If you tried Durian in an Asian country as a tourist then it’s most likely that you tried the lowest quality durian and probably didn’t like it.
Once I sampled the best types of Durian I never wanted to eat the types reserved for tourists. When I say best, I don’t mean the types that get auctioned for thousands of dollars.
Durian grows in tropical regions around the world and is particularly popular in Southeast Asia in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
Malaysia is blessed with good durian varieties and I was lucky enough to be in Johor Bahru, South Malaysia during its season June – August and was able to taste so many good durian types in Malaysia.
Malaysia is the country that introduced me to this King of Fruit nine years ago and since then I was unable to forget its unique explosive and overpowering sweet smell. Its aroma in the air makes people either run away from it or get seduced by its powerful presence. When I tried durian for the first time I absolutely loved it and can never have enough of this super fruit.
Here we go….. nine years later….I am back in Malaysia again and I discovered that there are many different types of Durian that grow over here. Each type has its own unique taste, shape, size, colour, texture and aroma. As a durian lover, I decided to embark on a durian adventure. I was on a mission to try as many types as I can find and here is what I discovered. The cheapest I paid for a whole fruit was as little as $1 and the most expensive was $80.
Table of Contents
Best country to buy durian
In Malaysia, durian varieties registered with the Department of Agriculture since 1993. Each durian type has its own registrar number. You can buy some of the best Malaysian Durian in Singapore as well.
Every durian that I tried in Thailand left me disappointed. They all smelled like durian but didn’t taste nice. I’m sure not all Thai durian is bad, but I just couldn’t find any good ones while living there for 6 months. And I did try my best. Despite common durian not being the best, Thailand does produce some of the most expensive durians. Nonthaburi Drian has been auctioned for as much as $48,000.
Durian in Vietnam was a bit hit and miss. I came across exceptional durian similar in taste to Musan King (see below for the best types of durian). It was still difficult to find good durian. Ironically, some of the best frozen durian I’ve found come from Vietnam.
If the King of Fruit isn’t for you, then try the Queen of fruits – Mangosteen
What are the best types of durian?
Kampung – D114
It is the most common type and it’s the cheapest amongst all the other types. It can be found everywhere and usually cost between MYR 5 to MYR 15 ($1.19 – $1.90) depending on the area it’s sold. The more rural the area the cheaper it is.
It could taste sweet and creamy or bitter and not so creamy or completely tasteless. Buying Kampung durian is a challenge and if you get the right one it can be a very satisfying experience. It consists of large seeds and thin flesh. When it comes to taste you will never know which one you get hence the price.
The good thing is that most sellers will open the durian and ask you to taste it first. If it’s bad or worm-infested they will find another one and ask you to taste it before paying for it.
Choosing Kampung it’s a number game, I personally like it. When you get the right one it can be very delicious. I can’t recommend this for a first-timer as the odds are against you.
Green Skin (Cheh Phoy) – D145
It is very easy to spot this type due to its bright green skin. In the past, I assumed that it was unripened durian and avoided it. The colour does not represent ripeness, it’s just a characteristic of this particular type of durian. Its flesh is rich yellow in colour and has a creamy texture that melts in your mouth. This type of Durian is popular in Penang the northern part of Malaysia and is usually brought down to the Southern part.
Cost MYR 40 ($9.50).
Black Thorn – D200
It may have various sizes but the ones I tried were small and round in shape with rusted outside skin colour.
You can recognise blackthorn as you can see one dried blackthorn sticking out at the bottom of the durian.
That’s why it’s called Black Thorn.
Its flesh is small and plump with thick and creamy “meat” which is rich in dark yellow-orange colour. It has an irresistible fruity and flowery aroma. Black Thorn is very popular along with Musang KinD101g. They are expensive mainly due to the fact that Chinese tourists are willing to pay a very high price for this type.
Cost MYR 75 ($18) per kg.
Sunset – D18
This type of Durian has large seeds with thin and fibreless flesh. It tastes sweet with a bitter aftertaste. You normally eat this durian for its bitter taste if you are not keen on a rich and creamy texture.
Due to its large seeds and thin meat, after all this durian is not as popular as the other types. However, if you are adventurous in tasting durians and experimenting with different tastes then I would certainly recommend it.
Cost MYR 25 ($6).
Red prawn durian – D175
I tried Red Prawn durian several times but they were never red, instead, they were a rather burnt orange in colour. I kept waiting for a red version to take a photo, and in the end, there were none.
From what I remember, it had the least amount of fibre. We also didn’t get the watery texture we read from other reviews. Its flesh was dry and tasted very sweet and pleasantly bitter. It felt like I was eating burnt vanilla caramel. Its flavour woke up an appetite within me.
Cost MYR 27 ($6.50).
This was one of my favourites. I would highly recommend trying this type. It is not too expensive and the taste is absolutely delicious.
Musang King – Premium variety D197
Musang King is so popular that it could cost 40% more than any other durian type.
