The nangka tree off Sau Wa Fong

The other name for nangka is jackfruit. Perhaps you know it by that name? 

I was walking by Sau Wa Fong near Star street one recent weekend and spotted the jackfruit hanging off the very productive tree. Boy, did it look good. No, I’m not going to steal any. I don’t know who the tree belongs to and how it’s looked after. What I did do, was march down to the supermarket and buy myself a pack of Malaysian jackfruit. Yum yum, it was sweet, chewy and aromatic. 

What I did reflect on was that it would’ve been incredible to have a durian tree next to it. I don’t see why the durian tree can’t thrive here, especially with global warming… the winters have been getting shorter and milder. 

Anyone got a space for a durian tree on their doorstep? 

The Jackfruit hanging off the jackfruit tree

Malaysian Stamp features the durian 

Among other local fruits, the durian stands out in size and colour. There are two durians on the stamp, at the front and back. The durian-like fruit in the middle is a jackfruit, known locally as the “nangka“. Nestled at the back is the hairy rambutan and in the front is the purple husked mangosteen.


Thanks to Meredith DPS for sending it to me!

Combat Durian Stall in Balestier

“Everyone knows that the place to buy durians in Balestier is that stall by the temple” said one of my friends who resides in Novena.

Which stall is that?

After a rather disappointing teo chew porridge buffet dinner at the Quality Hotel ( it’s very Chinese to give a name to make up for what it lacks), we took a stroll along a nicely renovated sidewalk along Balestier road to check out this stall. COMBAT DURIAN. What a name. I wonder what they are lacking……

Crazy Combat Durian Signboard

Crazy Combat Durian Signboard

There is no way you can miss the stall. It is lit up like a Christmas tree with signboards hanging from every aspect, giving instructions on where to park your car to all the news features on their stall.

Durians Available at Combat Durian

Combat Durians

Right up front and center are the durians for sale in baskets on a table. We decided to go for the Mau San Wangs.  2 please.

Prices

Prices

Durian price lists indicate what’s premium and in season… all the stalks look quite fresh.

I thought this signboard depicting the founders was pretty funny. It’s a strange thing but I guess buying durians requires a high trust factor so knowing that the owners seem reputable is important. (But why COMBAT? Was he fighting with his wife? Did they use durians as weapons? Were they in the army?)

Founders of Combat Durian

Our Mau San Wangs were opened and quickly pried out of their husks and into take-away boxes.

IMG_3975

Looks nice and richly yellow right?

Sealing the durians

Many durian stalls are now gearing up for customers who want to take their durian with them in planes, trains and automobiles. So it’s the stink-free packaging that is now standard.

Prepacked Durians for Sale

If you aren’t an expert and don’t trust them enough to select the durian, they also have open prepackaged fruit on offer at not-too-expensive prices.

Mangosteens

Of course Chinese people will tell you that Durian is “heaty” and that if you are planning to consume lots then you should balance your yin-yang with a “cooling” fruit such as the mangosteen. They usually come into season together. I don’t know if it’s really true about the balancing, but I can assure you that the mangosteens remove the taste of the durian and is quite refreshing.

Crazy Signboards at Combat Durian

These are more crazy signs at the stall.

The following picture is a picture of the competitor durian stall next door. It just has one LED flashing sign but no one was in sight of the stall. An uncleared table of durian husks, some mangosteen husks and with a name like “Sindy”, I am not sure who and what sort of patrons this stall targets. Combat durian is definitely fighting to stay on top, and they are clearly the winner along this street and neighborhood.

The "Sindy" Durian Stall in Balestier

The “Sindy” Durian Stall in Balestier

Jack and Jill went up the Hill……(Penang Hill that is)

My friend Jack, his wife and baby (neither of them are named Jill actually), went for a long weekend trip to visit relatives in Penang.

Of course it is Durian season and in a fit of being completely Kay-poh (busybody in dialect) I messaged them to ask how the durian consumption was going. They sent me these photos to “give me an idea” of the Penang durian makan fest that was happening while they messaged me.

Mmmmm, I could almost smell it and taste it. Here are the photos of the smorgasbord….. unedited.

A Whole Cempadak

A Whole Cempadak

Okay okay, that’s not durian I hear you say…!

Here we go… all this durian below for only 4 people. Well, it is the season and they do have excellent durian kakis (friends) who place the order ahead of time. Jack and his wife are one of the most organized durian consumers I know…. they planned this trip a year in advance.

