Go…Go…Go.. Durian Omakase!

I love this wonderful marketing strategy by 99 Old Trees in Singapore. Durian omakase (colloquially termed Sukawa by 99 Old trees.. a very Singlish phrase) is such a fabulous idea… it means you show up and the vendor picks a variety of the best fruit for you to sample (in unlimited supply). A few innovative companies in Hong Kong (that are from KL) have started doing this at sit down events, but no one has thought to coin it an “omakase” as it’s much more of a durian tasting of different varietals than necessarily the BEST of each one.

Check out this article about what 99 Old Trees is doing and do watch that video with Genevieve Loh, she’s superbly funny 😆.

I really miss being in Malaysia for durian season… is anyone coming to HK from KL/SG and can bring some omakase up for me? I miss having other varietals. In HK they only bother bringing in Musang king and maybe black thorn. Sometimes the Musang king is only so-so. I miss a good Tekka!

Ps. For the foodie uninitiated (from Wikipedia): Omakase is the Japanese tradition of letting a chef choose your order. The word means “I will leave it to you.” It’s a fine tradition that gives the chef creative freedom and the customer a memorable dining experience. Any good chef is a creative individual. … Omakase lets the chef flex their culinary talents.

A FB friend just went to 99 Old Trees and reported a stellar experience. Find them off Little India at 46 Owen Rd, #01-277 Singapore, Near Pek Kio Food Centre. But you’d better call them first… after this promo, I wonder if there’ll be any Durians left! Durians usually arrive from malaysia in the afternoon so get your tummy ready after 6pm…

Tel: +65 98222495 book by noon I would imagine!

A rival to durian, for fame, flavour and equal fervor… can you guess what it is?

Everyone who has had durian will know too well that unmistakable scent (often detectable from a distance), the very characteristic appearance of green spikes resembling a furled up hedgehog and the fire that is lit in a durian lovers’ eyes once a good fruit is presented.

Let’s now substitute the fruit “durian” with the bright green edible bean “petai“.

Petai is in its own right, a very unique bean. The pods are large and long, with a slight twist and curl. The beans themselves look quite ordinary. Mildly rubbery, a bit smaller than the average female thumb.

But the smell when it is cooked is intensely pungent and it’s very difficult to describe its taste. Bitter or bitter acidic yet a bit tasteless on its own, it is best combined with other strongly flavoured sauces like sambal (a paste made of fermented shrimp, chilli, garlic, ginger and lime concoction). The sambal petai dish is mind-blowing when cooked well and accompanied with fried fish or deep fried chicken and steaming hot off-the-stove jasmine rice.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Petai, unlike durian, will change your body odour for about one or two days post consumption. Though you may not notice it… your friends might. If you eat enough of it, it’ll also turn your pee a very fluorescent shade of green (similar to my Thai whiskey experience, but we’ll cover that another time).

The effects of petai and the pungent smell notwithstanding, petai is served in many restaurants albeit in small quantities relative to durian. This stink bean has fans and it’s non-fans, people either love eating it and sort of crave it, or refuse to try it at all.

Perhaps it was with this in mind that FAMA decided to replace durian with petai at the promotional food fair Malaysia Fest in Singapore. It can be brought in large quantities, bring in the petai lovers and satisfy some cravings. The pods also look impressive in big bunches so at least it looks good as a takeaway from the event.

Why no Durians Singapore? The smell can be contained with good packaging so I doubt this is the real reason. I suspect it’s probably more to do with husk and waste disposal.

A fruit that smells like itself

“I like fruit that smells like itself and not like something else” declared SC while cutting into some deliciously decadent milk tea roll from Yoku Moku.

“What does that mean exactly?” I asked my friend who was butchering the roll because the steel knife was a little too small.

“I just prefer fruit that smell and taste the same as how they visually appear… and are less pungent, you know” SC said grimly, examining his handiwork before offering up a grin as he served me a piece.

“Ok, so you don’t like durian. What other fruits fall into that category?” I was finding this very interesting indeed… the smell of fruits is indeed usually a subtle affair, made more so that these days, fruits are often sold packed in plastic, picked before they are ripe, or are genetically selected for other traits, scent not being one of them.

“Well… like mango for example. It doesn’t smell good to me.”

Really?! Delicious creamy mango, a fruit that has been marketed to represent the tropics and used almost as ubiquitously in equatorial cocktail drinks as the coconut?

“Err… what do you think mango smells like?” Probing… probing…

“Durian to me smells like cheesy feet, mango to me smells like raw sewage” he spat out. This description opened my eyes. Literally. I’ve never heard of mango described as smelling like raw sewage. Durian has been described by many using lots of nasty adjectives but mango to most South East Asians is sweet and fragrant(for example Thai and Philippino cuisine would be far drearier without it). How can our perceptions be so astoundingly different?

SC is a wine connoisseur, he has a sensitive nose and palate, able to distinguish the very flavours and “hint” components that make up the aroma of each wine. I’m assuming he’s very sensitive to sulphur and esters that are natural components in fruit, but perhaps are in greater concentrations in mango (and durian).

What does he like?

Grapes, strawberries, melon, peach, cherries, apples, pears, all citrus fruits. Not hot on banana, mango, jackfruit, durian. Got it.