“Say what?” we joked in the car as we spiraled through Kuala Lumpur’s serpentine highway system. Viewed from on a map from above, Kuala Lumpur looks like an octopus that tangoed with too much uranium. The roads U-turn and merge and U-turn again. But with a little help from Googlemaps and a sense of adventure, we easily found our way to a KL suburb called USJ-14, where Say Heng Durian Stall was waiting.
Say Heng Durian Stall in Kuala Lumpur
Say Heng Durian Stall is one of about three durian shops in a strip of tin-roof stalls in the parking lot of a Petronas Gas Station, right on the corner of two major roads. A peaceful dining setting it is not.
But they did have the best durian selection on the whole strip.
In front of the stall were boxes of packed D24 with their double-thumbs up durian logo.
I didn’t take pictures, but they also have some pretty cool durian t-shirts and other merch behind the counter.
We were too hungry to even wait for my friend Huai Bin to arrive. We decided it wasn’t too impolite to start with a little appetizer while we waited. Just one itsy bitsy durian barely counts, right?
We scoped out the pickings.
Far away I could see the rain coming. I hoped Huai Bin would arrived before the durian ran out, and not get stuck in storm traffic. Even in KL, which experiences rains of Genesis proportions, the highways seem to jam at the slightest sprinkle.
Pickings were slim. It was late on a Sunday, and the horrific El Nino drought had whittled away the supply. But I’d selected this stall for 2 particular durians.
The durians that had attracted our attention at Say Heng were Jantung (the “heart” durian) and Margarine, which I suspect is a relative of the Butter variety, but you can never be too sure these days.
Mr. Ong (in the grainy photo above) started our order by recording the weight and price down on these cool pads, just like if we were at a sushi restaurant. I thought this was ridiculously clever.
It makes total sense. I usually eat durian in groups and we usually order an obscene amount of durian. And usually the server just scribbles some numbers on a scrap of paper or sometimes even a napkin. Why not help us keep track of our spending in an attractive, professional way?
Suddenly this roadside venue felt classy. It’s funny how the tiniest of details can make a difference.
We started with one Margarine durian for 25/kilo.
I took lots of pictures. We tried to eat slowly.
Do you understand how hard this was? We had to make our appetizer last until Huai Bin arrived.
Even though we had about 10 more durians in the car from the day’s wanderings in Bentong.
We savored every last bite, but it was too late. We’d gotten started on durian feasting, and there was no turning back now.
We ordered another Margarine.
Does it feel like this blog post is taking forever to show you the durians?
I know, it’s all Huai Bin’s fault!
But at last he arrived just as the rain began to fall. I rushed out to the car and got our extra durians, and then the deluge began. We were forced to move tables to escape the wet.
Not Weather Proof
Say Heng is small, and even though it was covered with tarps stretching from the tin roof shelter, the rain came in. It ricocheted off the cement or metal poles, soaking our little order pad and smearing the ink.
We changed tables, but even directly under the tarps rain dripped through and splashed us. The sound of it roared against the roof, combining with the wet noise of the highway and making it difficult to talk to each other.
Luckily we had enough durian to be distracted.
And if this, plus three of four Margarines and a Jantung, wasn’t enough, our waiter brought us an extra kampung durian, on the house, just because he thought we would like it.
Of course we did.
But my favorite for the evening was Margarine.
Huai Bin, of course, being so amazingly prolific, has already beat me to the review of this durian and the evening. You can read his more in-depth post on his website, the Sixth Seal.
Margarine looked like nothing special. To be honest it looked like a sad, small version of a D24.
But it’s flavor had just the right combo of light butter and
Even though the Jantung durian was nearly indistinguishable, we all still preferred Margarine and ordered three more, until they ran out.
This one looked like a slightly slimmer version of Margarine. I’ve had Jantung before, at Wai’s Durian Stall, and it didn’t look like this one. In my experience it should be a bit more lopsided, with the unappealing shape of a beating heart.
But there’s so much diversity in durians that I’m not going to question whether this was “real” Jantung or not.
Because we could. I wanted to see a new part of the city, and Sasha and Huai Bin wanted to taste the Margarine durian.
The best thing about this stall is the service. The durian waiters, Mr. Ong, Mr. Hanifi, and Mr. Lek were some of the friendliest, most attentive durian servers I have ever met.
They hovered nearby, ever ready to open a durian or fetch us another one, even when it got crowded as everyone huddled into the tiny dry patches in the stall.
The attention to detail really changed my experience of this stall, which could have been unpleasant. It’s a noisy locale, and when it rained we all got wet.
The moral of the story: it’s the people that make a difference.
So brave KL’s highway system and go to say hey to the guys at Say Heng.
Just bring your own umbrella.
Where is USJ-14?
Good question. Another good question is why all the suburbs of KL are abbreviations and numbers instead of actual nouns.
USJ stands for the United Estate Projects of Subang Jaya. It’s a relatively affluent residential housing area built by Sime Darby, the multinational conglomerate also responsible for all the palm oil plantations you see when you land at the airport.
USJ is technically not in Kuala Lumpur, although it is part of the urban sprawl as you head out toward the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Only 21 km (13 miles) from downtown Chinatown, it’s not that far away. As a teenager growing up in the big open spaces of the USA, I drove that distance every day just going to school.
Getting to Say Heng Durian Stall
Say Heng Durian Stall is in USJ, a suburb about a 30 minute drive from downtown Kuala Lumpur.
Call ahead: +60-12-223-8352