Durian season is in full swing, with Singaporeans indulging in this year's bountiful harvest by buying more of the spiky fruit and throwing durian parties.
On June 20, The Straits Times reported a bumper crop of durians in Malaysia, resulting in lower prices here.
Ten durian sellers whom SundayLife! interviewed over the past week say sales have increased by 10 to 30 per cent this season, compared to last year.
At 227 Katong Durian in East Coast Road, the fruit is sold out by 6 or 7pm on weekends, says owner Wong Yew Loon, 50, compared to 10pm last year.
He sells about 15 baskets every day, each containing 50 durians.
Prices for varieties such as Golden Phoenix, Red Prawn and D13 at his stall are 20 to 30 per cent cheaper this year, and he expects the Mao Shan Wang, currently priced at $15 a kg, to drop even more next month during its peak season.
Mr Lim Leong Huat, 63, who helps out at Leong Tee Fruit Trader in Tanjong Katong Road, says: "Last year, we could still take durian orders at 9pm on weekdays but now, our durians sell out at 5pm."
At Delight Fruit Trading in Geylang, small Mao Shan Wang durians that weigh less than 1kg each are going for $5 each.
Mr Ong Kong Hua, 44, whose wife Vanessa owns the durian stall, estimates that every basket of 100 durians contains three to five small ones, and these are sold for $5 each.
Business has also been roaring at shops whose prices have remained the same as last year or even increased.
At 717 Trading in Yio Chu Kang, the average waiting time for walk-in customers is about an hour.
"Our business has always been very good, but this year's sales have increased by 10 to 20 per cent," says owner Goh Kwee Leng, 64.
His Mao Shan Wang durians are currently priced at $14 to $18 a kg, up from last year, when they were priced from $12 to $15. He says this is because he has to buy his durians at a higher price, due to more demand from Hong Kong and China.
It is the same for Mr Shui Poh Sing, 56, owner of Ah Seng Durian in Ghim Moh. Even though his prices are largely the same as last year's, demand has been so overwhelming that he stopped taking orders from customers last Wednesday as he cannot cope. All customers have to queue up to buy.
Mr Raymond Ng, 36, who helps out at his father's store Uncle Hee LeLe Durian in Ghim Moh, has seen sales increase by 20 per cent this year. He says: "The quality of durians this season is very good. Perhaps that is why customers are coming back for more."
One of them is health counsellor Justin Ong, 48, who spent about $55 buying 45 durians at one go last week in Geylang, and plans to buy even more.
He says: "Durian prices this year are the lowest I have seen in my life. To me, the cheap ones taste nearly as good as those that cost $20."
With the glut of durians, it is no wonder that companies and grassroot committees in the heartland have been hosting durian parties for residents.
Ms Shirley Lee, 35, customer service manager of fruit company Xpress Fruits, says it has received 30 per cent more requests for durian parties this year. Close to 60 companies have ordered from the company since the start of the season this month.
Meanwhile, 227 Katong Durian has received about 20 requests to cater for big and small parties, double the number last year.
On June 20, 50 residents attended a durian party organised by the Canberra Zone 2 Residents' Committee. Durian parties have been held for the past five years in the vicinity to foster a greater sense of community among neighbours.
The chairman of Canberra Zone 2 Residents' Committee, Mr Derek Lua, 38, says: "Residents are more ready to join events if they share a common interest. Many residents are interested in eating durians and tropical fruit, and such parties are good platforms to bring them together."
Durian lovers can also look forward to this year's Operation: Durian Mobilisation, a large-scale durian picnic open to members of the public. It is co-organised by the Singapore Kindness Movement and food blogger Leslie Tay, and this is the third year the event is being organised.
Thanks to the plentiful harvest, this year's edition will offer six varieties of durians. Last year, only D24 and Mao Shan Wang were available. It will be held on July 25 at Block 75A Marine Drive Communal Hall and tickets are priced at $35. For more details, go to www.kindness.sg/durianmob.
On a smaller scale, people are going all out to eat their fill of the seasonal fruit, by organising informal durian gatherings with fellow durian lovers. These include Mr Tommy Lim, 41, an assistant vice- president in a bank, and company director Peter Loh, 50.
Mr Lim is a durian enthusiast who has been conducting "durian connection sessions" every season since 2012.
At these sessions, participants can learn more about the fruit, such as its long history and the different varieties available, while feasting on it.
He says: "Sharing about durians is my passion. The durian is a very iconic fruit, one unique to Asia, and it is something we should be proud of and get to know more about."
His knowledge has been built up through frequent interactions with durian sellers, experts and enthusiasts. The sessions, which are usually held after work or on weekends, are priced between $25 and $35.
Mr Loh chose to celebrate Father's Day last Sunday by tucking into 40kg of Mao Shan Wang with 11 members of his family at his brother's home.
He says: "I chose to hold a durian party because my whole family loves durians, especially my parents.
"Since the durians are cheaper this time around, we will probably consider holding another durian party soon. Durians taste much nicer when enjoyed together with family members and friends."
$22 a kg versus $5 Mao Shan Wang
One stall sells Mao Shan Wang durians grown without pesticides. The other sells the same variety at $5 each. How do they stack up? Food editor Tan Hsueh Yun and food critic Wong Ah Yoke rate them.
818 DURIANS & PASTRIES
Where: 201 Telok Kurau Road 01-02
Open: Monday, 4 to 11pm; Tuesday to Sunday, 11am to 11pm during the durian season. Normal opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11am to 8pm; Sunday, 11am to 7pm; closed on Monday
Price: $22 a kg
Info: Call 6348-8436
Ms Tan: I like the texture of the flesh, it is firm yet creamy. Although I love very bitter durians, the balance of bitter and sweet here is wonderful and full of nuance.
Mr Wong: This is very good. Each piece has a nice balance of bitterness and sweetness. The colour of the flesh is also very beautifully yellow.
DELIGHT FRUIT TRADING
Where: 85 Sims Avenue
Open: Daily 24 hours
Price: $5 for Mao Shan Wang that weigh less than 1kg
Ms Tan: Some pieces of fruit are completely sweet while others are bitter. It has a one-dimensional flavour with no nuance and is not rich like a Mao Shan Wang.
Mr Wong: It doesn't taste like Mao Shan Wang at all. The texture is more crisp than creamy. At $5, I would buy this to make durian pudding but not to eat it on its own.