It’s as big as a football and covered in spikes but the legend of the fruit known as durian is mostly all about its smell. It’s a pungent stench that has made durian the only fruit that’s banned in hotels, taxis and on public transport – you’ll see signs on Singaporean trains: No Smoking, No Durian. I have friends who cringe at the mere thought of durian, swearing that the odour of durian reminds them of onions and petrol, but to me it’s garbage and blocked sewers with a twist of rotten fruit and a hint of poo – potent, intoxicating and inexplicably alluring. You’d think a fruit that smells putrid, resembles a prehistoric puffer fish and pierces your skin when you pick it up is roaring “LEAVE ME ALONE”, but we humans are a determined, greedy bunch.
I ate a lot of durian in Singapore. Regular readers will know how obsessed I am with durian. I deliberately timed our trip to coincide with durian season. We can get frozen imported durian in Perth, but nothing beats fresh durian during durian season. This post is a wrap-up of my Singapore durian fest.
Dessert Bowl is in Serangoon Gardens, just a short walk from Chomp Chomp Food Centre. If you’re a big durian fan, I highly recommend doing the Chomp Chomp/Dessert Bowl double for dinner.
Our Singaporean friend Mandy orchestrated and joined us for this eating excursion. She and Jac ate mango pomelo and strawberry black pearls desserts, both refreshing creations made with fresh fruit and slippery sago pearls. I ordered the durian mousse, which is served chilled, creamy and rich, with a generous lump of durian flesh in the middle. I gave the girls a taste, but frankly, I didn’t want to share my bowl of ambrosia.
This tantalising durian mousse is the most magnificent durian dessert I’ve ever eaten anywhere. The only thing that could top it would be a durian snow egg, if Quay Restaurant chef Peter Gilmore ever took the plunge! I’d buy a plane ticket to Sydney just to eat a durian snow egg at his restaurant. I’m not kidding.
80A Serangoon Garden Way, Singapore
While you’re there, check out the miniature models of coffee shops and hawker stalls.
Goodwood Park Hotel’s Durian Fiesta
Every year since 1983, The Goodwood Park Hotel has put on a Durian Fiesta, the highlight of which is a durian dessert buffet available at lunch and dinner. I’d been drooling over this from afar ever since Mandy devilishly mentioned it, I suspect to tempt me to make a trip to Singapore. Jac wasn’t interested in a buffet of durian desserts, so Mandy made a booking for herself and me.
2014’s durian dessert creations were made with D24 durian and included: mini durian doughnuts, a durian gula Melaka (palm sugar) Swiss roll, durian puffs, durian mousse cake, durian trifle (more like a durian cream served in a shot glass, topped with crunchy cornflakes), and mini durian pancakes made by a chef right there at the buffet – a mesmerising sight. Everything tasted fresh and contained a generous amount of sticky durian flesh, especially the durian puffs and those hot mini durian pancakes.
There were other non-durian desserts on the buffet, such as a trio of chocolate mousse (white, dark and milk), raspberry mousse cake, cheesecake, lychee Charlotte, hot bread and butter pudding, but as good as they looked, I didn’t waste precious tummy space on non-durian desserts.
Goodwood Park Hotel
22 Scotts Road, Singapore
- At the time of writing, 2015 Durian Fiesta dates are yet to be announced. Prices and dates below are from 2014.
- The durian dessert buffet was available at lunch and dinner from 31 May to 13 July 2014.
- The Durian Fiesta buffet on its own was SG$34.80 per person.
- There was a Taiwan porridge buffet promotion at the same time – excellent value at SG$49.80 per person including the durian dessert buffet. That’s what we went for (separate blog post to come on the Taiwan porridge buffet).
- In addition to the durian dessert buffet, a selection of durian desserts and pastries (mousse cake, puff, strudel, crepe and ice cream) were available for purchase at the hotel’s Deli.
Durian stall, Geylang
After dinner one evening, we caught the train to Geylang, where we met up with a couple of Mandy’s best friends for a durian eating session. Our three Singaporean companions apologised for having lured us innocent tourists to a red light district, but to be honest, I was bursting with anticipation for durian and noticed nothing else.
