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.

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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.

Late post: Durian display at Changi International Airport

I was looking through my photo archives and realised that there are a number of photos that I haven’t posted.

So here’s one. 

  
It was during Hari Raya (Muslim new year) that Changi Airport Terminal One decided to put up this rather bizarre display to wish all Muslims a good celebration. There is a saying that when the durian is in season, sarongs come off. Sounds a bit obscene? Well, perhaps it was how it was translated to me. The saying originates from how Malays in Malaysia used to trade their cloths for good durian, even the yarns they wore were up for barter. That’s how wonderful and addictive durians are.

Anyway, the durian on display was rather large and the little sofa was a nice touch. Lots of people photographed themselves on it for their social media page.

The Rich and Good Cake Shop: Durian Swiss Roll

Durian Swiss Roll anyone?

If you’re craving some fresh durian dessert during a durian drought (or happen to be in the Arab Street ‘hood), you can buy a nice durian swiss roll from the Rich and Good Cake Shop. I bought one for my TW who was visiting from Chicago and he was very excited about it.

Overheard while in the queue.

Rrring RRiiing RRRrriinnggg…. (telephone call)

“hello, ya ya I am here”

other person speaks

“yes they sell swiss roll, what flavor you want”

other person speaks

“yes they sell swiss roll, got all kinds of flavor, carrot, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, durian what flavor you want?”

other person speaks

“no no carrot and strawberry not ready yet, another hour plus, you want durian or vanilla?”

other person speaks

“so you want or noooottt”

“ok ok I order a few now.”

This cake shop clearly has their slew of loyal customers. Judging by those in the queue, this was neither their first time here nor the first time they were queuing. At first I wasn’t sure how long it would take, every process in the shop seemed to still be non-automated and seriously pre-IBM. They don’t even have a POS, so you get a rather scrappy looking receipt. From the orders taken either at the door or by phone, everything was scribbled down by hand. It definitely retained the old-school feel and pumped out free delicious smells while you wait your turn to order. During this waiting time in the queue, there was plenty of time to browse the swiss rolls all neatly stacked in the fridge and to examine the flat cake that was exiting the oven on their trays in the tray trolleys. These were cooling and awaiting their turn to be “rolled” into a swiss roll with the requisite filling. They were definitely made on site.

Please note that this shop is a shop. Not a cafe, not a restaurant, nowhere to perch or sip an espresso. You get there (if you drive, put on a coupon for at least half an hour, park on Kandahar Street), get in the queue, wait your turn and get out. If you want the frills, check out the Japanese inspired cafe down the block, but beware the prices. If you’re price sensitive, there’s a little local modern kopitiam type of joint down the Southern end of the block.

As for my experience, I left after about half an hour with the swiss rolls for TW but unfortunately didn’t get to try them myself. That’ll be for my next trip.

Here’s their facebook page with very mixed reviews (although if you take into account what I mentioned above about the working conditions, you might sympathize with the staff), the various experiences posted should prepare you for yours. Notwithstanding, it feels nice to support an old Singapore business, there are so few of these cottage industries left: https://www.facebook.com/richandgoodcakeshop

 

Craving durian dessert in Singapore CBD

Durian Penget as the draw

Durian Pengat as the draw

I read in the local daily newspaper about a cafe that offers a durian dessert. OWL cafe in Republic Plaza is newly opened and if you are in the city, you might like to check it out. Here’s a link to a food blogger’s review of the dishes served.

Durian pengat is a sweetened durian pulp, just like having blended durian except made richer by the addition of coconut milk to unify the textures. It makes not so good durian edible in a sweet soup. Here’s a recipe from a lady who likes the dessert. However there are many ways to make this and I have not tried this so cannot vouch for it.

 

Singapore branded durian chocolate

My friend O and I went to check out the Gardens by the Bay’s latest attraction, the Children’s Garden. By the time we huffed and puffed our way there from the car park, the sun had evaporated about 5% of our body’s liquid mass. Desperate for a drink of water, we entered the nice cool air-conditioned shop that was beside the Toddler play area. It was my first time in there, and the menu consisted of the usual fast (and somewhat junky) type food that most commercial vendors believe children should be eating. While I was browsing the counter, saw a little acrylic stand selling bars of chocolate.

Gardens Chocolate

Gardens By The Bay Branded Chocolate

What possessed the GBTB to brand their own chocolate slabs for sale? I guess it could be a souvenir… they should  perhaps advertise a unique selling point that it doesn’t melt in the Singapore heat. The flavors are quite different than what you would find in a normal display in the supermarket or what Lindt would consider their bestsellers. The Durian one caught my attention, and it was all with Dark Chocolate. I didn’t get round to trying this, maybe it would be better if they sold it in one of the cold domes rather than the stall which lets you out back into the hot sun when you step out of the glass doors. I was imagining stepping out into the Toddler play area with chocolate on my hands and stains on my shirt. Nooooo….

Anyone tried this yet? Please let me know if you have. I’m a fan of the actual durian more than the processed derivatives.