Have you ever noticed that there are a lot of Durian Sellers who are known as Ah Something? Maybe it is just the ones that I have visited. But so far his week, I have written about Ah Loon and Ah Kok, now I want to introduce you to Ah Seng.
Maybe we are all conditioned to think of Durian sellers as Ah Something. Could you imagine yourself buying Durians from Steven Durian? Ah Seng Durian sounds more authentic right? I guess that is why Ah Seng called his stall Ah Seng Durian even though he also goes by the English name Steven.
Anyway my quest to blog about honest Durian sellers this year has brought me to Ghim Moh market because: 1. I have to recommend somewhere in the West 2. Quite a few people have recommended Ah Seng and 3. I wanted to eat some Char Kway Teow from Guan Kee. : )
Let’s cut the crap and get on with our Durian Degustation today shall we?
Ah Seng carries a wide selection of Durians at his stall including the popular Mao Shan Wang, Golden Phoenix, Ang Hei, D13 and so on. But today I will only cover four which I have haven’t written about this year.
The first is Green Bamboo or Tek Kah (D160) which is a very sought after by Durian Devotees. This Durian is very easy to recognize because of the yellowish hollow core which is known as the “longgang” (drain) colloquially. The flesh is thick and creamy which is similar to the D24 but it has a very unique flavour that harkens back to the Kampung durians of yesteryear. In particular, the bitterness and unique aftertaste of the Durian is what is most sought after by Durian Devotees.
Unfortunately, the yield for Green Bamboo is not very high and as a result, they are being cut down to make way for more commercially viable cultivars like Mao Shan Wang, so it is getting more difficult to come by. It’s definitely one of my favourite Durians and I will go for it when it is available.
The other favourite of mine is the XO Durian so called because it tastes a bit like cognac. Well, maybe not exactly cognac, but when taken very ripe, the watery greyish yellow flesh is distinctly bittersweet and has a nice alcoholic buzz. The fruit itself is usually smaller and the husk is thin and brownish green in colour.
Kasap or Ice Cream durian is a less known breed. The fruit ripens quickly so by the time it gets to Singapore it is usually very soft and watery. So soft and watery that some people say that it can only be eaten with a spoon. That may be one of the reasons it is called Ice Cream Durian. Another explanation is that the soft yellow flesh has a strong vanilla aftertaste, much like vanilla ice cream. Yet another Durian uncle told me that it was because there used to be an Ice Cream man who used to always buy these Durians to make Durian Ice Cream! Which is the right theory? Its up to you to decide.
Ah Seng showed me two fruits and said that they are typically bean shaped and twisted. Not a very attractive fruit, but I wouldn’t pass the opportunity to give it a try if you like your Durian sweet and watery.
The Kasap Merah is more of a boutique Durian that does not have the mass appeal of a Mao Shan Wang. But it does have its own fans who specially seek them out for their dry, pastey and sticky flesh and it is distinctly less sweet than most of the other more popular cultivars.
Ah Seng started selling Durians about 30 years ago outside of his provision shop in Blk 10 Ghim Moh. He was in fact, the first one to start selling Durians in the estate. He shared with me that when he first started, there was no branded Durians. When the baskets of Durians arrive, his Sifu would be able to pick out the ones with red flesh, yellow flesh, thick flesh or bitter ones just by looking at them. It took him quite some time to learn to differentiate the different cultivars. Nowadays, all it takes is a few taps on the husk of the Durian and he will be able to tell you what the inside is going to be like.
I spent a good 2 hours with Ah Seng one afternoon to learn more about Durians. A friend of mine made the introduction and he was personable from the word go. The man is so passionate about Durians that he just can’t stop talking about them in between customers. From 2pm to 4pm, he had a regular stream of customers who simply came to him, told them what they like and left with boxful of Durians. Many of them spoke very highly of Ah Seng.
The key to getting good Durians also depends a lot on the relationship of the Durian sellers with the plantation owners. Sellers like Ah Seng who make prompt payments and feedback frequently to the plantation owners about the quality of their Durians ensure that they always get the cream of the crop. Just before the beginning of the season, Ah Seng would make a trip to Malaysia to visit the plantations, build relationships with the owners and get news of what to expect in the upcoming season. Such dedication is what enables him to provide the best Durians for his customers. It’s little wonder that his business is so good even though his stall is located well within the market and he had only moved there two months ago after his shop at Blk 10 went en bloc! This surely is testament to the fact that it is better to build your Durian business on honesty and trust!
I am confident that you will have a pleasant experience dealing with Ah Seng. He is very customer oriented and his policy is to make sure that each customer leaves satisfied and happy. His prices are also very competitive and he carries a very good range of Durian including excellent Mao Shan Wang from Bentong as well as some of the other more boutique cultivars. The only problem is that you don’t really have a descent place to sit and eat the Durian so you can only drop by to buy it back home.
Ah Seng also does catering for company functions. Best to call him in the mornings before his shop opens to inquire. His regular customers usually order their Durians in the morning and pick them up later in the day.