The durians are graded and priced accordingly. The cheapest, smallest ones are SG$2 each, the best ones SG$18 per kilogram. If you like, you can eat your durian at the stall – open-air dining with a crate or bin next to each table for disposal of the seeds and shells.
And here’s where the unexpected happened. Although Jac had skipped the durian dessert buffet, she said she’d come along to Geylang and give the fresh durian a try, but I didn’t expect her to keep on eating after her first taste! Later, she told me: “The durian smell was everywhere and so strong after a while I stopped smelling it – I could just focus on the taste.” I guess being right in the centre of a durian universe made it possible for Jac to get past what had previously stopped her from really appreciating the taste and texture of the durian. She ate the fresh durian and surprised herself by really enjoying it. After this session, she willingly ate durian.
The girls told us the way to get the durian smell off your fingers is to fill an empty durian shell with water and rinse your fingers in that water. We saw many people carrying empty durian shells to the tap and doing precisely that. Jac tried it herself and was convinced it actually worked. Me, I rinsed minus durian shell because I wanted that smell to linger as long as possible.
We ate Cat Mountain King durian (the name is the literal translation of Mao Shan Wang – this popular durian variety is also famously known as Musang King). Some durians are known by code e.g. D24, D101, but many are known by more appealing names – Golden Phoenix, Black Pearl… Cat Mountain King is also sometimes called Butter Durian … kind of like Pink Lady and Golden Delicious, right? I’d love one day to tour a durian farm in Malaysia and also try one of the red/orange-fleshed varieties, such as Red Prawn. Most of the durian sold in Singapore is imported from Malaysia. Check out Durian Varieties in Malaysia and 10 types of durians from Malaysia.
Durian stall, Kovan
After dinner at Mee Sek Food Court in Kovan (blog post still to come), we spotted a durian stall nearby, same sort of set up as the one in Geylang. We couldn’t resist checking it out and having a taste. One durian between three is perfect.
Yes, Jac was fully into eating durian now. Less for me, sure – but I was thrilled to have her by my side, another activity we can enjoy together.
“Damn,” Jac said later, looking over my shoulder at the durian dessert buffet photographs. “I should’ve gone to the buffet with you guys…”
Durian is heaty
My grandma Mama never liked us kids eating much durian because it’s a ‘heaty’ food. In traditional Chinese medicine, most food items are classified as either heaty (yang) or cooling (yin), in reference to the hot or cold energy generated in your body as a result of consuming the food item. To stay healthy, your body needs to be in balance – not too heaty, not too cool. Too much heaty or cool energy can cause physical symptoms/illness; Mama always warned that heaty foods can cause sore throat, fever, nose bleeds or pimples (among other not so nice things). To counteract the heaty effect from eating durian, you’d eat a cooling food such as mangosteen – many durian stalls also sell mangosteens. I’m sure I’m not the only durian lover who still heeds the advice of her grandma.
And of course, I must include durian ice cream wafers, available from mobile ice cream carts on many Singaporean street corners. I’ve written already about Singapore’s ice cream wafers. They’re a must for any durian lover visiting Singapore.
We’re hoping to visit Singapore again. Jac’s one stipulation is that our hotel must have a pool. Mine is that we must go during durian season. Can’t wait.
One last look at that sensational durian mousse…
And just because I found it, here’s an awesome video of a cat enjoying Cat Mountain King durian. I’ve never offered our cats durian – I’m too selfish. I think Pixel would be into it as she wants to eat whatever we’re eating, but I’m sure Truffle will assume I’m trying to poison her!
Jac and I were in Singapore for 8 nights in July 2014. We paid for this trip ourselves and our friend Mandy was our local guide and makan kaki (eating buddy).
- Ice cream wafer
- Al Tasneem
- Forget chilli crab! Keng Eng Kee Seafood
- Chomp Chomp Food Centre
- High tea at the Raffles Hotel Singapore
- Tian Tian and Zhen Zhen, Maxwell Food Centre
- My Singapore durian fest – this post
- Azmi Chapati
- Yet Con
- LEGOLAND Malaysia
- Dong Po Colonial Cafe