.

Cracking Open the Case
Durian ripens naturally on the tree and drops to the ground. When this happens, there is always a race between man and beast for it. Cracking open the thorny shell is an art. A cross-like incision is made on its oval bottom before wedging it open in half. Inside both halves will be rows of plump and fleshy pale yellow fruit that has a chewy, custard-like consistency with a long finish on the palate.

Like everything in life, there are choices of the fruit to suit everyone’s taste and wallet-size. As you’d guess, the more a durian cost, the more luxuriant the flesh with rich, unforgettable flavours. The common variety is the D16 and D24, while to date the most expensive is the Red Lobster with its reddish fruit. The price can range from around RM25 to RM50 per kilogram.

Where to Feast on Durian
The main area for the annual Durian Festival in Penang between June and July is at Anjung Indah in Balik Pulau. There are rows and rows of stalls selling many varieties of the fruit that come from surrounding durian orchards. Best part about this place is, due to its high peak, you will enjoy the fruit while simultaneously soaking in the amazing view of Balik Pulau and the sea. A great selfie spot indeed.
More details here.

However, there are also durian stalls nearer the city such as along Jalan Burma and Jalan Macalister, as well as wet markets around Penang.

How to Feast on Durian
There are no rules, really. It’s a fruit and you can eat it raw but due to its soft flesh, you will get messy fingers. However, there are also durian-based desserts available such as durian custard, durian cake, durian ice cream and durian candy. These are normally available sporadically in cafes, restaurants or pop-up stores in shopping malls. It’s well worth doing a bit of research online on where to get them before you go hunting.

What Not to Do
After a session of durian feasting, be considerate to those around you by not burping and breaking wind in public. Also, be aware that the durian fruit is not allowed in enclosed public areas such as:
Public transport including taxi, hired car and bus
Hotel premises including your hotel room, restaurant and pool area
Restaurants or cafes
This is because, like its flavour, the durian has a strong, pungent and distinct smell that lingers and some have considered as, sadly, unpleasant.

Image credits: Su Aziz