Penang Durian Trip 2016: Black Thorn, Hor Lor, Red Gold Dragon, Red Prawn

Durian Penang

It’s durian season in the best durian producing state in Malaysia! Yes, I’m talking about Penang. They have some of the highest quality durians around. My better half wanted to head up north to eat the King of Fruits so we made the trip over the weekend. We managed to eat four (4) different kinds of local durians at four different stalls scattered across the island state.

Black Thorn (Orchee, Duri Hitam)

Black Thorn Penang

This durian first came on the scene in late 2012. I was the first to blog about Black Thorn and couldn’t find any information except from what I was told by the durian sellers. This is an example of a durian marketed right, it has really blown up and name recognition and demand has spiked since its debut. It now goes for around RM 60 per kg in Penang and it’s one of the premium durians out there. I paid RM 77 for this 1.54 kg durian.

Ochee Durian

My better half has never had Black Thorn before. It was a little early in the season so I went fully expecting to be disappointed but was surprised to see a few stalls offering it it Balik Pulau. This one had two Black Thorn durians for RM 50/kg. I took the smaller one and it was a beautiful example! Black Thorn has a concave spikeless bottom with a black thorn sticking out (thus the name) and it’s very distinctive with a thick, round stem, longkang (drain) running down the middle like a Teka (Green Bamboo) and reddish orange fruit.

Duri Hitam

The Black Thorn we had was ultra creamy, sweet with a very mild bitter aftertaste. There’s almost no noticeable fibre component (unlike D2 Dato Nina durians) so it makes for good eating. These are organic durians with no pesticides and such so you can see a caterpillar trying to get at the flesh. Haha. Organic durians taste so much better. This is the second best durian we had in Penang. I like Black Thorn but if you want complexity in flavor, you can’t beat a Red Prawn.

Hor Lor (Labu)

Hor Lor

The name Hor Lor actually means “gourd” – so called coz it looks like a gourd. We had this in the middle of town, right beside Macalister Road. It’s RM 30 per kg, cost us RM 40 for this 1.3 kg durian.

Labu Durian

I like the shape of Hor Lor durians. The hourglass figure pleases my eyes as well as my sense of symmetry. The durian was slightly dry and one-dimensionally sweet. You’ll love Holo if you like sweet durians.

Hor Lor Durian

The seeds are small and flat too. Passable, but not the best.

Ang Kim Lin (Red Gold Dragon)

Ang Kim Lin

This is a rather unusual durian which we found at a random stall. It has 4 segments instead of the usual 5, which I found rather interesting. This is similar to Sarawak jungle durians – the green and soft spiked variety we call durian isu. The durian also had taste characteristics which was similar to durian isu, which startled me.

Red Gold Dragon

The Red Gold Dragon durian cost RM 25 per kg and was very hard to open due to the large amount of impenetrable skin at the seems. You have to slice into this durian and wedge it open, there’s no easy way to open it without a knife, even after it’s open. You know how you can just push down on the sides and it’ll peel away? Not this one…just look at the seemless middle.

Ang Kim

This durian was quite strong tasting in a green way, but not from being unripe. The flesh was quite soft and wet and comes off the flesh easily. It really tastes a lot like durian isu, but not as intense. This still had durio zibethinus characteristics. It’s an acquired taste. I’ll have to eat a lot more before I’ll start liking it, but I’m really glad I tasted it.

Red Prawn (Ang He, Udang Merah)

Red Prawn Durian

This is the best durian Penang has to offer. Some say Black Thorn has usurped the #1 spot but I’m sure most seasoned durian lovers would prefer the complexity of a Red Prawn. I certainly prefer a good Red Prawn to a Black Thorn durian. I spotted the dusty brown color and short spikes characteristic of a Red Prawn and asked how much it was. I got this durian for RM 84. It’s RM 50/kg and this is a 1.6 kg fruit.

Udang Merah Durian

It was perfect! The durian opened up to reveal beautiful salmon pink flesh and the crescent curve which contributed to its name. I’ve heard a lot of false etymologies concerning the name, the most plausible one is likely to be that its said to look like a red prawn by its side.

Ang He

This Red Prawn tasted really delicious, complex and bitter and sweet. It has so many levels of flavor going on. Delicious stuff! All the durians we had in Penang were super fresh too. They just fell from the tree the previous night, and the stalk shows no signs of cutting (unlike many durians you find in KL) nor were there split bottoms, indicating an old durian. It’s perfect, silky and smooth tasting heaven.

Penang Durian

We’ll love to go back for another feast later in the season when different durian varieties ripens!

