My Singapore durian fest

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

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.

Dessert Bowl
80A Serangoon Garden Way, Singapore
While you’re there, check out the miniature models of coffee shops and hawker stalls.

Up these dingy stairs You take these concrete stairs up to Dessert Bowl

Strawberry black pearls Strawberry black pearls

Mango pomelo Mango pomelo pudding

Durian mousse Durian mousse – every spoonful is rapture

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.
DSCF5591smI could smell it as soon as I walked in – my idea of heaven!

Mini durian doughnuts Mini durian doughnuts

Durian gula melaka roll Durian gula melaka roll

Durian puffs Durian puffs

Durian mousse cake Durian mousse cake

Durian trifle Durian trifle

Making mini durian pancakes Making mini durian pancakes

I could smell it as I took the photo... I could smell it as I took the photo…

Generously filled puff! Generously filled puff!

DSCF5648sm-2One of everything – but I went back for seconds of the mini pancake, swiss roll and mousse cake.

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.

DSCF6571smThe best durians are up the stairs – top shelf!

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Durian varieties

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.

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DSCF6614smWe could’ve skipped dinner before the durian and just eaten durian for dinner.
We used to do that during durian season back in Malaysia. Best dinners ever!

DSCF6617smI have no idea what the cheapie $2 durians are like. We go for the higher grade durian.

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DSCF6644smCan’t be bothered opening the durian yourself at home? These guys can do all the hard work for you.

DSCF6652smThe stall (Deluxe SG Enterprise) was between Lorong 25A and Lorong 27 in Geylang.

DSCF6675smYou’re not allowed to bring durian on the train with you. But there’s no rule about having durian breath…

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…”

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How could anyone say no to this?! How could anyone say no to this?!

DSCF7258smMore Cat Mountain King durian

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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.

DSCF7273smHard to see, but there are bags of mangosteens hanging up at this stall, cooling fruit to go with the heaty durian

Durian wafer

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.

Durian wafer - again! Durian wafer

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…

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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!

Singapore series

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).

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  • iMasticate

    omg this looks incredible!! the perfect holiday

    i dunno if the heaty foods thing is true, but my mum and her friends were very unwell when they ate durian and drank booze (spent the whole day in bed recovering in the sticky Penang heat)… lesson learnt :P

    next time you’re in KL, you should get takeaway from the Mandarin Hotel (yes, they’ll do this!). the durian pancakes are like little crêpe bundles, the most amazing delicious durian delights that i’ve ever tasted :D

    thanks for your suggestions for Singapore!

    • Glad you enjoyed it. I did my best to avoid an all-out durian binge, making sure I had breaks in between durian-eating sessions. I do get a sore throat on occasion from eating too much durian, but I’ve never fallen ill as such directly after eating durian. Thanks for the tip about Mandarin Hotel – sounds great.

  • Craig Hind

    Mmm durian!

    The cat seems to like the durian, but remember cats can lick their bums without flinching! ;-)

    I still remember the day I ate a durian pancake. I had to try it. Taste-wise it was sort of custardy, but I should have just had a custard pancake! The smell is too off-putting for me I’m afraid, but worse was the self-consiousness of having to take public transport all the way home!

    • Craig,
      I remember when you told me about your durian pancake experience. Fond memories! :P
      I’ll offer the cats durian next time I eat some and document the response.

  • Lindsay Gasik

    Great round up of the durian scene in Singapore! I really enjoyed all the photos of the durian cuisine, the puffs and pancakes and such, since as a gluten-free vegan I don’t get to partake. Can’t wait to go back to Singapore!

  • Lindsay Gasik

    Great round up of the durian scene in Singapore! I really enjoyed all the photos of the durian cuisine, the puffs and pancakes and such, since as a gluten-free vegan I don’t get to partake. Can’t wait to go back to Singapore!

  • I’m so jealous, I absolutely love durian. I’m one of the few people I know who like it though – the husband hates it, but my father-in-law loves it! We (father-in-law and I) actually recently went out to dinner together to a new Malaysian restaurant that’s now serving durian fritters…honestly, we technically went there for dinner, but we REALLY just went for the durian!