I suppose if you were to open a fruit business in the chinese astrological year of the monkey, it would make sense to include the word monkey in the name. Particularly because it is so apt that monkeys love fruit. Especially high calorie ones like durian.
It was a pleasant surprise to receive an invite from the two founders of Fruit Monkeys, to check out their new durian enterprise. Kaida (Chief Inspiration Officer) got in touch and seemed genuinely pleased when I agreed to pop in sometime over the Christmas / New Year period when I was in Singapore. Please note that this is not a paid review, we were charged for what we chose and consumed.
Fruit Monkeys is located along a street which I would normally never travel on, nor pass by en route somewhere nor on foot. It’s located near Farrer Park MRT station/ hospital, on Rangoon Road but would still be several minutes walk. There’s ample street parking if you’re inclined to drive but no covered areas so be prepared to get a bit soaked in wet weather. Who eats durians on rainy days? 🙋🏻
I popped in to pick up some durian as a gift for a friends house visit, and give Fruit Monkeys a chance. The owners chose to take a shop lot in a newly constructed podium space, not your typical durian stall with such posh digs. The vicinity feels quite experimental and the transitioning of shops in the neighbourhood indicates gradual gentrification of the area.
As you can see, this isn’t a durian stall that you’d come across… you definitely have to know about it to find it.
At the end of the corridor, Fruit Monkeys has a neat and simple concept, with their durians sunbathing on the terrace.
Bernard, (the other owner) was tending to the shop that day.
What could he recommend?
Bernard said the Xiao Jin feng was excellent, would I like to try it and take a few besides the usual Mao Shan Wangs. Sure, why not. I like to try what the owner recommends, gives me a guage of their taste.
The Jin feng (Golden Phoenix) is indeed “Xiao“, it would fit in the palm of your hand. Perfectly shaped like a little plumper than a rugby ball, it’s too cute weighing in at just over a kilo per fruit. The fruit to husk ratio is pretty decent too.
The durian was opened and I was offered the tasting portion (i.e. Pick the corner seed).
It tasted like ice cream. The flesh was sweet and very smooth. I decided to take 3 of these little ones.
Now onto the main course. I was pretty keen to try this Old Tree Musang King that the owners rave about.
So here it is. Rich deep yellow with perfectly translucent skin. Certainly looked fabulous considering how late it is in the season. Corner pick 😉
Of course it’s fabulous on my deprived palate… but it didn’t have quite enough of the bitter undertones which I like. Nonetheless I took two of these as the texture was spot on.
The second MSW picked was apparently not up to par so the Sifu rejected it and selected another fruit.
Here’s the colour comparison.
As though testing me, the durian Sifu opening the fruit asked me “which one do you prefer?”
“Jin Feng” was my reply. It was a winner in both smoothness of texture and a sweet richness that was unpretentious. He smiled knowingly and told me that it is only in season for two weeks. Ahh the joys of eating seasonal fruit… sort of the same highs as getting a limited edition of a luxury item. Total came to SGD 250 for 5 fruits. Not cheap but it came with Bernard’s personal guarantee.
I was getting these to go and it was a good way to see how it would be packed.
The durians were tipped into the usual plastic containers and then heat sealed in a bag. It did reduce the smell but as it was just one layer, the smell had begun to leak once I got into the car. Oh well we had it in “convertible mode” (windows down!).
THE DEEP FREEZER FOR THE BODIES
There was a deep freezer in the corner of the store, I asked whether they could show me what they kept inside. No, just joking, there are no bodies here, just durian!
They had two categories in the freezer. One was packed premium Musang kings, all individually wrapped in cling film and packed tightly into more sturdy freezer friendly plastic box. The foil cover maintains the secrecy of what’s inside from prying eyes except that it wouldn’t fool an x-ray machine. The other were standard takeaway style plastic boxes filled with the durians that were rejected, these are sold for processing to be recreated into purees and pulp for pastries etc.
The premium grade frozen Musang kings go for SGD 110 per box and Bernard said that these were targeted to Indonesian clientele who liked to bring it home and eat it cold like ice cream.
I was reasonably impressed with the facilities, the shop was brightly lit, reasonably clean and free of bugs. There was a proper work table for the packing of the fruit and a nice wide and deep kitchen sink for washing hands and tools. The owners also had a bowl of candy out, presumably as an offering for drop ins or those needing to leave with a different flavour in their breath.
I noticed some durian brushes hung up at the side. It’s nice to keep your premium fruit looking cobweb and bug free. You can also see the different sized boxes available for travel takeaway next to their packaging materials ( i.e. Tape, scissors, heat sealing machine).
And if you go crazy excessive ordering and run out of cash, you can also pay by NETS and credit card.
I think this is a good place to take your guests for a durian experience (it’s important that first tries are good ones and at least Bernard and Kaida can curate). It’s covered so you can sit inside or in the covered walkway area if it rains. It’s also air conditioned for those who need it a little more luxe than the usual roadside haunts.
Bernard’s perspective is that he caters for durian lovers. He gets his supplier to only select the best fruit from Johor and Pahang (Raub & Bentong specifically- well reputed and old durian plantations there). He says it’s expensive but he gets a guarantee on fruit quality. If it doesn’t pass the test, he says he gets to return or refund it. This is the same promise he offers his clients. They started out as fruit lovers and have now progressed to fruit vendors.
Anyway back to the durians I bought. It was a gift to a friend. Our friend KM -a Kamoro indigenous tribe expert- is a durian lover. His wife GM even more so. They were so happy with the gift and really took time to savour every bite. Here’s the final evidence.
Seeds of Jin Feng and Musang King