My friends, that glorious time of the year is fast approaching.  It is time for that unmistakable smell floating throughout the markets of Singapore and on the burps of any self respecting Singaporean.  The 2016 durian season is coming.  Over the years, I have done a number of reviews of durian sellers (and species) on this blog, and have also posted the highly viewed Trusted Durian Sellers in Singapore list, which I strongly recommend you read if you’re not wanting to get cheated in Singapore.  Now although I wrote the title of this post as ‘in Singapore’ – Lets face it, all these branded durians are coming from Malaysia (although local kampong durians still exist in Singapore, they are not sold commercially).  So, if you do want a much cheaper durian experience, then hop on a bus over the Malaysia and pay literally a quarter what you are paying in Singapore, for much fresher durians.
For this post, I want to go in a slightly different direction.  I have noticed at least 9 out of ten customers buying durian are going for Cat Mountain King (mao shan wang).  This often frustrates me as there are many other durian species out there that are just as good (and much cheaper at that).  This list aims to open some peoples eyes to the varieties of durians one can buy in Singapore.

 

10th D100
D100 is a new hybrid species of durian, which has recently come up in the last few years.  Uncle Hee (Lele Durian) is particularly proud of this durian, which he calls ‘Super
100’.  The tree which these durians come from is at high elevation, and
thus produces the most fruitful crop of D100.
The flesh is extremely thick, with the seed size/shape and texture
closely resembling the black pearl durian.  However, D100 has a more
pronounced sweetness, compared with black pearl.  This durian should not
be refrigerated, as the flesh at room temperature is already so thick, a
lower temperature will cause it to become too hard.  Uncle Hee and his
son affectionately call this the ‘hello kitty’ durian, as it often sells
out.
Price (highest – lowest)
$12.00/kg – $6.00/kg
Profile
Bitter Sweet, Cloying
Best Place to Buy
9th Hor Lor (葫芦)
Hor Lor (D163) is a durian that is extremely difficult to find in Singapore, but
don’t underestimate the quality of this durian.  This durian won the
1987 and 1988 Penang Durian Competition (yes, such a thing exists).  Along with red prawn, it is one of the most famous durians in Penang.  Unfortunately, Penang plantations are too far from Singapore, so we don’t get Penang durians here in Singapore.  The name ‘hor lor’ can be translated to mean melon/gourd, which the
shape of this durian supposedly resembles.  Upon opening the durian, you
will find pale yellow large glowing orbs of flesh staring back at you.
This is without a doubt the stickiest durian I’ve ever consumed, it
almost like putting a tablespoon of peanut butter in your mouth each
bite.  Seed wise, it has a large/medium size seed, but you get a lot of
delicious dense flesh in each bite.  The aftertaste of hor lor is woody,
with undertones of coffee beans and cocoa.
Price (highest – lowest)
$12.00/kg – $8.00/kg
Profile
Incredibly thick texture, Woody, Cocoa, Coffee, Sweet
Best Place to Buy
Generally hard to find, best to call a few traders and see if they have it in stock.
8th XO
XO represents one of the most bitter durian one can buy.  It is known for being a smaller durian (in size), and having pale (almost white) flesh.  It is a fairly common durian, which you can find being sold by almost every seller in Singapore during the peak seasons.
Let me get this off my chest, because a lot of people are missing the point when it comes to selecting good XO.  For lesser educated durian lovers, wet durians automatically mean one
thing – No good.  This is true for some species, but completely false
for others.  People seek XO for its alcoholic aftertaste, which can send
your whole mouth into a buzzing frenzy.  This aftertaste is only
present in XO durians, which have undergone an extended period of
fermentation inside the shell.  Harder/Thicker fleshed XO will not have
had this extra time in the shell, and thus will not have the
aftertaste.  Therefore, if you’re looking for a flavourful XO, more
watery flesh is ideal.
Price (highest – lowest)
$12.00/kg – $5.00/kg
Profile
Bitter, Milky, Watery, Light, Alcoholic
Best Place to Buy
7th Kasap Merah (冰淇淋榴莲)
I will start by saying this is my personal favourite durian.  However, I have placed it in 7th as it is difficult to find a reliable source, and it is becoming increasingly rare.  This durian has earned the nickname ‘ice cream’ durian.  There is a lot
of speculation as to the reason behind giving it this name.  Some
believe it is because the flesh has the aftertaste of vanilla ice cream,
others think it is because the flesh is so soft, that one must eat it
with a spoon, just like ice cream.  If you are buying/consuming this
durian you should not eat it at room temperature.  If you do, the flesh will be too watery.  This durian is at its best after 24 hours in the refrigerator.
I think kasap merah is probably the most under-appreciated durian
there is.  This is really a fantastic sweet durian, that has a lovely
refreshing texture, and delicious milky vanilla taste.  Unfortunately, it is a very fragile durian, which often breaks when it falls from the tree, thus the yield is very low.
Price (highest – lowest)
$12.00/kg – $5.00/kg
Profile
Sweet, Milky, Vanilla, Cream
Best Place to Buy
Kong Lee Hup Kee Trading or Ah Chai Durian
6th Mao Shan Wang (猫山王)
I’m sorry to all the devoted fans of this durian, but MSW doesn’t get higher than 6th place on my list.  Is MSW an overrated durian – Yes and no.  Yes, because the price tag is huge and often the quality doesn’t match.  The seeds are often big, flesh often watery and flavour often flat.  On the other hand, on that rare occasion when you do get a good one, the flesh is smooth and buttery, the seed is as flat as a Lay’s crisp and the levels of bitter sweet flavour are simply astonishing – on the rare occasion you get a good one.  Frankly, for myself, the quality is too unpredictable over the last few years, and Malaysia is over-producing mao shan wang, due to the ridiculous demand (not only in Singapore, but now commonly exporting to China) placed on the farmers.
