Lifestyle

A date with durian: Local chefs share the best places to eat king of the fruit

When it comes to the king of fruits, you know you're in for a feast. If you're not sure where to get the best quality, these Singaporean chefs and foodies share all the best sellers to get your fix
 

Durians

Photo: 123rf

From the well-loved Mao Shan Wang to the rarer Red Prawn, this durian season is marked by abundance, thanks to the weather. With a good balance of rain and sun, durians ripen and fall from the tree more quickly. Thus, foodies have been heading to fruit stalls and bazaars in hoardes to feast on the fruit.

But where do chefs and foodies go? They tell us where they head to, when the craving for the king of fruits is coming on strong.

 

1. Woo Wai Leong, first MasterChef Asia winner and chef-owner of Restaurant Ibid

Woo Wai Leong

Photo: Woo Wai Leong

I marvel at how nature can create a fruit that has the texture of custard cream, with such a complex aroma. It makes me want to have one now just thinking about it. I like Mao Shan Wang for its size and bittersweet taste,  and I enjoy XO durian for that almost alcoholic, fermented aftertaste. I was recently introduced to Red Prawn and I must say, I find it very curious. It’s sticky-sweet flavour aside, that colour is just beautiful to behold. 

Most of the time, I get asked to follow groups of foodie friends on their durian-eating trips, or they bring some back for me as my time is almost always spent at Restaurant Ibid these days. If I do buy durians, I go to Combat Durian in Balestier (249 Balestier Road) for the great range of varieties. It also helps that there are many supper places to adjourn — yes, I often eat supper after a durian excursion. A recent find was a late-night Chinese mutton soup restaurant (after a durian-eating trip). You can sense that I like to live dangerously!

 

2. Wilin Low, chef-owner of Wild Rocket

Wilin Low

Photo: Wilin Low

I love durian — it’s the one fruit I never cook with because it’s perfect (as it is). Adding to, or subtracting anything from it, won’t make it better. I like to get very bitter Mao Shan Wang durians from 717 Trading at Highland Centre (#01- 01, 22 Yio Chu Kang Rd). I’ve been buying durians there for years.

The owner knows what I like and if they are not good, he refuses to sell them me! The place is complete with tables and stools, and I go there to eat two durians by myself.

 

3. Pang Kok Keong, chef-owner of Antoinette

Pang Kok Keong

Photo: Pang Kok Keong

I buy durians from a store next to Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre (Kean Lye Fruit Trading, 766 Upper Serangoon Rd). The owner’s name is Robin, and he will usually let his customers try before buying. I like Mao Shan Wang – it is an acquired taste and I love its complexity.

I usually eat durians with my hands covered, because I can’t stand my hands smelling of durian, even hours later. At Antoinette, I don’t make durian desserts because that would require a separate space — everything else would take on the taste and smell of durian. 

 

ALSO READ: WHERE TO GET FREE-FLOW MAO SHAN WANG DURIAN POPPED A LA MINUTE? WE HAVE THE ANSWER

 

4. Emmanuel Stroobant, chef-owner of  Saint Pierre

Emmanuel Stroobant

Photo: Emmanuel Stroobant

I surprise my wife and daughters by bringing home durians from a seller in Dempsey (Ah Di Dempsey Durian, 7 Dempsey Road).  Then, it is a home affair — we like to eat our durians cold. My girls (wife included) eat durians with a spoon! It is a Sunday afternoon treat where we settle in the basement for a movie and durian — as opposed to a movie with popcorn. We like those that are slightly sweeter and most importantly, it must be ripe to enjoy the creamy texture of the fruit.

 

5. Han Liguang, chef-owner of Labyrinth 

Han Liguang

Photo: Han Liguang

I don’t buy from any fixed place. My family buys durians from stalls at Dempsey, Katong or Toa Payoh. It is often down to convenience — we get them when we pass a durian shop and there is a craving. One of my favourite varieties? Perhaps the Black Pearl. I had it a couple of years back, and it left the strongest impression.

I felt that it had a good balance and depth of flavours — a slight bitterness, a slight sweetness, and a good firmness. Mao Shan Wang is nice, but I find that it is too rich and sweet for me.

 

6. David Yip, owner of Circa 1912 and food consultant 

David Yip

Photo: Desmond Wee / The Straits Times

I usually go to Ah Seng Durian (20 Ghim Moh Rd) for my durians. The owner has strong connections with the Malaysian durian plantations, and carries top-quality cultivars of the fruit. The seller is so popular now, the queue for his stall literally snakes round the market. He may have been the first to vacuum-seal his fruit, and many Hong Kongers and mainland Chinese buy durians from him before heading to the airport.

I myself buy his vacuum-sealed durians and bring them with me to China and Hong Kong as gifts. His Mao Shan Wang is superb, but I like the Golden Phoenix variety the most.

 

7. Edmond Ho, food photographer

Edmund Ho

Photo: Edmond Ho

I like Black Torn durian from Penang as they are not too sweet and they have a unique flavour. I usually get them from Geylang (from random stalls), but Balestier has good durian stores, too. I ate Black Torn at Macalister Road in Penang for the first time, and I think the quality is much better there. 

 

8. Maddy Barber, Kiss 92 FM DJ

 

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I order my durians online because my husband won’t let me transport any in our car! I love all durians and am not fussy about variety. When I buy, I usually order the Mao Shan Wang. You can follow @sindurian (#01-15, 113 Aljunied Ave 2), recommended to me by my best friend — who is an even bigger durian eater than me.

They are honest and reliable and when I have a craving, I text them. My youngest daughter is crazy about durians, and I often have to stop her from finishing them all!

 

9. Lynn Yeow-De Vito, PR guru and restaurateur 

Lynn Yeow-De Vito

Photo: Lynn Yeow-De Vito

I like 奶黄,王中王 and wild kampong durians! I buy from Ah Di Dempsey Durian (7 Dempsey Road) as the owner knows me really well. I usually have a standing order with him to pick up 12 durians every Sunday. He packs them up for me and has them ready for me pick up. Each packet contains two durians, so I just have to take out one packet every day to eat. 

When I was pregnant, the durians were at their peak, so I bought lots to freeze so they could last throughout my pregnancy! I ate so much when I was pregnant — 12 whole durians a week for three and a half months, which works out to two whole durians a day.

 

10. Daniel Boey, fashion consultant, show producer and director

Daniel Boey

Photo: Daniel Boey

My friends and I host durian parties regularly at our homes and we all have our different sources for durians. I tend to hit my neighbourhood for my durian fix — there is a fabulous durian store along East Coast Road (227 East Coast Rd), very close to Holy Family Church.  It’s no frills, but with friendly staff, an air conditioned interior and a wide variety of durians.

Whenever I’m in Kuala Lumpur during the season, my friends bring me to a great durian place at Petaling Jaya. We have even driven up to a small village in Pahang just by the highway, which is the place where the durians are traded. There are lots of small makeshift roadside stalls, really, really cheap and so so fresh. I love my durians slightly firmer, slightly bitter and thick and creamy.

 

ALSO READ: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DURIAN SEASON IN SINGAPORE