Singapore might be home to many types of people, Chinese, Indian, Malay, Peranakan, Eurasian and so on, but the bustling country certainly comes together with strong cultures that mark and celebrate what it is to be Singaporean. Some things that make Singapore, Singapore are our casual Singlish, fragrant hawker food, and… durian, of course lah. Durian is a fruit adored by so many Singaporeans that there’s even a tradition to how the king of fruits is enjoyed here. So, if you really want to sink your teeth deep into Singapore’s durian rituals, we’re here to teach you how to do just that!
Let your senses lead you
The first thing that Singaporeans do to get their hands on their favourite fruit is to head down to the roadside stalls. The sight of spikey durians piled up along roadside fruit stalls, the calling out of durian sellers, the thundering of large knives hitting green shells, yellow flesh in styrofoam boxes on tempting display, and the heavenly aroma of durian wafting about in the air – all your senses will lead you there! During the durian seasons that usually last from May to August, you’ll find long, snaking queues at most durian stalls – and Singaporeans are surely not a people to mind waiting in line for what they deem worth it.
Thump for quality
When it comes to durians, quality is certainly a priority. Durian sellers equipped with thick gloves, one hand holding a durian and the other holding a knife, will prove the quality of their durians by thumping around the durian’s shell – toss, thump, thump, toss, thump – there’s a rhythm to buying durian here in Singapore. A beautifully ripe durian will sound like a hollow drum, which is what sellers and buyers listen out for before a durian is transferred into the eager hands of the durian lover. The sound of hitting an unripe durian sounds like hitting against a solid tree trunk – tock, tock, instead of thump, thump, and that’s no good.
Durian pros will take some extra steps to make sure – or as Singaporeans love to say, confirm plus chop – that their durian is of best standards! They scratch lightly on the stalk of the durian to check that the outer layer peels off to reveal a green inside, indicating that the durian has freshly fallen from the tree. They also take a good whiff of the top, around the stalk, to find out how the fruit will taste like. A greener, leafier scent signals a sweeter durian, while a stronger, pungent smell points to a more bittersweet taste.
Singaporeans who are looking to buy the most mouth-watering, coveted Mao Shan Wang (MSW) durian may also examine the fruit for distinct features that are characteristic of the MSW variety.
Take home in shell or styrofoam
When the durian checking rite is done with, durian sellers either crack open the durian fully, to reveal gloriously yellow, springy-to-the-touch durian flesh, then pack the seeds in styrofoam boxes for the buyer to bring home. Or, they make their crisp cuts to only the base of the durian to, one last time, prove the quality of fruit using its vibrant flesh – then customers take their durian home, shell and all.
Spread out the newspapers for a feast
The best part about the durian tradition has got to be laying out newspapers on the floor, and then huddling round to enjoy the durian together. When a durian is brought home whole, newspapers are spread out, and family or friends crouch round to watch as the durian shells are pried open, starting from the base, to unveil the golden treasure. Even if the durian has been brought home already removed from the shell, the newspaper picnic is part of the durian experience. Everyone sits around the newspaper, sucking creamy flesh easily off the seeds and contentedly enjoying each other’s simple company.
Cool off with saltwater
The finishing of the feast comes with the familiar pouring of saltwater into the durian husk, and drinking straight from the shell. This is done to neutralise the ‘heaty’ properties of durians, and keep the body in a balanced state after a heaty treat!
The durian culture in Singapore is well-familiar to both durian lovers and those indifferent to durian alike (because there’s got to be at least one durian lover in the family who relishes in Singapore’s durian traditions). With durian delivery today, you might miss out on the nostalgia of shopping by those roadside stalls, or lugging a heavy, prickly fruit back to your home. But there is definitely no missing out on the best part about having durians – sitting around with friends and family to enjoy a durian feast. Eating durian in Singapore is as much about the company as it is about taste, so, whether you’re going roadside shopping or making your durian order online, keep the durian spirit alive by indulging in your favourite fruit with the people you hold close to heart!