It has a green colour like other varieties however, if you look at the bottom of it, you will find a star-shaped pattern dividing into segments throughout the lengths of the fruit.
The shape of it is more oval than round, more like a rugby ball (slightly fatter than an American football) At first bite, you will feel the sensation of rich and creamy flavour. It is so smooth and deliciously sweet with a hint of bitterness that its flesh melts in your mouth. Musang King’s flesh is thick and has a deep yellow colour. The seeds are small and slender.
Depending on its size and location, the price could start from MYR 50 to MYR 120 ($12 – $30) per kg.
If you are a tourist who has never tried durian then this is a good durian to start with.
My verdict: Totally worth it!
Golden Phoenix – D198
Not a very memorable experience with Golden Phoenix. This is the first durian I tried in Kulai which is North of Johor. It tasted quite bitter compared to other types of durian that I tried. The texture was dry and its bitterness was so profound and long-lasting.
The shape of the durian was perfectly rounded and had a pale thick flesh with small seeds. It cost 28 MYR per kg which was worth it for the amount of flesh you get.
Cost MYR 65 ($15.50) per fruit..
Is a very common durian which is affordable with pretty good taste, thick and creamy texture and the right balance of bitterness and sweetness.
It is also a type of durian that you can keep on eating without getting sick of it.
Cost MYR 15 and above ($4).
XO is one of the most bitter-tasting durians. This type of durian you can find in almost every durian stall. It is well recognisable due to its brownish colour outside and its pale yellow flesh which is very soft, watery and intensely bitter. When it’s fully ripened you can taste a slightly alcoholic aftertaste due to the fermentation process inside its shell. Although It is tasty it’s not one of my favourites and definitely wouldn’t recommend starting with this.
Cost MYR 40 and above ($10).
Tried a few times this type before tasting other varieties. It has small seeds and its flesh has a gentle flavour, creamy but mildly sweet and not so overpowering.
Very “friendly” durian I would recommend this type to someone who has never tried durian before. It is on the cheaper side.
Cost MYR 28 ($7) per fruit.
I absolutely loved this type. It had deep yellow flesh and a rich buttery, bitter aftertaste. After one bite I instantly felt ecstatic it is like a drug which I couldn’t stop and had a whole fruit to myself.
This is the last type I tried in Kulai and I was addicted to its bitter and sweet taste and sticky, creamy texture. It’s definitely got me hooked. Even now….just thinking of it, makes my mouth water. Rare type and we only found this in rural areas.
Cost MYR 30 ($8).
How to choose a good durian
Here are some attributes to look out for when choosing a good durian.
Perfectly ripe durian should have a creamy texture with a fruity vanilla-flowery, caramel aroma.
If the texture at all is rubbery then it’s not a good durian.
I observed that durian lovers before buying the fruit, shake it first and listen. I was wondering what they were listening for. It turns out that they listen for the knocking sound of the seed. So when the durian is ideally ripe the seed will loosen from the shell and make a rattling noise when you shake the fruit. Then you know it’s time to eat.
Take a durian and sniff along the seams or split lines of the durian. The smell should not be faint and neither overpowering it should be a heavenly pungent aroma.
I learnt that its taste depends on the age of its tree. The younger the tree the sweeter the fruit. The mature tree will yield more bitter fruit.
Colour of the Spikes
Durian spikes’ colour should be green at the base and the tips should be brown.
Durian that already has been opened with a knife is most likely one that someone else had already tested and rejected. These are kept so that they can be sold to tourists who are unaware.
My best tip, particularly if you are in Malaysia, is to avoid vendors who approach you and look for the stalls that locals are visiting instead.
Here are some clues to help you avoid bad durian.
Your questions about durian
Which country has the best durian in the world?
South Malaysia. This is where good durian is common. Most of the best types of durian in Singapore also come from Malaysia. While countries such as Thailand produced the most expensive durian, the durian that most people get to eat is not as good as what you commonly find in Malaysia.
Which durian type is the best?
Musan King offers the best value for taste and money.
Is Musang King the best durian?
Musan King offers the best value for taste. I can also recommend D24, Black Thorn and Red Prawn.
What’s the most expensive durian?
Nonthaburi is situated in a fertile basin on the bank of the Chao Phraya River. The most expensive durian ever sold was auctioned for $48,000 and came from Nonthaburi, Thailand.
Where is durian illegal?
It’s not illegal to sell or eat. But it’s illegal to transport durian on public transport in Singapore. It is also not allowed in some hotels in Thailand, Japan, and Hong Kong.
Paying the highest price doesn’t mean that you will get the best quality. It is easy to get scammed when it comes to types of durian. It is better to go for cheaper durians but go for a few rather than just trying one. The cheapest type is what I ate the most. But for every two good fruits, there was one that didn’t taste good.
I will always associate Malaysia with the durian adventures I have had for the past six months. If I ever go back to Malaysia I would make sure that I go back during the durian season.
Share your experiences with durian below.
Sources and Resources
Nutritional Information about Durian – U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE