The sign clearly said Red Prawn. It wasn’t in Chinese characters, it was plain English. But at a glance the durian was clearly NOT the Red Prawn (D175) durian I’d learned to adore on Penang Island, Malaysia.
“No,” the seller at Combat Durian in Belastier agreed, as I examined and questioned. “That’s “Singapore Red Prawn. Not the same as Penang Red Prawn.”
Then he turned around and engulfed a durian behind the counter in one huge gloved hand. “This is Penang Red Prawn. But, from Johor.”
Then he glared at us in a sort of friendly way. “So what you want?”
My group turned and looked at each other. “BOTH,” we cried in unison.
About Combat Durian Stall in Belastier
Combat Durian has one of the cleanest durian reputations in Singapore for honest practices and good quality durian.
That really means something, in a country where durian sellers are stereotyped as scoundrels and mafia.
If you haven’t followed Singaporean news lately, there’s almost always some disapproving yet fascinating click bait about the latest durian drama.
But Combat Durian has stayed out of the gutter for 54 years, since Mr. Ang Peck Puan founded the stall in 1965 after tiring of selling vegetables to support his 14 younger siblings.
Today the stall is mostly operated by his daughter, Linda Ang, one of the only women I’ve ever seen in the Durian Business. But we were lucky and Mr. Ang himself was at the stall that day too.
The stall is really small for being so famous, and always crowded. Even when we arrived hungry on a Thursday afternoon around 3PM, after exploring the shimmeringly hot Belastier Road neighborhood, the staff was busy busy busy opening durians, boxing them, and rolling trays away to be vacuum sealed.
Although there were few customers actually eating at the stall, it seemed no one had time to chat.
After choosing our durians at the front of the stall (the Singapore Red Prawn and the Penang Red Prawn grown in Johor) Linda herself walked us through the red lit hall to the back of the stall where there were a few more tables.
We were so curious to see how the two durians compared side by side.
I’d had both types, but at separate times and never together. I was eager to see if D13 had enough similarities with Red Prawn D175 to warrant the name mix-up.
We put them on the table and looked at them.
Identifying Red Prawn: D13 and D175
At a glance, the two durians look very distinct.
D13 was green. The Johor-grown D175 Red Prawn was more brown, with a greenish base to the thorns(and not as grey/brown as when it’s grown in Penang).
The spikes were clearly different — D13 was more blocky, with hard flat sides to each pyramidal spine, while the Red Prawn spines were smaller and had sharper little tips.
The bottoms were different too. While D13 (left) had a bald brown spot on its base, the D175 had thorns going all the way to the bottom.
Although the thorns became teenier and teenier and they reached the apex, the whole fruit had thorns on it — no bald spot.
The D13 at first glance seemed almost as pointy as the Red Prawn, but it actually had a small flat spot on the bottom that made it easier to stand the durian upright, unlike the D175 Red Prawn which kept tipping over.
The area around the stems though, which I call the “crown” was almost the same. They both had a little raised rim covered in teeny little thorns on the crown, with no bigger spines curling like on some durians.
So I guess that’s a similarity!
(I didn’t realize these shots came out so fuzzy until later, sorries 😭)
D13 AKA Singapore Red Prawn
We opened the D13 first. Beautiful orange flesh stared back at us, encased in a thick shell. The flesh was smooth and slightly firm to the touch, nary a wrinkle to be seen, and quite shiny. Our finger pokes left indentations in the flesh, but didn’t break the skin.
It was very orange, which contrasted nicely with the green shell.
The flavor was rosy, flowery, sweet, and a little bit vanilla. My friends loved it. I let them eat it.
D175 AKA Penang-Red-Prawn-Grown-in-Johor
Next we went for the D175 Red Prawn, the Penang-version now grown in Johor.
The texture was waaay softer than the D13, so soft that poking the skin was like poking a balloon filled with water. It was still a bit firmer than a Penang-grown Red Prawn, with a deeper color (in Penang good ones are kind of pinky-grey) but the color was rather impressive.
You could really see the classic American-football shape when it was opened, as opposed to D13’s flat bottom.
The flavor was stronger than the D13, a little bit less candy-like, with a hint of the classic red-wine that makes Red Prawn so irresistible.
The group downed those two durians quick.
Then we reported on what we liked better.
Nick preferred the D13, with its candy-vanilla-rose sweetness and a bit firmer texture.
Me and Richard peferred the D175, even though it was still too sweet for my tastebuds.
Christine liked them both, but said they were different and that was kind of nice for variety.
We left Combat Durian and continued our walk down Belastier Avenue, hunting durians all the way.
We saw D13 sold as Red Prawn at every durian stall. So apparently, Singapore Red Prawn is A Thing.
Even online durian delivery shops like Durian Delivery sell D13 under the name Red Prawn. But they’re not lying — look at the Url to the link. It’s “https://duriandelivery.com.sg/product/d13-red-prawn/”
But we also saw D13 being sold as Black Thorn for way too much money.
So it’s probably good to know your Red Prawns, and your D13 from your D175.
How to get to Combat Durian on Belastier Road
We walked to Combat Durian from our Liberty Coffee, where we had spent the morning working, because Singapore is a nice place to walk. Also it’s nice to burn some calories before a durian meal.
The closest bus station is at Belastier Towers and serves the 124, 125, 130, 139, 145 buses.
The closest MRT station (Novena) is 1.7km away, so if you’re opposed to walking you might just take a Grab.
And while you’re out, try out the other durian hotspots on Belastier Road. There are a lot of them!
Use this Durian Hunting Map to navigate to your next durian sweet spot, or head up to Malaysia and use the Malaysia Durian Hunter Map 😊