Wild Durians from Sarawak Rainforest

The year of 2012 was a good year for all the wildlife and fruit lovers in Sarawak.Durian,King of the fruits,is the most sought after tropical fruit in Malaysia.


Durian ukak/ Durian pantan/Durian nyekak/buah pakan

Tropical forest fruits found in Sarawak like durians,dabai (jungle olives) and wild mangoes were so abundant that price for durian went down to RM 1 per durian and RM 8 per kg of dabai.There are a lot of information about cultivated durians but little is known about wild durians from the rainforest of Borneo.They are truly food of the nature which grow wild in the tropical forests of Sarawak.

Basically there are 5 varieties of jungle durians in Sarawak,namely durian ukak(durio kutejensis),durian isu(durio oxleyanus),durian isi merah(durio graveolens),durian kura-kura(durio testudinaran) and durian kulit merah(durio dulcis).

The more common ones are durian isu and durian ukak/Buah pakan.The other three are quite rare nowadays.Shown in the picture above is Durian Ukak aka Durian Nyekek aka Buah Pakan.Look at its fruitlet.How vivid is the orange color of the flesh! It is firm like custard,almost free of durian worms all the time.Taste sweet and almost odorless.Durian ukak is said to be less ‘heaty’ than the regular durians which means it won’t cause much congestion of any kind in the body system.Its creamy  and  odorless aril is unique to taste.

 Another type of jungle durian is durian isu aka durian isau .Durian Isu is a tiny and round shape durian,full of long thorns of length up to 2 cm.Look at the picture shown below.

Durian isu
Durian isu with long spikes

What do you see?Most durians have 5 lobes or chambers of a few fruitlet tucked inside while durian isu has only 4 lobes with only one or two fruitlet in each lobe.Durian Isu has orange coloured fruitlet too but the color is a bit dull.Some have yellow flesh. Durian isu has very distinctive odor  with thinner aril ,tastes alcoholic and slightly bitter sweet.Some people like it and some like it not.In other words , it is an acquired taste.There are others who love both of them,i.e,durian ukak and durian isu.

Durian isu

Many people,even the locals,get confused with these two durians.Local Chinese call these two durians ‘san durian’,meaning durians from the jungle.They may look similar but taste very different.The best way to identify durian ukak is by looking for its whiskers.It has whiskers growing at the base of the stalk or peduncle.Interesting , isn’t it? I mean who would expect durians having whiskers growing on their spiky skin?  The picture below may help to show the difference between the two.

Durian Ukak and Durian Isu
Durian Ukak and Durian Isu

There are three more varieties of jungle durians which are very rare,namely durian merah aka red-fleshed durian(durio graveolens),durian kulit merah aka red-skinned durian(durio dulcis) and durian kura-kura(durian testudinarum) .The rarest of these three is the wild burning red skin durian(durio dulcis),most commonly found in Kalimantan.Durian merah looks exactly like durian isu except its fruit has crimson-coloured flesh.The taste is also similar,sweet, alcoholic with provoking smell.Durian kura-kura has fruits growing on its trunk or exposed roots instead of branches,just like some campedak trees .

Meanwhile,details of these rare durians will be kept for another article.As for now,enjoy durian ukak and durian isu,just by looking at the pictures. My next post will be on unripe durian and durian products like tempoyak and durian kueh,a kind of local durian toffee.

For the nutritional values of these wild durians,please click Table 1.


Durian ukak
Durian ukak with whiskers at the base of its peduncle









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Pisang tanduk,the gigantic banana

Pisang tanduk or plantain is the staple food in Africa,Cuba,South  and Central America.Some of their cuisines require cooking it with meat.Over here in Malaysia,plantains are cooked without meat.Most often are deep-fried, made into banana chips or simply steamed and served as light meals for supper or breakfast.

Pisang tanduk
Pisang tanduk, 1 foot long


“An average plantain has about 220 calories and is a good source of potassium and dietary fiber.” – Wikipedia

The Scientific name for Pisang Tanduk is Musa x Paradisia fa. corniculata.It is also known as the cow horn banana in Chinese or cooking banana.Pisang tanduk or the plantain is very well liked by all races of Malaysians  in this country.As you can see from the picture above, it can grow up to 1 foot long or even longer.Its diameter is usually 3-4″.