Penang Durian by the Tub

Penang Durian by the Tub

These are 3 or 4 liter tubs…. Jack started eating at 8 in the evening and at 11pm was still going strong to finish the lot…

Fruit Cousins in Season: Durian and Cempadak

Fruit Cousins in Season: Durian and Cempadak

And the usual smaller 500ml tubs plus the cempadaks….

How many Cempadaks can Jack eat?

How many Cempadaks can Jack eat?

Seriously, I think my friend could be a contestant for a “Who can eat the most durians” competition, like the crazy coney island hot dog competitions in New York. It’s more healthy than hot dogs too (none of those awful processed meats and preservatives) and guaranteed to pass through the system without causing constipation!

Way to go Jack!

 

*Sadly, they couldn’t bring any durian back for me. I did get a small pack of cempadak though but it’s not the same is it.*

 

 

Durian Extravaganza: Expedition in Penang

Durian Stall in Penang (front view)

If you didn’t know that durians from Penang are famous world-over, you do now.

Balik Pulau in Penang is one of Malaysia’s premium durian cultivation zones, with the creative farm-owners cross breeding the fruit to yield the most luscious flavors, colors, aromas and innovative names.

I was in Penang for work and including the 2 in tow from KL, there were a total of 6 of us. After the work day was done with, we rewarded ourselves with a durian feast which CyL had booked in advance.
“If you don’t book and you don’t arrive early, you won’t get the best” she said knowingly. It sounded almost like a threat that if we didn’t wrap up work in time, someone else might steal our fun.
So punctually at 5.30pm, we concluded business matters and piled into our vehicles. If you have been stuck in Penang’s almost-as-famous traffic jams before, you probably know that the short distance from Pulau Tikus to Jalan Macalister took us 30 minutes. Initially, I thought we were going to the usual Jalan Anson stall (which we had patronized all these years), but MG said that the stall owners were reluctant to acknowledge and exchange substandard quality durians which were charged at premium prices.

So where is the Durian Stall?

It’s right on the corner of Lorong Susu and Jalan Macalister, you can park along Lorong Susu. I’ve labelled both stalls on the map below just in case you are desperate for durian and one stall isn’t open for any reason.

Durian Stall in Penang

And what durian varieties do they have?

Here’s a signboard that will help you with your choice. Not that they have all the types all the time, because it depends on the specific trees and when the fruits fall.

The tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

Ok, now let’s get to the durians. It was almost dinner time so we went crazy and ordered all the best varieties they had.

Green Skin Durian

I think this was the Bamboo

They were all good, very different flavors and textures. Yummy.

The Durian Susu

Durian Fingerprint Texture Test

An unripe durian is very firm and almost dry to touch. The best way to know if the durian is ripe and ready for eating is to press your finger into it and see if it leaves an imprint, indicating its softness and moisture.

(I would not recommending this test on durians displayed in supermarket packages, the supermarkets get very upset when there are lots of fingerprints all over the durian they are trying to sell).

As a substitute for finger-pressing, use your nose. The smell of ripe durians always gives it away and the stronger and more tantalizing the scent. Color is deceptive as some durians are lighter than others, but generally durian flesh does darken in color slightly on ripening.

All the durians on the table – I think each of us must have eaten at least one whole if not two…

Various durians on the table

Of course, there is no way I could return without any durians for SW so we selected several and put them in a box. Green Skin, Butter, Mau Sang Wang were the three top ones, so those got packed into plastic containers and wrapped in cling film.

All these in the box for take-away

Looks quite a lot doesn’t it? But it was wrapped up into only 7 boxes. Interestingly while we were there wrapping these, several tourists from Macau also visited the stall and wanted to bring some back. Unfortunately, their tour guide informed them that Airasia would not accept durians onto their flight and that it was pointless to spend money buying them as they would probably be confiscated.

Hey Airasia, maybe its time to allow people to bring it on as long as its packed and sealed well (they have to use a cling wrap service for the entire bag perhaps) and pay a surcharge for these. After all, what else is there really to buy as a real cultural souvenir in Penang?

Durian menu in Chinese

Some parting shots, the durian names in chinese, for the benefit of our chinese readers, and a shot of all the durian husks in bins waiting for the garbage truck.

Durian Skin Bin

Maybe the durian skins are recycled or made into compost…

This is definitely a stall worth visiting, and if you don’t eat durian (what are you doing reading this site!!) then the stall also has great mangosteens and rambutans, jackfruit and cempadak, so you can gorge on that instead.

