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 πŸ˜†.

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.

Looking for a new durian t shirt for my wardrobe

I’ve been looking for a durian t shirt update for years. My first t shirt was my favourite but it’s no longer sold. My second t shirt was from the store G.O.D. in Hong Kong and it gets an “ok” rating from me as it has nice fabric but a mediocre design. It was a green v neck with a velvet durian in the center. I got a couple of wears out of it.

Looking around on google images, I see many durian designed themes for t shirts but they are all quite ugly. 

Why? Firstly, the depiction of the durian is “as is”, where the picture printed on the shirt is just a center aligned  image of the cut open fruit. That just smacks of artistic inertia. Who would want to wear that? 

Secondly the t shirts look like cheap quality.  I guess you get what you pay for. As they say in Singapore and Malaysia “Good no cheap, cheap no good”. Cheap quality t shirts only look good on models, when they are brand new and if you’re super skinny. 

After all that trawling, did I finally find one that fits my two t shirt wearing criteria? 

Yes, thanks to a Singaporean designer. I like the detailing of the string and that the durian isn’t just plonked in the central body of the shirt. 

The only issue now is whether it’ll fit me. The sizes look like they run small. I’ll try to find out and let you know if I decide to get one. 

Invitation to visit Fruit πŸ’Monkeys, Singapore

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? πŸ™‹πŸ»

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 πŸ˜‰


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. 

FACILITIES


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

A special durian import from Singapore

I was so happy when JaQ contacted me informing me that she was coming to Hong Kong… and more importantly did I want any durian?

Well you all know the answer to that! I asked her to bring for me what she could reasonably carry without overburdening herself. We agreed on two boxes.

She told me that she’d obtain the durian from the stall in Dempsey which she had gone to a few nights before. She said the durian was delicious but that the season was ending. STOP. Let me interpret that for you. Season ending means price is on an upward trajectory. 

A few nights before, JaQ paid 23 SGD per kilo… by the time she got it for me, it had increased to 28 SGD per kilo. JaQ’s observation was that it was buying gold, with a daily spot price. She’s absolutely right! 

Anyway I asked her to take some photos for me so that I can share the experience. I have to say now that both the durian and the packaging was fantastic. A big thank you to JaQ for all the effort. Much appreciated.

Ok here we go:


Doesn’t look like much of a crowd that night. Three couples on a durian date… because it’s the ultimate test.


In the event you’d like to inquire and reserve your durians in advance.. the only way to secure the better quality fruit.


JaQ got me 3 durians, just about 4.5Kg.


Ooh look at the beautiful fruit… it got me salivating.., I could imagine the aroma…


As it was coming by air, it had to be properly sealed. The vendor uncle did a good job ensuring that the durian didn’t move within the container (individual wrapping in cling film takes care of that) and the paper absorbs moisture, prevents prying eyes and heat penetration.


Then everything slips into a vacuum bag for air-tight sealing. Not forgetting the label, of course. Nothing going in or out of that, not even a molecule of air. Yup.


The ringgit is really weak, good for Singaporeans who enjoy Malaysia imported food πŸ™‚


JaQ even threw in a gift for me! Thanks JaQ! Freeze dried durian. I’ve opened it and had a few pieces but am saving it… it has to last me til Christmas when I return for my next fill!