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)
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
The seeds are small and flat too. Passable, but not the best.
Ang Kim Lin (Red Gold Dragon)
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
We’ll love to go back for another feast later in the season when different durian varieties ripens!