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. 

Chinese New Year Durian Festivities

How could we return to Singapore and not have durians

It is off peak and durians are frighteningly expensive for the quality that is available. So……

First up, durian mochi dessert at a chinese restaurant after a fantastic Chinese New Year feast. Round smooth pale balls of fragrant pleasure…, aaaaah.

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The inside looks and pretty much IS the real thing…

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After the mochi (only one each), we had chinese oranges, pineapple tarts and fruits. But the durian mochi was hands down the best.

And they are available at the Jade Seafood restaurant in Forum Galleria pretty much all year round.

Durian Wine… Is it worth the effort?

Lindsay recently wrote an article for Winemag on the research into durian wine.

It’s sometimes strange what research gets funded and why. Usually a committee sits down to work out the merits to justify whether a project is feasible, has the potential to be commercialised or contribute to the good of society at some point. Sometimes, institutions are flush with cash and the Principal investigator gets a free hand to do as he/ she fancies. 

In Singapore, this seems to be the case with a project involving the research into turning durian into wine. It sounds like the personal interest of a particular researcher to find any project to work on. I find it hard to believe that the economics justify the costs.
A quick comparison of the original fruit source of wine (the juicy, delicious grape) as our comparison.

  1. Durian is an expensive starting product and non-uniform fruit. Grapes which are grown by vegetative propagation are more consistent branch to branch, vineyard to vineyard. Not the case for durian fruits whose flavours vary between branches and trees.
  2. Durians aren’t naturally juicy. Grapes contain a lot of juice- great for making a drink.
  3. Durians don’t ferment naturally to produce something tasty. Grapes are the naturally occurring fermenting starter, wine making was discovered through a natural process.
  4. Durians are not popular with everyone.. I know many people who refuse excellent durian, but very few who refuse a mediocre grape. 
  5. The whole point of a grape wine is to appreciate its grape flavours mixed in with various other soil influences which the grape absorbs through its growth stages. I can’t imagine tasting a durian and sensing the soil flavours.. It just wouldn’t work for me. 
  6. All in all there must be many chemicals and steps involved to make something unpalatable into something worth drinking… Sounds pretty artificial to me.

This research works as a novelty perhaps, but I can’t see this making any real commercial headway. 

Perhaps if the research premise is to learn about what enzymes could breakdown the aromatic esters that make the durian scent so powerfully special so that you can market a durian deodorant or breath mints… Now that I can understand. 

Dr. Lu, please give me a shout if you need ideas in this direction.

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.

  

Durian attempt at Malaysia’s Agrobazaar in Singapore

The Malaysia Agrobazaar in Jalan Sultan launched with a lot of fanfare and press. A plaque on the wall bearing the signatures of two current prime ministers (Malaysia & Singapore) hangs on the wall by the door. 

  
Occupying four shop lots, the signage can only be described as discreet. The logo is printed on the rain canopy’s edge which limits the size of the font. The signage at the back of the shop is larger but you can’t enter the shop that way. 

One shop lot is a Malaysian style restaurant, the menu proposes several fancy dishes which I don’t think I’ve had in KL before, but they were mostly rice based with a twist. All quite inexpensive. 

  
Anyway. We had come for the DURIANS! 

Inside the shop (totally empty on New Year’s Day), there was a cold room with shelves that held promise. And these two very informative posters.

   
 But aside from the faint whiff of durian in the cold room, I couldn’t see any. Just melons and neatly packaged star fruit.

  
How disappointing.

A wander around the store really was a time warp back into a mini-mart in some backwater Malaysian town. The air conditioning wasn’t on so it felt rather warm and humid. One of the aisles also smelled a bit like sewage. 

Rather obscure brands and a range of processed food were displayed for sale on the shelves. It was hard to see anything that looked vaguely appetising. 

Our 10 minute reconnaissance tour was up. I was just about to walk out the door when a lady clad in a black hijab approached me and asked if she could be of any assistance. 

  
“Ah durians, now don’t have, maybe next week.” And she produced her name card. “Please call us to check before you come”.

Hmm. She was friendly enough sales person and wore a big easy smile. But what’s really going on here…?

This is supposed to be managed by the organizer of the largest farmer’s market in Malaysia (front page of website). The farmer’s aspect of it is notably and disappointingly missing. I didn’t even see a raja banana for sale. Back to the local distributors for our fruit fix.

A nod to durians at the new Singapore National Art Gallery

The new National Gallery is an impressive  space. No expense has been spared architecturally and on interior decoration to make it a contemporary museum that could be in New York, London or Paris. I thought it bore some striking similarities to the Art Institute in Chicago, lighting and displays were light, airy. 

  
Equally thoughtful was the devotion of the basement to a children’s art expression and play area. There were rooms for colouring, sticking, constructing and of course, running around. The multimedia room was a real hit… Who at any age can resist colouring in an animal of your choice, then hitting submit to “send” it to the large wall screen to see it come alive and animatedly walk around in a virtual jungle? Delightful and so versatile. 

  
Then there’s the durians. Not vying for attention with the animals but just hanging there in the background.

  
Adorable toucans, squirrels play among the durian trees buffeted by palm fronds, orchid and anthuriums. I love the tropical theme. Well done Kathryn and team!

Christmas durians 2015

I made a really boozy fruitcake for SW to share with the office. 

 

My Christmas fruitcake

 
Just wanted to show it off ;). And I wondered whether at some point, someone would try to introduce durian into fruitcakes since almost every other confectionary has a durian flavor. But this was a British fruitcake, so no durian. 

After a family Christmas dinner of excellent chinese food last night, we opened a box of defrosted durian. My mum had squirrelled this box away last durian season a few months ago and said it was the last of the Mao Shan Wangs. 

 

mao shan wang

 
The color looked very pale for a cat mountain king but the flesh looked delicate and just peeled off the seed cleanly. So fantastic.

 

just 4 segments

 
Most of the flesh was slightly bitter with a mild fermented taste but there were also some parts where the taste was quite bland… Perhaps the freeze thaw process does rob some parts of their flavour. 

  

the pebble like seeds

 Still, a very good 8/10. We will be hunting around for more so stay tuned.