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

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First Delectable Durians of 2016

On the 1st of January, AR was in Singapore and persistent in querying when we’d be conducting our next durian expedition. “Well, I guess it has to be tomorrow then as we leave on the 3rd.”

After settling ZI down for a nap in her car seat, we picked up AR from his hotel and decided to try our luck at Dempsey. Nope. A quick spin around showed us an empty stall with no truck, durians or people in sight. It looked like an abandoned stall at 3.30pm.

Two more options, my auntie’s favourite Yio Chu Kang dudes or a cruise around Geylang for anything on offer. I rang the Yio Chu Kang dudes. 

“Our durian truck comes at 6pm. If you can come by 6 or 6.30 I can save you some good ones” he said.

“Do you have any right now? Saved from yesterday?”

“No, no, we don’t keep. We sell everything we have and fresh stock comes in everyday from Malaysia.”

“What kind of durians do you have?” I inquired.

“We have very good Mao Shan Wang  and sometimes one or two other types.”

It sounded good but 6pm was too far off. We needed durians NOW.

So off to Geylang it was. I called a shop named Wonderful durians. The sullen and sleepy voice that answered the phone told me that they had Mao Shan Wang for 28 SGD per kilo. At least I ascertained that at least one stall had their delivery today. 

  
As we turned onto Sims Avenue, our eyes immediately widened as durians were displayed on racks on the left. We did a short circuit in the car down two intersections and turned round again. The liveliest stall that kept beckoning us got our attention. (We did see Wonderful Durians but the durians on display didn’t look half as impressive as this stall.)

We left the car by the stall and all hopped out a bit too enthusiastically. The durian sellers knew we were in their clutches now. 

  
Ah Sing, our smoking, long-fringed, bad boy looking,self-appointed durian stall liaison asked what we were after.

Mao Shan Wang.

  
Two prices, he pointed to the left. Those are 20/kg. Over here, it’s 28/kg. 

  
Yes, I know all about young trees and old trees. Different flavours, different price.

“We want a really good one” said SW. “Ok” he said. “Just tell me what kind of taste you like and let me pick for you. I recommend old tree, give you at 25/kg. guarantee good or exchange for another.”

How could we refuse an offer like that? 

  
The Musang king he set in front of us was pretty much perfect. Bitter sweet and slightly fermented as requested. Soft enough to yield to the touch and thin flesh that peeled right off the misshapened seeds. Fantastic.

  
We took our time savouring each seed, comparing a lifetime of durian experiences with every bite.

  
Once we were done with our first durian, AR was predictably keen on getting another. Maybe we should try this other one called Hu Do. It was going for a premium, 35/kg. I think it was designed to draw in durian crazies like us.

  
To be fair, Ah Sing only reluctantly agreed to pick one out for us. It was nowhere close to the one we just had. Drier, meatier and altogether less fragrant and flavourful, I regretted it from the first bite. Ah Sing nodded thoughtfully and immediately searched for a replacement. The next one he opened just a sliver and asked AR to pinch a bit to assess suitability. AR said it was pretty good, better than the first. But when Ah Sing was splitting the fruit open, the sudden jerk of the knife caused the durian pellicles to tumble onto the dirty wooden table. Too AR’s chagrin, Ah Sing tossed the whole fruit into the bin without another thought. AR protested at the terrible waste of a good fruit but I told him that those wooden tables are often crawled in by cats, rats and roaches at night. Any decent durian seller wouldn’t want a case of food poisoning on their hands. So into the trash it goes. 

  
The 3rd Hu Do durian that finally came our way was acceptable to AR and SW. I was feeling rather full at this stage and just had two seeds to satisfy my tastebuds. Hu Do was generally less creamy and an overall more fleshy and robust durian. Some bitterness but this I detected as an undertone rather than an overtone.

  
ZI woke up and put an end to this durian expedition, but we’d already eaten our fill and were pretty much done anyway. 

Ah Sing provided a bottle of water each and a box of tissues. I noticed other customers donning plastic gloves to eat their durians… What’s the fun in that? Durian eating is all about the tactile sensations in the fingers and mouth. I never understood those who would eat it with a fork (BC that’s you).

  
The total damage was less than SGD 150, a steal considering what I’d have to pay in Hong Kong.

  

Kuala Lumpur Durian Stalls in SS2 Relocated to Jalan Harapan, Section 19

It was only a matter of time before this durian stall relocation happened. The durian stalls were in a prime location in Seapark. 

I saw this article in the news recently that the city council has finally decided to house the durian vendors (who took up precious parking lots) to a more permanent location. The “uproar” as stated in the news was due to the lack of parking spaces at the new location, and the lack of space for tables and stools for clients who wish to consume on the spot.

   

   
This article highlights some of the complaints… In summary, poor construction quality, lack of considerate vendor space, seating area, parking space for visitors, toilets etc etc. Traffic queues caused major congestions along the major road linking Section 19 to SS2. This road is already heavily used in the best of days. 

The councils response was that these were meant to be stalls and that if business was that good, they should open a proper shop. 

Frankly, I’m both surprised and disappointed with the council’s response. After all, they supply the permits and presumably charge for it. Did they not survey the human traffic to the stalls? See how much seating area would be required for each stall? How many cars would visit during peak season? 

The previous location was great as both tourists and locals could have dinner in the neighborhood and walk to the stalls for dessert. Seating areas were separated from the main road by a divider and a drain. 

From the description in the article, it sounds like the present area in Section 19 is literally a stall facing the main road so cars would occupy the road in order to park right next to the stalls. A nearby unlit lot was deemed too dangerous by a customer (yes, sad state of KL life now) to park the car and walk over.

An idea for the council could have been to provide more public car park space by lighting up and improving the unlit space. These would serve the nearby restaurants and encourage other businesses to consider the area attractive. Then, as durian is a seasonal and mostly a night time affair, rent the lots at night to these vendors with strict conditions to clear up every night. Alternatively, the stalls could be built near the parking lots with a toilet (though I tremble to think of the state of a public toilet in KL…). Charge the vendors more if their stalls but give them an adequate facility if the idea is to retain them in the neighborhood.

Well, city planning is unfortunately not a priority in Malaysia and this is just one example.

I couldn’t find a map of the new stall location but I made my best guess on this map. The area has changed a lot since I was last there.

Relocation of durian stalls from SS2 to Section 19

Affected stalls include Donald’s durian which has been reviewed on this blog before.

If you’ve been there recently, please let me know if the articles reflecting the concerns of the vendors are legitimate.

Grab your Free Durian in KL Dec 14-15

Oh I wish I was back in KL for this! Attention all durian lovers in Malaysia!!

Free durian in Taman Tun December 11-12.

Free durian in Imbi December 14-15.

7pm onwards.

An article announcing a new durian shop opening in Bukit Bintang is giving away a free durian to every group of 3. 
Will it be a success? As long as the fruits are good, it’s guaranteed. And one palm sized durian isn’t going to satiate so everyone will buy their own. It’s more like buy two get one free πŸ™‚ great marketing ploy.

The previous event sounds like it was off to a good start, according to this blogger

Where is the one in KL?

   
 So if you’re in KL next Monday or Tuesday check it out and let me know what you thought of the much hyped “oh chee”. If you’re late, you’ll end up with a Musang king or d24 which still isn’t bad.

Mr Eric aka Durian King, I’ll be back over Christmas please save some for me…!