Sunday, January 22, 2012

Durian, from Indonesia to Singapore

Among all the sticky fingers and durian burps came the anticipated question: Should we get another one?
Our tummies were full, we seemed to vacillate but we all knew the answer: Yes.

Fruits. They're what you grab at grocery stores and farmer's markets, to be eaten as snacks or accompaniments to your meal. Garnishes, palate cleansers. But not durian. In Singapore, durian sellers have set up tables and chairs. They will open the fruits up for you to enjoy right there and then.

Butter Durian
This practice is spreading to part of Indonesia, too, like in Medan. I think this is partly for two reasons. One is that the stinky fruit is banned from public transportation like MTA and buses in Singapore, so it's harder to buy and take them home. Second, unlike berries that you'd eat as snacks, when you eat durian, you want to eat them.

You may think all durians are alike, but once you land in Singapore you'll realize you're wrong. There are as many varieties of durian as there are in the family of oranges/clementines/tangerines! One of the more popular is the butter durian (pictured above), smaller but sweeter than the durian monthong from Thailand. A box like the one above was S$10. The durian sellers can also tell you which ones are sweet vs "bitter" (they're not really bitter but has more of a subtle bitterness or more fermented taste underneath the sweetness). How? I have no idea until I eat them, but somehow they can. This isn't variety dependent but is a characteristic of each fruit.

The most popular right now, is probably the mao san wang ("king of the cat mountain" or Musang King) variety. It's also more expensive, but as we were there late at night and they were about to close, they gave them to us for S$10 also.
Mao San Wang Durian

What's the big deal about mao san wang? Just look at the seeds below:

The one with the really thin seed was the mao san wang, compared to the big butter durian seeds.That means each piece has just that much more durian meat! It also tastes better, though it's hard to compare the two we had as the butter durian was sweet and the mao san wang was "bitter".

In Indonesia, durian medan from Medan, North Sumatra is arguably the best one. Lucky me, I got to go to Medan this year, where the durian is less than a third of the price in Jakarta or Surabaya.
Durian Medan

Oh, I was told you should also pour water on the shell and drink from there after  you finish eating, to avoid getting digestive problems.
I still think the mao san wang is better than durian Medan, but I am still more than happy to chow down on durian Medan, which my whole family did over Christmas vacation!
Durian Medan


Sophia Lee

Omg awesome. I miss durian so much I can cry. I grew up in Singapore licking durian flesh off my fingers, armed with a can of soda to aid digestion. If only Angelenos can get over the "stink" and be open to open-stall durian markets like the one in Geylang!


I never give durian enough of a shot to even realize there is more than one variety. After all, how hard is it to get different varieties of bananas.

I'm sure Javier will love this post.


Aaron: Hahahaha. Jeez. But who am I kidding, you are right my friend. *as he cleans out his drool from the keyboard

Fiona: Epic post! Thank you for writing about these varieties. Just you watch (or smell, haha) I will travel to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam and try all of these wonderful specimens. On the top of my list, the red fleshed ones from Borneo <3

In the meanwhile, I have a couple of bags of Indo. shallots to hold me over (;

Gourmet Pigs   © 2008. Template Recipes by Emporium Digital