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Changing views on durian

PHUKET: To be honest, it was with great trepidation that I accepted an invitation to DiVine restaurant at the Thanyapura Sports and Leisure Club for a lunch feast of durian-themed dishes by Chef Moo.

By Claire Connell

Monday 21 May 2012, 09:19AM

DiVine’s Chef Moo.

DiVine’s Chef Moo.

Unlike everyone else in Southeast Asia (or so it sometimes seems), I’m not a particular fan of the King of Fruits, and while I’ve only tried it once, it was not to my tastes at all. Then there’s the smell, which can be so overpowering that the durian is banned from Singapore’s Mass Rail Transit system.

In 1856, British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace described the fruit as “a rich custard, highly flavoured with almonds, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes.”

I agree with this description entirely, and not in a complimentary way.

But, to my delight, Chef Moo proved me wrong with his array of delicious durian dishes, including chicken durian curry, durian som tam, durian spring rolls, and chicken breast stuffed with durian.

According to the chef, the trick is to use young durian, which means the smell and texture are not as overwhelming as eating the ripe fruit. Indeed, many of the dishes prepared had hardly any smell at all.

“The flavour of the durian in the dishes is not too strong, it is mostly sweet. Every dish has a vegetable and other fruit added to control the level of flavour, and to balance it out.”

For the die-hard fans of the durian, however, there are some dishes with durian puree and durian cream which are considerably stronger.

“I chose durian for the food theme because I wanted a challenge,” Chef Moo says. It’s a challenge he has magnificently risen to: Long live the King of Fruits.

DiVine’s Durian Festival runs daily from May 21 to 27 at 6.30pm, guests can sample eight salads, eight main courses, and eight desserts for B780++.

For reservations email dining@thanyapura.com

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