Tis the season...to eat durian!

journal posted 2016-11-15 - last updated 2017-12-17
Lead image

Too Much is Just Right

Too Much is Just Right

It can't be helped - it's hard-coded in my DNA. When it comes to durian:

A Lot is Good
More is Better
Too Much is Just Right


Last year's pilgrimage paid homage to the durian of Sarawak, found in the markets of Sibu and Mukah.

Buckwheat as 'Wild Man of Borneo'

Wild man of Borneo, spotted in Hal Roach Studios in California, USA

Wild durian

Wild durian of Borneo, spotted in Central Market in Sibu, Sawarak

The durian at the Mukah market is mostly farm durian, with a few wild ones popping up here and there. A seller at the market told me that because Mukah is a relatively small town of modest means, the market mostly sells cosmetic rejects left over after big-city retailers snatched the cream of the crop for their more affluent customers - who will happily pay a premium for them.

Mukah market durian

Durian season at Mukah market in Sarawak, Malaysia (11/2015)


This year I humbly sought an audience with His Royal Stinkness of Sabah, found in the markets of Kota Kinabalu (KK) and Ranau.

A vendor takes stock, on Durian Street

A vendor takes stock, on Durian Street in KK Sabah, Malaysia (8/2016)

Ranau, like Mukah, is also a small town market selling lots of cosmetically defective durian that doesn't reach KK's Durian Street.

Cosmetically defective durian

Scarface durian in Ranau (9/2016)

But, unlike Mukah, the Ranau market is near the farms, so there is also a fair selection of high-quality durian priced at a third of city prices. And, unlike in the city, sellers here freely give out samples so you know what you are getting.

Durian season gives rise to a curious social phenomenon. Typically in produce markets everywhere I've visited, the vast majority of vendors are women. But when durian arrives, the gender balance flips, with males dominating durian sales. Also, more male customers come to the market - alone, in groups, or with a female companion - hiking Spike up to their noses with a grimly serious countenance.

Male-dominated durian biz

Male domination in Mukah's durian trade (12/2015)

My stereotype of a durian vendor (scientifically derived from astute observations of my highly reputable imagination) is a hunched-shouldered, tattooed sleazeball in aviator glasses, cigarette hanging out of his mouth, yelling into his handphone, and who almost always is even more devious and untrustworthy than his shady appearance suggests. Durian brings big money, and big money brings out the lowlife in the saintliest of people.
Sterotypical durian vendor

Would you buy durian from him? (from 1989 film A Better Tomorrow 3)

But Ranau's durian market is different: the vendors are almost all women, with no sleazos selling here (though they can be spotted amongst buyers, hauling away truckloads to sell in other towns). So browsing this market was a special joy (and much less cigarette smoke to deal with!).

Ranau durian women

Women of Ranau durian market (9/2016)

Message to the heathens

To those of you slogging out a living in some wretched barren wilderness that you call home, that has been cursed to be devoid of durian for all eternity, my heart goes out to you.

Repent, ye durian-starved sinner,
and surrender to the King of Fruits!


After posting the above, I checked online for more info, and found the lovely and informative web site Year of the Durian. These pages are filled with gorgeous photos, passion for durian, and cute Latin scientific names.

Wild durian of Borneo
Kota Kinabalu Durian Street
Ranau Durian Market