Mao Shan Wang lovers (sorry if you fit this description) often remind me of overseas Manchester United fans – Know very little about football and just pick the team that everyone else is supports.  I highly recommend the 2013 blog post ‘how to never be sold a fake mao shan wang’ by my mate over at Johor Kaki for further insights on this durian.
Price (highest – lowest)
$22.00/kg (王中王) – $12.00/kg
Profile
Bitter Sweet, Silky, Fruity, Pungent
Best Place to Buy
Almost every reputable seller.  But particularly known for the best is Leong Tee Fruit Trader and Uncle Tevin at Wonderful Fruits (Blk 151A Bishan Street 11 – Stall 29).  For luxury brand ‘king of kings’ you can try Combat Durian.
5th Tawa
This durian can be found only during the ‘winter’ season (December), and usually only
sticks around for 2-3 weeks, before disappearing again. The sheer
mystery surrounding this durian made me eager to try it and when I did I was not disappointed.  To put it short, this durian is like an XO on steroids – It has a lot of the characteristics of XO (both in terms of texture and flavour) but everything magnified.  XO will seem like some pathetic joke after trying tawa.
Although this is a mysterious durian, which comes in very low quantities, the price is pretty reasonable.  The flesh of tawa is silky smooth, without any clumps.  The seed is small, long and thin in shape.  If you can get your hands on it, you won’t be disappointed!
Price (highest – lowest)
$12.00/kg – $7.00/kg
Profile
Very Bitter, Milky, Very Alcoholic, Creamy, Pungent
Best Place to Buy
4th Red Prawn (红虾)
 I have often criticized red prawn (also known as ‘Ang Hei’) durian for being too overly sweet, with big
seeds and lacking in any bitterness at all.  However, it is important to emphasize that the quality of red prawn can differ drastically
depending on the age of the tree and region of Malaysia.  In Penang, ang
hei is one of the most sought after durians on the island, and is
supposed to be nothing like (much better) the red prawn that can be
found in Singapore. Even in Singapore, varieties of red prawn can be
very different.
The best area in Malaysia to get your red prawn from is Muar.  In Muar, they took the seeds from aged red prawn trees in Penang and planted them in the Muar plantations – Although not as good as the Penang trees (which are much older), they are still pretty phenomenal.  A good red prawn should be sugary sweet, highly pungent and with ridiculously small seeds.
Price (highest – lowest)
$12.00/kg – $6.00/kg
Profile
Sugary, Very Pungant, Slightly Bitter, Slightly Fibrous
Best Place to Buy
3rd Golden Phoenix (金凤)
Although one of the smallest durians (in size) you are likely to find (it can be as small as a mango), do not underestimated this sophisticated durian, which has arguably one of most complex flavour profile of any durian.
The flesh is in smaller chunks, and it is a pale yellow colour.  The
texture of the flesh is much drier and thicker, compared to MSW. The flavour is like a mildly alcoholic blossoming flower, which is both
fruity, zesty and sugary sweet.  The seed size is very small, so you’re
getting a decent amount of flesh for the price.  This was the most
expensive species, but well worth the extra price, as the flavour of
this durian is really something special.
Price (highest – lowest)
$16.00/kg – $10.00/kg
Profile
Fruity, Bitter Sweet, Mildly Alcoholic, Pungent
Best Place to Buy
2nd Black Pearl (黑珍珠)
For those who haven’t tried black pearl yet, you definitely should.  It
has the thickest, most dense flesh that you are ever likely to encounter
in a durian.  The flavour is typically mild, depending on the durian
you buy, it can range in degrees of sweetness and bitterness.  The name
‘pearl’ is due to the bottom of the seed resembling a pearl.  Speaking
of seeds, this durian typically has very small seeds.
Due to the thick, smooth, cloying nature of the flesh of this durian, it becomes very filling to eat.  I find that the medium size black pearl’s offer the most consistent quality of flesh – Bigger black pearls tend to have flatter flavoured flesh and bigger seeds.
 Price (highest – lowest)
$12.00/kg – $8.00/kg
Best Place to Buy
Kong Lee Hup Kee Trading or Ah Chai Durian
1st Green Bamboo/Tekka (绿竹)
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with green bamboo.  The first time I tried it, I didn’t think it was anything special quite frankly.  The seeds were big, the flavour quite flat.  Then I gave it a second and third chance, and realized just how good this durian can be.  In fact, it was only last year (at Ah Loon’s in Katong) that I ate (by my standards) a really incredible green bamboo.
Legendary durian seller Ah Seng (Steven) ranks green bamboo as his personal favourite, so there truly must be something special about this species.  It is quite a large durian, with a trademark orange ‘stem’ that goes through the core of the durian.  It is also (along with D2) one of the most notoriously difficult durians to open, with an extra tough shell.
Price (highest – lowest)
$12.00/kg – $6.00/kg
Profile
Bitter Sweet, Creamy, Cloying, Zesty, Floral, Pungent
Best Place to Buy
Ah Loon Katong Durian