Smaller type of pisang tanduk measures up to 6-8″ long and diameter is only 2-3″ wide.Most people would deep-fry pisang tanduk like frying pisang goreng.

Pan-fried pisang tanduk.

 Pisang tanduk has a tart taste when it is eaten raw.In reality,there are  people who first encounter pisang tanduk thinking that it is just like ordinary banana with bigger size.Some will just go ahead and peel the skin and try to eat it like eating pisang rastali or pisang keling.It does not taste sweet and its texture is not as soft as other smaller bananas.However,pisang tanduk tastes heavenly sweet and delicious after cooking.One way to enjoy this fruit is by pan-frying it.
Peel the skin and cut slices of the banana.Pan-fry with minimum quantity of oil until both sides of the slices turn brown or caramelized.Kids love bananas cooked this way.We all know that kids like deep-fried food but pan-fried food is a better choice.

Steamed Pisang tanduk.

Another choice of cooking is simply by steaming.Steamed plantain is very sweet.Some Malays serve them with grated coconut.This dish is so simple that no recipe is needed.Just cut the banana in slices without peeling the skin.Steam for 10 minutes.Done! Great for breakfast or supper,simple and delicious!

Plantains growing on the tree
Plantains growing on the tree

Baked plantain does not taste as good as the steamed and the pan-fry plantain.As such,recipe of baking pisang tanduk will not be covered here.Personally,I am in favour of only these two ways of cooking pisang tanduk.

Finally just one word of reminder :

The big banana plantain is not to be confused with the plantain herb(plantago major).

Tempoyak,the Malaysian fermented durian

Tempoyak,the local fermented durian is well liked by the Malaysians and Indonesians as well.Whenever there are excess durians,people will make durian kueh and tempoyak.


Tempoyak in plastic container
Tempoyak in plastic container

In Sarawak,tempoyak are sold at the market everyday.It tastes sour and salty with a lot of durian nutty flavour, great for cooking soup with tang hoon or glass noodles.


Tempoyak soup with tang hoon and daun kesum.
Tempoyak soup with tang hoon and daun kesum.
Tempoyak soup with glass noodles
  • 2 tbs tempoyak
  • 1 bundle of glass noodle,about 45 gm – soaked in water for 15 min.
  • 500 ml water
  • 1 dry chilly
  • daun kesum
  • 1 tsp of brown sugar(optional)
  1. Slightly stir-fry tempoyak with a bit of oil in the kuali.
  2.   Add in all other ingredients including the daun kesum, and boil for 3 min or until the noodles turn transparent.
  3. Do not add salt as tempoyak is salty by itself.
  4. Garnish with fresh daun kesum leaves.

This soup tastes great, with a faint aroma of durian and that exotic fragrance of daun kesum.It is sour and appetizing.


Another great dish with tempoyak is by stir-frying it with fried tempe.

Tempoyak stir-fry with tempe.
Tempe stir-fried with tempoyak
Tempoyak stir-fry with tempe
  • 2 tbs of tempoyak,mixed with 1 tbs of water
  • 60 – 70 gm of tempe – cut into 1 cm cubes
  • 1 tsp of  brown sugar
  • Red and green chilly, one each – sliced
  • Cilantro or chinese celery – 1/2 cup,finely chopped
  • l tbs of corn oil
  1.  Lightly fry the tempe with 1 tbs of corn oil until the cubes turn    brown.Dish out and set aside.
  2.  Add in tempoyak and fry until it turns slightly brown and smell fragrant.
  3.  Stir-fry the tempe and chillies with the fried tempoyak.
  4. Add in the cilantro and brown sugar.

A great dish of sour and sweet taste,very appetizing.


Finally,the big question – How to make tempoyak?

  • 1 kg  durian pulp (strained for 1 hr to get rid of excess water)
  • 1 – 2  tbsp  rock salt
  1.  Mash the durian pulp in a big pot.
  2. Mix the mashed durian flesh with rock salt.
  3.  Cover the pot and keep the salted pulp at room temperature.
  4.  Usually it will turn sour after  3 – 4 days.Once it turns sour,scoop the tempoyak into plastic containers and store in the fridge.

Tempoyak can last very long in the fridge.


Enjoy making your own tempoyak !