Black Thorn (Ochee, Duri Hitam) Durian

Black Thorn Durian

Black Thorn is one of the most in-demand and expensive durians in the market. It’s also known as Durian Ochee and Duri Hitam. I ate a Black Thorn durian back when it had first won an award in 2012 and it was delicious. I was looking for durians the other day when the durian seller offered me a Black Thorn for RM 40/kg. It was a small fruit and looks the part, but it was split at the end so I declined.

Durian Black Thorn

However, the durian seller counter-offered with RM 20 for the Black Thorn durian. It weighed just 1 kg (exactly) so I asked him to open it up. The flesh looked dry (not wet like old, split durians tend to look) and firm to the touch so I accepted it. It was only RM 20/kg after all and I wondered if a small fruit would taste better.

Durian Ochee

The Black Thorn I had when it just came out was from Penang and is a large fruit (around 2-3 kg). This particular Black Thorn hails from Raub, Pahang and is a smaller fruit. It didn’t have the characteristic partial drain/longkang running down the middle like the D160 Teka (Bamboo Leg/Chook Keok/Thraka) durian but maybe that’s coz it’s a small fruit. Otherwise, it had all the characteristics of a Black Thorn durian.

Black Thorn

The flesh was a very appealing dark orange with a reddish hue and it was what caught my attention in the first place. I was very pleased and ate a few seeds only to find out that it tasted rather insipid – it had none of the intense flavors of the Black Thorn durian I first had. I’ve heard some people say Black Thorn isn’t worth the price due to its blandness and I was quite puzzled at their comments, until now.

Orchee Durian

Perhaps this was the durian that they had – Black Thorn from Pahang instead of the original from Penang. I’m not sure if all Black Thorns from Pahang are similarly mild-tasting and I even sent the photos to durian expert Lindsay to get a positive identification, just in case I was mistaken. She said it is a Black Thorn but it seems like it’s been around for quite a while so the flavor is lost to age.

Black Thorn Durian Seed

The Black Thorn has a good texture though – the creaminess of the flesh is still very apparent and despite the lack of flavor, I did manage to eke out a bittersweet profile if I closed my eyes and concentrated real hard. smirk

Durian Duri Hitam

The Black Thorn durians I had from Penang were quite nice. They were going for around RM 60/kg when I was in Penang last week. This is the first time I’ve purchased a durian from this seller and I know he’s (in)famous for cheap and old durians. It wasn’t worth the RM 20/kg I paid for it (would rather get a nice D24 for the price) but that may be due to the fact that it’s past its prime.

Black Thorn durians – more expensive than Musang King!

black thorn durians

I just came back from a Black Thorn durian session with Poey. I’ve been eagerly awaiting to taste this particular durian since I inquired about it. It’s much more expensive than Musang King (currently going for an average of RM 22 / kg), which is an overrated culvitar IMHO.

new black thorn durian

It’s not easy to get either. I dropped by several times and the only stall that sells it says they don’t have stock and I finally got the guy’s number so I can call and check if they have it before I drive over.

black thorn durian

The banner advertising the Black Thorn durian says that it won some kind of award in 2012, which is probably their justification for the high price. The Chinese words seem to translate literally – hei tze (black thorn).

black thorn size

The NEW Black Thorn durian goes for RM 30 / kg. The price didn’t budge until I asked the dude if I can get a lowered price if I come today. He offered it at RM 25 / kg.

durian black thorn

Note that only three (3) durians in the topmost row in the display picture are Black Thorn, the others are just chucked there. The interesting thing I noticed about Black Thorn durian is that it has a flat bottom, much like Musang King:

how to tell black thorn durian

There are no thorns at the end of the durian (opposite from the stalk). This particular durian cultivar originates from Penang and another interesting quality that distinguishes it besides the flat bottom is the presence of a longkang (drain) like Teka durians, except this looks more…er, anatomical in nature. smirk

black thorn characteristics

Black Thorn pretty much tastes like advertised – the durian flesh is a bright hue of orange, a color some people like and feel is more palatable. It starts out sweet and has a bitter end note, like XO durians – just as intense but not quite so long lasting. It’s creamy and sticky – the flesh comes off the seed well.

poey hb

It also has little to no fiber, which is a plus point…it makes the durian coat the palate easily and overwhelm it it does – this is a very rich durian, make no mistake about it.

hei chi durians

It’s a medium to large sized durian (ours is almost 3 kg) and the others are pretty much in the same weight league. It was sold for RM 65 for this 2.6 kg durian.

black thorn durian flesh

However, there are abundant seeds inside – counted 14 seeds and despite having medium seeds (I don’t call that small seeds, misleading advertising) it does have a lot of flesh on it – quality flesh to boot.

hb black thorn

I’ll rate this as a not very complex durian flavor wise but it’s a good, rich and satisfying one. It’s the *KING* of the King of Fruits, price-wise at least. I wouldn’t say it’s worth the price though, but definitely a must try for all durian fans. :D

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