Some people eat it with rice, some with their bare hands. We find out how chefs enjoy their durians, and where they get their durian fix. This year, we’ve been lucky to have a surplus of durians, thanks to Malaysia’s hot weather. Durian stalls here are loaded with a variety of cultivars, and everyone including our local chefs are enjoying them.
Woo Wai Leong, chef-owner Restaurant Ibid
Favourite varieties: I go to Combat Durian on Balestier Road for the great range of varieties. I like Mao Shan Wang for its size and bittersweet taste…. I really enjoy XO durian for that almost alcoholic, fermented aftertaste. Not for everyone but if you do like it . . . very delectable. I was recently introduced to Red Prawn. It’s sticky sweet flavour aside, that colour is just beautiful to behold. I’m already trying to resist doing a durian dish for the restaurant that plays on the Red Prawn’s colour!
How he enjoys it: My absolute favourite way to eat durians is to cut open a fresh durian and extract the segments, seeds and all. The segments go into a covered container into the freezer for an hour or just until the outside is frozen and the inside is chilled. Biting into a semi-frozen segment of durian is one of the most hedonistic things you can do. The notion that holding off on immediate pleasure to increase the resultant payoff after a little wait is a worthwhile endeavour, and in this case, it truly is. Don’t forget the skin/membrane around the seed, that one is a connoisseur’s delight!
Chef Damian D’Silva, Executive Chef, Folklore
Favourite varieties: I like Red Prawn for its “alcoholic” flavour but it’s not easy to buy the good ones as they deteriorate quickly and get too soft. I also relish the fruit that has been “eaten” by squirrels. They don’t actually get to the flesh but the fruit has been gnawed off all thorns, making it almost smooth. The squirrel, apparently, chooses the best fruit from the entire tree. Lastly, my best experience is having eaten a durian that has passed through an elephant’s digestive system. In the past, I used to travel into the Malaysian jungle to fish, the wild durians there were outstanding! But now, I go to Ghim Moh, Katong and Stirling Road.
Willin Low, chef-owner Wild Rocket
Favourite durian variety and store: I like to get very bitter Mao Shan Wang durians from 717 Trading at Highland Centre (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! I have been spotted there on a stool eating two durians by myself.
Pang Kok Keong, chef-owner Antoinette
Savouring durians: I like Mao Shan Wang as it’s an acquired taste and I love the complexity. I eat durians at home. However, I usually eat them with my hands covered because I can’t stand my hands smelling like durian hours later. At Antoinette, I don’t make durian dessert because it requires a separate space – otherwise everything else will taste and smell like durian.
Favourite store: I usually buy from a store next to Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre (Kean Lye Fruit Trading). The owner Robin lets his customers try before buying.
Han Liguang, chef-owner of Labyrinth
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 – slight bitterness, slight sweetness, and a good firmness. Mao Shan Wang is nice, however I find that it is too rich and sweet for me.