Wasn’t thinking about durian or even craving for it, but since B asked me whether I wanted to have some durian cake I decided on actual durian instead. I don’t really like products made out of the fruit anyway. So we headed to this old decrepit place called Highland Mall, where the durian specialists are….no really they are called ‘Durian Specialist’. Well, actually their name is 717 Trading but Durian Specialist is also printed on their signboard.
I haven’t been here in a while but I noticed that you can no longer sit at the cafe and have durian cake, instead they converted part of the former cafe area to the durian, rambutan and mangosteen selling stall. And the best part is tables are laid out in rows where you can sit and have your durian and not bring it home and stink up your house. Fresh durian scent is ok but stale durian smells that linger for days…no thank you.
When you pick a durian, the boy at the stall with spilt it open with a sharp chopper like knife and let you sniff it and poke at it to ensure you it’s a good one. B did the sniffing and poking. I would have no clue how to pick a good one. Anyway we selected from the cheapest bunch. One costs $8 a kilo and so our durian which is heavier than a kilo came to $12 Singapore dollars. This is not cheap as you can sometimes get a whole prepackaged box for just S$5. But there’s something nice about picking the durian seeds from the fruit itself rather than having in encased unappetisingly in polystyrene and plastic. It makes you feel quite adventurous. You also need a bit of strength and technique to break the rinds apart to get to more of the fruit hidden inside.
The durian we had today was just average, but then again we did pick the cheapest of the lot. Anyways, enough of my yammering. Here are the photos from today’s all fruit meal. Just one seed is 50 calories (equivalent to 1 small apple) so you can imagine how full you can get on this fruit alone.
It’s just gorgeous isn’t it? It think only a Singaporean or Malaysian can be truly enchanted by the sight of rows and rows of durian.
As I was picking out the seeds I realized the thorns are really spiky and it’s quite painful when your palm brushes against it. Well, those are the risks you take eating the durian the old fashioned way, but really, it’s the best way.
I wanted to have some rambutan as well, but I think we would have been too full. Also I would have preferred if the rambutans were redder. Somehow really red rambutans are more enticing.
They even provide you a sealed cup of water for free and a huge basket is nearby for you to throw away the rinds and seeds.
I found some interesting nuggets about this place on Time Out Singapore, which is run by ex-prisoners and inmates.
717 Trading has been a honey pot for durian fiends ever since it split open its first husk in 1973. With nine outlets (its main branch is at the Highland Centre), the company now operates from a factory at Changi Prison. Under the auspices of the Yellow Ribbon Project (a community programme staffed by inmates and former prisoners), 717 also churns out durian cakes, puffs, puddings and pies using pure durian pulp. Like many top tier durian importers, 717’s durians are picked at dawn in farms in Malaysia, and by late afternoon or early evening those fruits are being sold in Singapore. Owner Kwee Leng Goh notes that the D24 and Mao Shan Wang are bestsellers thanks to their thick pulp and creamy, buttery taste. ‘The texture and taste of the cheaper Malaysian durians cannot compare. The D24 and Mao Shan Wang are much richer,’ Goh says. He also recommends the D1 – which is soft, very sweet and fibreless; and the popular XO – which has a soft texture and slightly bitter taste.
We didn’t have the D24 today, but maybe next time.
Durian Specialist, 717 Trading
Highland Centre, 22 Yio Chu Kang Rd
Tel: 6287 7717