Top Singapore chefs reveal their trusted durian suppliers
With durian season buoyed by this year’s bumper crop, there’s no better time than now to seek out the best durians, and who better to turn to for recommendations than our very own local chefs.
Pang Kok Keong, chef-owner of Antoinette
I buy durians from Kean Lye Fruit Trading (766 Upper Serangoon Rd), a store next to Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre. 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.
Willin Low, chef-owner of Wild Rocket
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.
Photo courtesy of Vernon Leow
Woo Wai Leong, chef-owner of Restaurant Ibid and inaugural MasterChef Asia winner
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.
Han Liguang, chef-owner of Labyrinth
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.