Huai Bin picked me up Sri Damansara. “So, where to?” he asked. I was hoping I could ask him that. It was a Wednesday night in Kuala Lumpur, with nothing to do but search and destroy some Durian. We spent a flurried few minutes on our phones, and decided to take a risk. We were going to Sri Hartamas.
We picked Sri Hartamas because it was in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur and because neither one of us had ever been there.
One of my favorite durian bloggers, Stinky Spikes, reported a stall there. I read about it off my phone as Huai Bin drove. “It has a sign that says Gerenti Boleh Makan,” I said. Definitely you can eat.
When we were nearly there I looked at the date of the post, and did a doubletake. Stinky Spikes had spotted it 5 years ago.
Would a street stall/durian truck still be frequenting the same location five years later? Had we just wound our way through Google’s weird backstreet directions for nothing?
Five years is a long time. My life is so inconstant that I sometimes feel like some kind of weird sea creature, sloughing dead cells and regenerating an entirely new organism every few months. Years is nearly incomprehensible.
To put it in perspective, when Stinky Spikes originally spotted that stall, I was in Costa Rica. I had just quit/fled a job working at a fasting retreat center, I was married to Rob, and we were in the midst of planning the Year of the Durian. Within one month, I’d be in Sumatra looking at my first durian tree.
Can anything really stay the same for five whole years?
We cruised down the crowded shopping street, hunched into the windshield as we peered around for the stall.
And there it was, just where Stinky Spikes said it would be, behind a KFC and across the street from some kind of high end coffee shop called “Coffea Coffee.”
It had the same four-colored beach umbrella. The same yellow slats on the side of the trucks.
The same freaking sign. “Gerenti Boleh Makan!!!”
I glanced between the picture on my phone, and then up at the reality in front of me, and it was like nothing had changed in those 1,622 days. I turned to make a philosophical witticism to Huai Bin, but was he was already gone, totally allured by the siren call of the durian.
There were three kinds of durian at the stall; Tembaga, Kempong, and Red Prawn (Udang Merah).
In particular we were curious about a cluster of durians labeled “Kembong.” Neither of us had ever heard of Kembong.
They looked suspiciously like “Chanee” durians to me, a variety from Thailand that I often see around Kuala Lumpur during the off-season. (May is still off-season).
Actually, having Red Prawn there at all was suspicious. Red Prawn is a mid-to-late season cultivar from Penang, where the very first Penang durian of the season had just dropped a few days before. No way any Red Prawn was coming from Penang.
We decided to start with the Kembong.
When I got back to the hotel, I tried my usual tactics of ferociously googling “Kembong,” but came up with nothing except for a recipe for fish.
Yani, the glowingly cheerful owner of the stall, told us this durian came from Gerik, in the far northern bit of Perak near the border with Thailand.
Kembong, Perak, is not a place. I tried that.
When she cut open the durian, its yellow smile settled any doubts I had about the identify of this so-called “Kembong.”
It was a Thai variety called Chanee. There was really no doubt about it.
But I couldn’t know whether it really grew in Gerik, or whether someone had passed it over the Thai border through Gerik. I want to point out that I don’t think Yani or her husband were being deceitful with the way they labeled the durians. Probably they bought it from a distributor in Gerik, and that’s all they bothered to ask.
Huai Bin was taken with the wonderful golden, glowing, saffron-colored flesh that is a bit meaty and not too soft. I thought it was more pretty than tasty, just enough overripe that Chanee’s metallic undertones had come out.
But seriously, who’s going to complain about eating durian with a friend?
Our Kempong Chanee cost 25 RM per kilo ($3 US per pound) and weighed 1.7 kilos (3.75 pounds). You can do the rest of the math, or just ask Google. That’s all I was about to do.
We considered leaving after our Chanee score, but it was so nice sitting on the street at the low table that we weren’t quite ready to go. So we took a gamble on the mystery durian that was labeled “Red Prawn/Udang Merah.”
Whatever this durian was, it was not Red Prawn (Udang Merah.) If you want to see what a Red Prawn *should* look like, check out the How to identify Red Prawn guide I made awhile back.
Yes, it had the football shape of a Red Prawn, but the spikes were too close together and too long, and the color of the skin was wrong.
And as I mentioned earlier, it just wasn’t the right season for Red Prawn. If we pretend for a minute it was really a Red Prawn, it meant someone was playing with some pretty cool agricultural chemicals.
I didn’t think about it at the time, but now I’m almost 100% sure it was a Puangmanee, another variety from Thailand.
It broke open, displaying bright, shiny golden plumps.
Looking at the durian in the bright lights of the stall, I coul see how some people accidentally mistake Puangmanee for Musang King.
The pods are compact and a bit firm, with enough of a waxy sheen to keep your fingers clean as you munch.
It was a lot better than the somewhat-watery Chanee. Sweet and smooth, and pretty rich, like toffee-butter.
Huai Bin thought it was awesome, and as a legit foodie his descriptions of the flavor and texture are probably better than mine.
This durian cost 28 RM per kilo ($3.50 USD per pound) and weighed 900 grams. As I currently have limited bandwidth, so you can do the Google on that one for me.
About the Sri Hartamas Stall
The name of the stall is actually “Mousang King.” It’s run by husband-and-wife team Ali Omar and Yani.
They have their own farm in Pahang, near Jerantut, but Yani told us her trees hadn’t even flowered yet this year. She wasn’t expecting fruits until September.
She wanted her own business, and she liked durian, and so they’ve now been setting up their stall at this same location, every day, all year, for over 16 years.
It’s somehow comforting to know that this stall has been sitting curbside in the evenings for so many years, like a rock in the ebb and flow of time.
A rock that you can depend on to go and get some decently good durian.
Sixteen year of time is incomprehensible to me. Sixteen years ago I had braces for my rabbitty front teeth and an obsession with Dark Unicorns (everything has an evil side), which I Googled about obsessively on our screaming dial-up connection.
So maybe some things do stay the same.
But, if you’re planning a trip to Sri Hartamas to eat durian, I’d still call this stall ahead of time. Just in case change happened.
How to Get to Mousang King, Sri Hartamas Durian Stall
Call Ali (016-3971125) or Megani (016-6466330).