Hello Hello well Durian shops and stalls are getting a little more upmarket and creative in Singapore now. I was on my way to a petrol station up Bukit Timah when we rolled by a row of shoplots and I spied a new shop there that I hadn’t seen before. It was 9am in the morning and the shop didn’t look open yet, but there was no mistaking the signboard that advertised its products. I had no idea of course, whether it was a durian shop selling the actual fruit, or perhaps a shop which sells products made from durian (like the Durian Durian store in KL).
All the more reason to visit.
It was a week later after I spied the shop that I managed to check it out. TW was back from Chicago and on the food hit list, Durian ranked right after Bak Kut Teh. As there wasn’t much time (TW was only in town for about 6 days), there was a sense of urgency about the acquisition of our tasty experiences. First we went to Yu Hua Bak Kut Teh for our peppery consomme and various equally delicious side accompaniments and then it was a 20 minute drive to search out this durian place that none of us had tried before.
Driving up Bukit Timah looking for a shop lot at night is trickier than you might think, given that it is Singapore and that everything is usually well organized. At the moment, there’s a fair amount of construction going on for the new MRT train line and also the expansion of the canal. So between the two on-going projects, there’s a lot to look out for while driving as it is. Anyway, this shop is after 6th Avenue but before King Albert Park (if that helps) and you’ll see the shop lit up at night before you need to turn in (that’s a well thought out system).
So we arrived at around 10pm and found the place to be quite active. There were tables and stools set up outside the shop and 2 tables tucked away inside the shop. Since the tables outside were all occupied, we headed inside where there was also the comfort of mild air-conditioning. There are large durian posters on the wall and the whole fruits displayed on a well lit rack. There is an assortment of fruit for those who aren’t durian lovers too which is a good idea.
I left the group at the table and went to peruse the shop and goods. I noticed a chilled counter with the durian already removed from its husk and displayed in polystyrene containers wrapped in cling film.
Now in a new joint, I do enjoy being able to peruse and try before being pressed to purchase the most expensive item in the house (which is the way it usually is with many durian vendors). Being able to see the fruit to get a sense of texture and color is far better than trying to guess what it is like inside by examining the husk.
The browsing continued uninterrupted for a while until the nice cheerful storekeeper came round and asked me what I wanted.
Well, what I wanted was to be able to look at the durian close up so that I could decide which I wanted to try. The light in the cooler can be deceiving, it’s already a golden yellow which makes the fruit look luscious no matter what condition it probably is in. So I tentatively asked him what species and what he recommends. With a wide grin, a punk hair style and a chubby sort of shape, he puts you at ease and is one of the least intimidating durian sellers I’ve met. Not that other durian sellers come across particularly scary, but hey, it is a tough business and the guys that run the stalls are usually seasoned with a large dose of sweat and sunshine.
“Which is the best?” I asked.
“Oh all have different taste, but of course Mau Sang Wang is the best” Cherub said. “Which one do you want?”
“Well maybe we can get one pack of each to start with first and see what we like” I started pointing “how about this one, and this one…”
“Ok” he said picking out the packet I pointed at through the glass panel.
“The Mau Sang Wang I can’t tell , do you think you can take out a few to show me?” I asked trying my luck.
Cherub volunteered “Why don’t I pick one for you? What type you like? Sweet or bitter?”
“ooooh, the more bitter the better” I emphasized, “how do you know which one, did you try it before packing?”
He gave me the widest grin and said “I know because I am the one who opens and packs them, but I haven’t eaten durian in 2 years already”
There was nothing else to do but trust him, and I have heard all durian sellers tell me that before, maybe because they shouldn’t be consuming their own products (conflict of interest?) or maybe because they’re genuinely avoiding the ‘heatiness’ of consuming durian on a daily basis (durian is also highly addictive and fattening if you eat lots of it every day).
Well the prices seemed reasonable and the durians looked well packed without any mess or destruction to the shape or skin of the fruit. And it looked like pretty much everyone sitting at the tables outside had ordered the fruit in these boxes.
And so our little feast arrived. Not very impressive looking is it. The durians look somewhat anemic and there doesn’t appear to be much difference in tone between the D24, the XO and the Mau Sang Wang.
“Don’t worry” Cherub had told me, “if you think its not nice, I can exchange for another one”. Fair enough.
I started by reminding everyone that we should commence our journey with the D24, then proceeding to the XO and finally the Mau Sang Wang. Durian is somewhat like wine, you should save the strongest flavors for last, but fortunately it is unlike wine as you’re not already half drowsy by the alcohol by the time you get to the richest flavors. The D24 was typical and nothing to shout about, good introduction for the un-inducted. The XO held its own but pales in comparison to others that I’ve had before. The Mau Sang Wang, however, was decently tasty and had a bitter edge to it which was pleasing to the palate. Not bad at all.
It was the Mau Sang Wang that led us into the ravine of desire… to think “hey, if the fruit in the packs taste this good, wouldn’t the fresh fruit out of the husk be even more delicious and impressive?”
So SW put thought into words and suggested I attempt to bring the best Mau Sang Wang in the shop to our table.
As Cherub was busy serving other guests, a more senior version of Cherub came to assist. He wore glasses and looked a more studious version of the two. I told him what I wanted and he said no problem, he’d find me a really good one. And here it is, a small-ish cutesy Mau Sang Wang with the soft exterior and almost negligible seeds. SW couldn’t wait to tuck into it and I took this photo just in the nick of time before it was rapidly consumed.
When we split the section to reveal more seeds, the inside fruit was like stiff paper to touch and the texture was like plastic, too dry to eat. We returned the fruit and got another. Unfortunately, though the second fruit had better texture, it was the first fruit that had the better flavor. All in all, getting the Mau Sang Wang in the packs was definitely the best value for money, and the fruit also has time to ripen a little more while being chilled gives it a velvety feel of ice-cream.
So we ended the evening very full and fairly satisfied having all stuffed ourselves silly.
And so, would we go back there? The alternatives being Geylang, Dempsey and other stalls further away? The answer is yes and it’s great to know where to go to satisfy a craving in a decent neighborhood where you don’t have to worry about parking or getting ripped off and pressured to buy the largest fruit on the shelf.
A bit more about Durian Lingers: Been in Bukit Timah for the last couple of years, another branch at Joo Chiat in South Eastern Singapore. Open from 11 am to 11pm but they do close when there are no durians to sell. So be aware that this can happen during certain periods although this is infrequent as it is largely possible to get durians all year round. Check with them by phone if you’re not sure.
833 Bukit Timah Road,#01-08, Royal Ville (S) 279887 (map)
Tel: 6763 8382