I’m a durian fan. A huge one. I could not pass up the chance when Nigel invited Nic and me to a true Balik Pulau durian experience. There’s nothing like the king of fruits to bring strangers together.
The Sunday morning drive was pleasant – we took the road to Gertak Sanggul tailing Nigel’s Corolla while anticipating luscious, bitter durian. Would we get our hands on premium stuff?
Halfway, we stopped to wait for 3 other cars – this was going to be a group affair. The durian orchard owner, Pao Lun, rode his Honda though. Later we’d know why.
Much weaving about the hilly areas later, we turned off onto a steep road going up uphill. We parked our cars, got on with the introductions and hiked some more. Now you know why Pao Lun was on his trusty Honda bike. He could just ride up to the top of the hill.
I didn’t exactly pant while climbing the hill but it was strenuous on my calves and thighs. This was truly working up an appetite.
Finally we reached the house on the top of the hill. The view was spectacular. I could see a promontory; this very promontory saved the lives of those living on this side of the shore during the 2004 tsunami which hit parts of southern Penang island.
All around us were durian trees, rambutan trees and papaya trees. Netting was strung across the trees for 2 reasons – to collect the falling durians and to protect people from getting concussions while walking underneath these tall trees. (Durians were falling with dull thuds on the ground when we were there so yes, they do fall and they don’t care who they hit. They’re durians, remember? Thorny and heavy.)
But the moment Pao Lun started opening his stash of durians, everyone went into a revered silence, watching his methodical movements.
It was ecstatic just looking at him opening durians, and showing us the creamy yellow flesh; some were pale yellow, others were rich sunshine yellow. Some looked moist, others dry.
Each one had its own name, its own DNA of taste. Bitter yet aromatic, soft with a delicate aftertaste. Or creamy sweet, sweet lingering till the end. Or wonderfully intense aroma heightened by thick custard-like flesh with small seeds.
Not that I recognised their names. But each durian Pao Lun presented us was like heaven in a seed of flesh. From the youngest to the oldest, we were all quiet as we licked our fingers clean, looking forward to the next durian taste.
Soon the basket of durian shells were filling up. After gorging for almost 30 minutes, we were all truly sated, our breathing a tad laboured as we struggled to say no to yet another bounty.
I picked up an empty durian shell section and went in search of a tap to rinse my mouth and wash my hands. The tap brought forth fresh spring water (or so someone said) and I drank our Malaysian-Balik Pulau Evian water. It tasted OK.
Drinking water from the durian shell, according to local folklore, prevents heatiness after eating durian. Drinking water with a pinch of salt is also good as a prevention technique. Washing one’s hands underneath the running tap (the water must run off the durian shell first) also gets rid of the durian smell from one’s fingers. Believe it or not, it works.
This is perhaps my first of many durian outings – I am so glad I live in Penang. It’s the durian season and you can find durians on every street corner but nothing is as hedonistic as enjoying durians on top of a hill in Balik Pulau while drinking in a view of the southern tip of the island.
Thanks to Nigel and Fee for this great introduction to Pao Lun’s durian orchard! Fee promises more durians to come. Yum!
More great photos over here.
UPDATE: Here is Pao Lun’s mobile number in case you want to call him and make a date to visit the farm and have some durians – 016 436 4640