Durian is the King and Mangosteen is the Queen

Mangosteens sold by the Kilo

Mangosteens sold by the Kilo

In the last episode of high octane durian consumption, I neglected to mention that apart from the lovely “King of fruits”, we also indulged in the very delicate and lovely “Queen of fruits”. Despite its name, the mangosteen is nothing like a mango and certain doesn’t taste like one either. Usually in simultaneous season as the durian, the mangosteen is thought to be the “yang” factor (while the durian is the “yin”) and is supposed to balance out the “heatiness” of the durian. Whether this eastern medical prescription is true in the western scientific sense, isn’t really important when you consider that the mangosteen is able to complement the flavor of the durian by its own intensity of sweetness.

I’ve heard and seen many a health food store now touting the  benefits of mangosteen juice, sold in bottles and cans which have the appearance of ribena. Just this evening in the office, we broke open a packet of dehydrated mangosteen (courtesy of Thailand) which kind of tasted like rubbery barbeque chips [ more on this in another entry].

Basically, preserving the mangosteen doesn’t really do it any justice and please – never eat any derivative and think that it provides you a true reflection of the flavor of the fruit.

For the benefit of readers who haven’t had the luxury of trying fresh mangosteens, I’d like to put a few tips and pointers up so that you can appreciate the details of the fruit when you do get a chance to eat one (or a whole bag, as it usually happens).

Mangosteen base sepal

Mangosteen base sepal

Firstly, the color. Mangosteens are a deep purple with a smooth,armoured and brittle exterior. (Apologies for this fuzzy photo, my camera didn’t shoot too well under low light so I might have to re-do this one in the future.)

Mangosteens vary in size and at smallest resemble a squash ball and can be as large as tennis balls or snooker balls. On the top of the fruit, you will usually see a green stem with the sepals of the fruit. On the bottom there is always a pretty design of the flower as pictured here on the left. By counting the number of “petals” of the flower, you can estimate the number of mangosteen fruit sacs it contains.

For example, this one has 6 and when you open it you can see that there are indeed 6 fruit sacs.

Pearly White Flesh of the Mangosteen

Pearly White Flesh of the Mangosteen

The flesh within is usually pearly white and sometimes almost translucent. If you examine the fruit sacs closely, the surface resembles threads which have been spun and interwoven into a fine silk. The seeds within each fruit sac can be approximated to the size of the fruit sac. The larger the fruit sac, the larger the seed. The small fruit sacs often have no seeds at all and are the best to eat.

The seeds are small enough to swallow, although some of us do and some of us don’t. It’s a matter of preference.

Crispy Mangosteen

Crispy Mangosteen

Sometimes, the flesh isn’t pearly white but a translucent grey. I personally am not a fan of these but some of my colleagues are completely in love with these and relish finding one as though they are gems among stones. The flesh is known as “crispy” or “crunchy” and not soft like the usual ones.

Here on the left, you can also clearly discern the outer husk/shell of the mangosteen, its inner pulpy protective layer (similar to the whitish peel of the orange) and the juicy interior.

For travellers to Malaysia and Singapore, please note that in hotels there are usually signs which tell you what is prohibited in the hotel. Most places now prohibit smoking, but they also prohibit 2 particular fruits, namely the durian and the mangosteen.

Why? Firstly durians for its pungent aroma, which once circulating in the aircon vent is notoriously difficult to eradicate. Secondly, mangosteens for their purple juice (from the interior shell) which stains all fabrics indiscriminately and permanently, making it a living nightmare for the laundrette. Even washing your hands after a dessert of mangosteens can be a challenge at times.

As I was lucky to have many expert mangosteen eater/openers with me on this particular outing, I asked SW for a demonstration on how to best open a mangosteen without injuring yourself (some people use sharp objects but this is a recipe for disaster) or staining yourself, evoking the ire of whoever is in charge of your laundry.

Mangosteen Opening Technique

Mangosteen Opening Technique

*

*

*

Useful tips when eating Mangosteen:

1. Have a toothpick ready to pick at the fruit if you don’t want to use your fingers

3. Always have tissues handy

4. Preferably have drinking water ready

5. Avoid using tissues until the end of your feast as the juice is very sticky

6. Do not touch any other fabric with your hands

7. Have a wet tissue / towel at hand for wiping up

8. Give your hands a good wash with water

9. Try eating it together with Durians- it brings out the flavor better

==================================

Hope this helps and enjoy the fruit!