This ‘Lethal’ Durian Buffet in Bangkok Is To Die For

Nina Ecker at the durian buffet on Sept. 5, 2019 at Emquartier.
Nina Ecker at the durian buffet on Sept. 5, 2019 at Emquartier.

BANGKOK — A new addition to Bangkok’s buffet mania has come in the form of unlimited durian. Yes, a durian buffet, and for seven days only. 

But it doesn’t come cheap: 559 baht a head for an hour of overindulgence at the Emquartier luxury mall. Patrons get to eat all the durian they can, plus a host of other fruits.

The cost is roughly a-day-and-a-half’s earnings on minimum wage, but customers seem willing to fork over that amount for an hour of fruit frenzy. After all, the twice-a-year event is now entering its fourth year.

“We don’t get much profit but we do it to promote the fruits,” Saichol Achanonte, the senior chef of the Mall Group which manages Emquarter, said. 

Saichol admitted that a trial durian buffet in a less-affluent area of Bangkok wasn’t a success. 

About 40 percent of customers at Emquartier’s durian buffet are foreign (mostly Chinese), said Saichol. Chefs prepare a selection of softer and riper durians, which are popular among Chinese consumers.

But a durian buffet is dead serious business, as a gentle warning sign in Thai, English and Chinese reminds guests: “Tips about durian. Eating durian together with alcohol can be lethal as it will rapidly increase sugar levels in the body and create an aggressive warming effect in the body.”

Non-alcoholic drinkers are warned as well: “Durian and soft drink can be a deadly combination. The fruit is high in sugar; combining with caffeine content in soft drink will cause a surge in blood pressure that [could] lead to sudden death.”

Those with diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure “should be careful of overindulgence in durian.”

Nina Ecker.

The buffet is held in the open-air garden of Emquartier. Organizers feared that hosting it inside the mall would put shoppers off with the unmistakable stench of the king of tropical fruits, comparable to an old wet sock left for days without washing.

The durian on offer is the most common and popular variety in Thailand – morn thong or golden pillow. The durian is sourced directly from farmers in Chumphon province in the south.

Saichol says 10 tons of the spiky fruit was ordered for one week of buffet sessions.

“The last time around it was an orgy for some,” Thepparosh Natesuwan, a senior fresh market manager at Emquartier, interjected.

I casually asked a European lady munching on the durian buffet alone on Thursday afternoon how she liked it.

“I’m obsessed with durian,” Nina Ecker, 34, a flight attendant from Austria, said. Ecker said she had had two plates of durians already and was going back for more.

If patrons overindulge and have leftover durian on the table, the mall reserves the right to charge a 500 baht fine.

“Those who are real fans of durian know how much they should eat,” Saichol said.

The Durian Buffet is held outdoors on Emquartier’s ground floor. It will run seven times a day from 10am until 8.30pm until Sept. 10, 2019. The first round starts at 10.30am and the last round at 7.30pm. Each session lasts an hour and costs 559 baht.