In Malaysia it’s currently that miserable time in-between durian seasons. But don’t be sad if you’re passing through Kuala Lumpur at the wrong time of year. You can satiate your craving any day at a little shop in Chinatown called – wait for it — the Durian Cafe.
It’s filled floor to ceiling with durian treats and sweets and my favorite Malaysian dessert of all time: durian cendol.
It should be no surprise to you by now that I love sweets and that sugar, in one form or another, makes up the predominant portion of my diet.
Durian is of course dessert by itself, but I like Malaysian sweets too. I like the rubbery, coconut-cream jello squares of Nyonya Kui, and I like the lightly sweet soy milk soup that has the very awesome name of Momochacha. Sometimes I can’t tell what pleases me more – the name or the actual food.
But my favorite Malaysian sweet is an icy afternoon snack called cendol (pronounced with “chin”) and when you put durian on top of or mix it inside of cendol, it’s heaven.
When I saw durian cendol on the menu at Durian Kafe, I immediately knew what to order.
Rob and I rocked up to the Durian Kafe in mid-January after a tip-off from a reader who mentioned being addicted to the durian coffee served there.
I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed it before. It sits in front of the Central Market (Pasar Seni), outlined against the baby blue building and in clear sight of the Rapid KL train that I use all the freaking time.
It’s right there in front.
It’s true that I only occasionally pass through Pasar Seni, using its walking strip as a shade barrier against noon-day sun, but I still think I would have noticed a little shop as glaringly Durian-centric as this one.
It’s possible that I walked right past, ignoring the racks of I Love Malaysia key chains and Tiger t-shirts and post-cards and other boring, non-durian trinkets in front, as well as the enormous Durian Crepe sign. Durian crepes are fairly common, and as a non-eater of things with wheat, my brain checked that off as non-important information.
If I had looked closer, I would have noticed a little window where you can place your order for crepes and pancakes and pies and popiah, a fried spring roll stuffed with durian. And Durian Cendol.
Ah Brain. Sometimes you’re busy thinking you already know stuff to take a good look around. At least you got over your creamy-things=cow milk bias to discover cendol.
Cendol has a weird name and even weirder components. It’s base is fluffy shaved ice with a handful of wiggly green rice noodles on one side and a glop of sweetened kidney beans on the other.
Then you drown the ice in coconut milk and gula melaka, a tasty coconut sugar, which partially melts the ice into crunchy caves and pools of cold fatty liquid. Sometimes they will also drizzle condensed milk over top, but to make mine vegan I just asked to withhold the drizzleage.
The durian element is sometimes blended with the coconut milk, but at Durian Kafe they just plopped it on top like a fibrous spoonful of CoolWhip.
Making cendol is quick, but there were other people in line buying durian ice cream popsicles and candies and the aforementioned popiah, so we had some time to peruse the wall-to-wall, ceiling-high assortment of durian delicacies.
This is the ultimate durian tourist’s souvenir shop.
There is dried and freeze dried and fried durian. Without moving a muscle, you can gaze upon biscuits and buns and pies and cookies, tortes and candies and chocolate truffles all made with durian flesh.
One of these treats is bound to entice your durian-fearful relatives into giving it a try. The product that worked best with my relatives: durian chips.
I also brought home durian coffee for my Dad, who took the packets to his office to share. Spreading the Good Word of Durian, one durian dainty at a time.
Unfortunately cendol isn’t as easy to take home and share due to customs regulations on melting food items, but you can try making your own using this recipe, which even includes a clever tip for making the green cendol noodles yourself. Add a scoop of frozen durian on top, and you’re set until the next durian season.
How To Get To Durian Kafe
Durian Kafe is located at the main entrance to Central Market in Kuala Lumpur.
If you are staying in Chinatown, it is a short walk. Otherwise, take the Rapid KL (red line) to Pasar Seni Station. Walk down the steps, and keep going straight. Central Market is just across the street.