The land of Borneo is the world's prime wildlife centre that's blessed with lush natural wonders. From the warm, contagious smiles of the aborigines to the mighty pristine forests, the allure of Borneo is simply endless. Here, you can also discover the most exotic and rarest fruits in Borneo, such as the wild durians that have red and orange flesh.

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Red & Orange Durians of Sabah, Sarawak & Brunei

As you take a first glance at this unique fruit, it is easy to think how odd-looking it is. With a prickly, thorn-covered husk, the durian might even remind you of a porcupine. However, the green and thorny exterior certainly does not do justice to the soft deliciousness concealed within.

The taste of durian is an acquired one. Many hotels and public transportation in Southeast Asia have outright bans on the fruit due to its pungent, ‘offensive’ odour. Yet ironically, there are also those who wax lyrical about their love for durian, including Alfred Russel Wallace, a nineteenth-century British naturalist, who vividly described the flesh of the fruit as ‘a rich custard highly flavoured with almonds.' Love it or not, this fruit is certainly unforgettable.

durian dalit merah
Red & Orange Durians of Sabah, Sarawak & Brunei


Origin & History of Durian

It is believed that the word ‘durian’ comes from the word ‘duri’, which means thorn in the Malay language. History also points towards the fact that the durians first originated in Borneo and Sumatra. The fruits eventually found their way to Thailand and South Vietnam through the trade route of present-day Myanmar.

Today, Thailand is the number one exporter of durians, mainly to China. Neighbouring Malaysia is set to give it some serious competition. While the flesh of Thai durian is commonly yellow in colour, those rarer red and orange variations can be found in the beautiful state of Sabah and Sarawak in East Malaysia.

red durian sabah
Durian Dalit are orange-fleshed and are grown in the wild jungles of Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei


Wild Jungle Durian: The King of Fruits in Borneo

Wild and unique, these Borneon durians are known as Durian Dalit (orange-fleshed) and Durian Sukang (red-fleshed). Their striking, aggressive colours demand a second look from curious passersby. They are known scientifically as Durio graveolens and come with red, orange and yellow flesh. This type of durians can only be found in this region, making them a must-try for visitors to Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei.

Durian Sukang: The Red Durian of Sabah

As it ripens, the husk of Durian Sukang turns into a glorious yellow. You may even go as far as to wonder if this is a by-product of synthetic colour dye. Rest assured that the vibrant hue is a magical product of nature. Both Durian Sukang and Durian Dalit are wild durians that can only be found in the remote Borneon jungles. However, there are farmers who have begun cultivating them on a small scale due to the growing demand. In Sandakan, this particular type of red durian is not planted, but found in the wild forests across the Kinabatangan river basin. Unlike normal durians which drop to the ground once fully ripe, Durian Sukang has to be manually collected from the trees by climbing.

Durian Hutan
Red wild durians are found in the jungles of Sabah


Texture, Flavor & Taste of Red Durian

How do these wild Borneon durians differ from those found in West Malaysia? Firstly, they are smaller in size. In fact, they are only as big as the palm of the hand. The flesh of the wild Borneon durians are also less dense, more bland, but still as creamy. To some, it has a smell similar to fermented wine.

Durian Sukang, with its bright red flesh, has a stronger taste and flavour compared to Durian Dalit. Many have also cautioned that it is possible to get slightly 'drunk' when too many fruits are eaten. For these reasons, it is a more popular choice among locals and foreigners, and is usually more expensive too. Despite the extravagant exterior, there are usually only two to three fruits in each Durian Sukang. In some cases, only one fruit can be found inside - which makes it even more unique. The price for Durian Sukang is approximately RM25 per kilogram, and it varies based on the volume harvested during the fruiting season.

red durian taste
Do you think you will enjoy the taste of red durian?


Tempoyak: An Exotic Delicacy in Sabah and Sarawak

Durian Sukang and Durian Dalit can be used to make ‘tempoyak’ which is a type of traditional condiment in East Malaysia. Unlike the variation in West Malaysia, the tempoyak here is not fermented but preserved using salt and stir-fried with bird’s eye chili, onion and oil. It is typically served with warm white rice, salt, and chilli as a meal.

How to Eat Red & Orange Jungle Durians

Across Southeast Asia, it is a common sight to see people eating mangosteens and drinking coconut water while having a durian feast. For the Chinese, it is believed that these fruits have 'cooling properties' that effectively cool down the body after having one too many ‘heaty’ durians. Fun fact: Mangosteen is known as the 'queen of the fruits' - making it ideal to enjoy both the king and queen together!

durian sukang
Red and orange durians can be found in local markets known as Tamu in Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei.


Where to Find Red & Orange Durians in Sabah, Sarawak & Brunei

These unique durians can be found at ‘tamu’ in the cities and rural areas of Sabah, Sarawak & Brunei. A ‘tamu’ is an open-air market where a variety of local products from farmers, fishermen, artisans, and local craftsmen are sold. Get there early as these durians sell out fast. The fruiting and peak harvest season of these durians is at the end of the year. Plan your Borneon trip accordingly so you do not miss the opportunity to try them!


For durian lovers, the unique Durian Dalit and Durian Sukang are certainly worth trying. As this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, every visitor (even those who are repulsed by the notoriously pungent scent) is encouraged to try them as it could just be the best token of remembrance from the trip.

Despite the streak of negative sentiments and ghastly memes, it is undeniable that the king of the fruit has a special place in everyone’s heart!

Happy exploring!
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