Mao Shan Wang 猫山王
There is something about this Mao Shan Wang, that literally drives Durian Lovers to the end of their wits. The colour, flavour, pungent smells of the durian simply overpowers the senses, and even if the box is tightly wounded up with cling wrap, it wasn’t too long before the cat is let out of the bag.
I too have fallen in love with this particular type of Durian, notably not only the king of all fruits, but I feel, it is the king of all durian types. It is worth every dollar that the durian seller tries to hack you for. That’s if they give you the best quality type of Mao Shan Wang or “Cat Mountain King” as so many who cannot speak a word of Chinese have come to use.
The name seems to be synonymous with quality, flavour and its ability to turn any heathen to become so totally devoted to its lovely hue of bright yellow. It is almost like how the baguette is like to the French. The romance between Durian lovers and their craving for bitter (bitter-sweet) Mao Shan Wang is unlikely to pass, not likely in any future. Demand is likely to increase, and this is a good sign for Durian sellers and lovers alike. More demand equals more supply, more supply equal lower prices without compromising quality.
My wife and I have become ardent fans of that elusive flavour; that bitterness. We usually get our Mao Shan Wang from this guy named “Ah Kok” and he ensures that we get what we pay for. There is no tomfoolery or smart conversations with this guy. He is no nonsense Durian seller – the type that we like to transact with. We don’t bargain, and he doesn’t take us for a ride. He delivers what he promises – which is good quality Mao Shan Wang albeit in a transparent tupperware container without the husks. We have been ordering from this guy for quite a while and for the quality, we are happy to pay the price and forgo the enjoyment of prying open the fruits with our bare hands.
Promptly he arrives at the said timing. We pay. He hands over the goods and leaves. And then for us, the ritual begins.
We would firstly gush as we open the lid (pretending that the lid was the husk of the durian) and savour the pungent flavour of that wonderful flesh. We would examine the durians to see if it was exactly what he said it would be; what we know it should be. True enough, the flesh peels over the oily-shiny surface of the seeds which is a good sign and characteristic of this type of durian. And each bite into its lovely flesh leaves us with an indescribable feeling of “Wah Lau Eh” (can’t find the right words). The bitterness is so overwhelming that you just want to yelp out an expression of satisfaction, dance around the room or do some ridiculous breakdance moves.
So far, and sadly, we have also come to love this process of buying durian. As much as I would have preferred the mystery of hacking open the thick thorny husks of the durians with my karate moves and hoping in my heart like a little child that it would be the perfect Mao Shan Wang. I have also come to accept that life is not perfect, and that the uncertainty of getting a lesser than what you expected durian has worn down my perseverance in wanting to be a puritan durian lover.
At the end of the day I concluded that Durian sellers have to sell durians. Good or bad, they have to make sure that they strike the balance between giving all the good stuff to their favourite customers and pushing off the not so good ones to the undiscerning newbie. Some durian sellers have become quite good at the art of selling/pushing durians. They seem to have a phrase to deconflict every objection that the prospective buyer may have.
Where to find good Mao Shan Wang in Singapore?
So the next question that most people would ask would be, where to find good quality Mao Shan Wang then? Good question, I honestly don’t know. But I have come across some durian sellers who have sold us durians that we thought was not too bad, and they have also assured us a sense of their trustworthiness and professionalism. Well, maybe not. Again, the term Durian sellers sell durians rings true. They don’t just sell one type of durian. They sell every type to every type of customer.
There is a stall at National Library at Toa Payoh Central that is quite good. Their guys tend to shout “Yellow!” every time they open a durian. I mean of course it is yellow right? What other colour would they be expecting their durians to have? Apparently they like to say it that way and customers seem to like the novelty of seeing these guys shout “Yellow!”.
Besides that place, we also like going to Geylang and buying from Chin Yong Fruits. The guys over there are very savvy and for their regulars, they are pretty good at delivering what their customers want, of course, price is immaterial – getting the right durian is most important.
Lastly, my all time favourite place, 717 along Yio Chu Kang Road. They open and you choose, and if you don’t like, they will open another one. Which is a rare thing these days as most Durian Sellers sell durians. They don’t just sell one type.
If these guys aren’t available, and we want to get our durian fix, we will always call “Ah Kok”, and he always delivers.