I called six durian stalls yesterday before settling on Donald’s Durian for an evening feast. It’s mid-July, and although this should in theory be peak perfect durian time, the weather likes to teach us lessons about expectations. Durians are hard to come by, and for my visiting guest from Russia I wanted the best, or at least close to it.
To quote Mark Twain: “Climate is what we expect. Weather is what we get.” And that weather gives or doesn’t give us durians.
It’s heart-breaking news for anyone who booked their vacation to Malaysia for durian season. If they don’t have time or know-how to seriously hunt, they might get left with just the dregs of a lousy inbetween seasons.
But for me, this lack of durian is a challenge.
This week’s hunt led me to Donald’s new location in Section 19 of Petaling Jaya, in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur.
Where Donald’s Durian Is Now
Until recently Donald’s was one of the holy trinity of D’stalls at the famous SS2 Durian Hotspot that I’ve written about here and here and here. It was one of my favorite places to visit, a place you could be certain to find some durian any time of the year.
In fact, Donald’s was the very first durian stall to set up there.
Locals called it Durian Street, and I guess the authorities decided there were too many durians and not enough room for cars and the normal flow of traffic. Citing congestion, in June of 2015 the government forced all the durian sellers except one (Wai’s Durian Stall) to move shop.
Everything changes someday.
Even Donald himself passed away in 2013, but I think he would have approved of the new location. It’s a lot more comfortable than the old outdoor stall with a flapping canopy roof.
Now Donald’s is an indoor eaterie, replete with fans, comfortable seating, and protection from the sun and rain. We especially appreciated the solid roofing after our previous evening adventure at Say Heng Durian Stall (post coming soon), where a downpour made the experience perhaps wetter than is comfortable.
Also, this is the only durian locale I’ve ever been to in Malaysia that accepts credit cards, instead of just cash. With prices like these and appetites like ours, a credit-line definitely comes in handy!
The Durians (Call Ahead)
I settled on Donald’s after calling a number of different durian stalls in the KL area (see my KL Durian Map).
I spoke to Cindy, who told me they had, in addition to Musang King (expensive!!) and D24 (boring!!), they had D18 and XO.
When we arrived, I was delighted to see racks with plenty of durian to choose between, and also more varieties than Cindy had mentioned on the phone.
So in addition to the D18 and XO we reserved, we also had D78 and D101. There was also a lone D99, but it got snapped up about 5 minutes after we arrived.
When we sat down, we were offered a drinks menu. Although the Ginseng Crysanthemum tea looked interesting (I do like Crysanthemum tea), often these drinks are really intensely sweet and have too much sugar.
We were about to overload ourselves on durian sugar anyway, so we passed.
It was D-time, not tea-time.
D78 @ 16RM/kilo
I got excited when I saw this durian, as a lovely specimen of this variety made it onto my Best Durians of 2015.
I immediately asked for one, but it was a decision I slightly regretted. Good thing it was the cheapest durian of the evening!
Better to start on a lackluster durian then end on one, and to be honest this D78 barely registered when we had so many others on the table ready to be devoured.
Cost: 19.68 RM ($4.88 USD)
D101 @ 35RM/kilo
We went for a D101 mostly because my Russian guest had only tasted one on our trip so far, and wanted to try another, and not because I thought it would be any good.
I’m biased against D101. It’s usually a bit firm or cakey and overly sweet, with an insipid fruitiness I dislike.
I was surprised.
This D101 turned out to be one of the best durians of the evening, with a strawberry blond set of wrinkles that made it look like some kind of fashionable strawberry cream pie.
I wish you could see how beautiful it really was, but evening was upon us and my camera still has issues with low-light settings (will be getting a new one soon).
So use your imagination when I tell you that this yellow was blushed with a rose and that it tasted floral and creamy and not too sweet.
It might have been my favorite of the evening, just for shock value, except that the next durian was even more berry-delicious.
D101 Cost: 56.53RM ($14.05 USD)
D18 @ 35RM and 40RM/kg
D18 is a Thai-style durian that we have at the end of the season at Bao Sheng Durian Farm. It’s not one that I typically go for, but hey! Pickings be slim, and who’s complaining?
Plus my guest had never tasted it before, and was excited. I ordered two over the phone, just to make sure they wouldn’t end up as someone else’s dinner.
This durian was actually really good, very full mouth-feel and a wonderful berriesn’cream flavor. It still had that lovely fresh taste, like it hadn’t been off the tree too long, and I liked it even better than the more popular XO durian, which we ate next.
The durians weighed 2.84 and 2.16kgs, and later on the receipt I noticed they charged us different prices for each one.
Cost (for 2 durians): 135.63RM ($33.65 USD)
XO @ 40 RM/kilo
I’d ordered the XO, not because I think XO is something special, but because my guest wanted to try new durians.
XO has me confused. Is it a D24? It sure looks like a D24. It sure tastes like a D24. Why then, is it called XO?
Nevermind, if it tastes good who’s going to complain? I liked this XO, it had the same texture and doughy sweetness as cookie dough.
Cost for two durians: 113.40RM or $28 USD.
Musang King @ 83RM/kg
Okay, let’s stop and give a small round of applause for Musang King.
Even at a time when there are few durians around, and most of them are subpar, this guy holds his place. That must be why people love it — Musang King is reliably sticky, custardy, nut-buttery sweet. I’d hesitate to call it bitter, in the normal sense of the word, but it’s definitely got a depth of flavor.
My guest rated it his favorite durian, and liked it enough that we purchased not one, but two of them, even though the cost was a phenomenal, unheard of, through-the-roof 83RM per kilo.
Worth it? The Russian thought so.
Cost (for 2 durians): 285.52RM or $70.80 USD
As I was paying the bill, I got the chance to chat with Sue, Donald’s niece and now co-manager of the durian restaurant.
We talked about how expensive the durians were, and I teased that she was playing funny with scales. Then she set me straight. Honesty is not something they joke about at Donald’s.
In fact, they actually pay an official calibration service to check the scales and make sure they are accurate. She lifted off the top of the of the scale, where the certificate is taped, and unfolded it so I could see.
Altogether, we ate 8 durians and paid 610.76RM, most of it the cost of the Musang King. Without the Musang King, it still would have been expensive, but not unreasonable.
But I understood where my guest was coming from. With a season like this, and such a long way traveled, what can you do but be grateful the durians are there and appreciate the experience?
We left Donald’s satisfied with both the durian quality and quantity, and grateful there was somewhere in Kuala Lumpur to find some good stuff even when the weather has weird ideas.
How to Get to Donald’s Durian Restaurant
Donald’s Durian is no longer located at SS2. It’s in Section 19, only a 600 meter walk away! (the star on the map is Wai’s Durian Stall, still at SS2).
Public Transit: If coming from Chinatown, you can get on the LRT elevated train at Pasar Seni and get off at Kelana Jaya Station, then walk about 500 meters. Bus routes 12 and 85 also go there from Chinatown, but with KL’s traffic it typically takes longer to take the bus than the LRT.
Contact: If you’re planning a trip during the low season, make sure to call ahead to reserve your durians!
Address: 15, Jalan 19/29, Seksyen 19, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia