Online vs offline durian

Durians are notoriously difficult to transport.

No matter how airtight the packaging, durian molecules will somehow find a way to escape and announce their presence to anyone within a 10 metre radius. If you own a car, at least you can keep your windows up to contain the fallout.

They are banned on public transport in Singapore and since we don’t drive, we can only buy our durians from stalls that are within walking distance from home. So, it’s a good thing that our friendly neighbourhood fruit stall also stocks durian whenever it’s in season.

The trucks from Malaysia arrive sometime in the early afternoon, with baskets and baskets of whole fruit. We usually walk over in the evenings to see what’s available and ask Ah Ming to choose a couple of nice ones, open them up and package the segments in takeaway styrofoam boxes.

They don’t sell many durian and their selection is not that wide, but because they’re a neighbourhood stall and rely on repeat customers, they ensure quality. When opening the spiky husk, Ah Ming will check that each segment is good and show them to us. Only after we agree does he gently lift them out and pack them.

The Wife is a huge durian fan and had a craving for some a couple of weeks back. She prefers those that are more bitter and generally buys D24 or XO, but they weren’t available that day and we ended up with one Mao Shan Wang (a.k.a. MSW, Cat Mountain King or Musang King) and one Ang Hae (a.k.a. Red Prawn).

The MSW weighed 1.75 kg and was priced at $20 per kg while the Ang Hae was lighter at 1.5 kg and cheaper at $13 per kg, for a total damage of $54 for two boxes of fruit. Ouch! Durian is a hard and spiky fruit, but the pain is mainly inflicted on the wallet and not the skin.

We’ve had MSW before and while it’s sweeter than what we prefer, the firm yet creamy texture and small seeds make it a good second choice. It’s the favourite of many people in Singapore though, resulting in high demand and a premium price.

Ang Hae is new to us, but since Ah Ming suggested it, we decided to give it a try. It was surprisingly nice and had a flavour that was sort of in between MSW and XO. The seeds themselves were larger, and therefore yielding less flesh per piece, but they were definitely good value-for-money. We’ll definitely be trying more Ang Hae in the future.

The Wife was happy with the two boxes and declared that her durian quota for this season was officially fulfilled.

However, as she was browsing Shopee on her phone one day, she spotted a flash sale from an online durian shop that was offering $22.80 (usual price $38) for a box of fresh MSW containing 400-450gm of fruit, with an additional $3.99 for doorstep delivery.

It’s not easy making an apples-to-apples comparison between prices quoted by online durian sellers and physical offline stalls. The former goes by weight of fruit, with seeds but without the husk, whereas the latter charges by total weight including the heavy husk.

Good that we had weighed the fruit from our downstairs stall previously. The 1.75kg durian yielded 450gm of fruit (with seeds) and cost $35. Therefore, the online store’s $38 list price for 400-450gm was more expensive. However, its flash sale price of $22.80 was cheaper by 25%, even after accounting for delivery charges.

A wise man once said that life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. The same applies to buying stuff online, especially from unfamiliar sellers.

This particular store was called Chng Kae and was started by the elder son of the family that runs Four Seasons Durian. He decided not to join the family business but instead started his own company (the social media-savvy Golden Moments), which he subsequently sold off to start Chng Kae.

It sounded credible, and The Wife placed the order for two boxes. The specific delivery date was confirmed separately within a 3-9pm timeslot and the actual delivery was fulfilled by uParcel, a third-party delivery service.

The boxes arrived before 5pm and we decided to have the MSW for dinner. It was definitely freshly-opened that day (i.e. the flesh was firm and not mushy or watery) and the taste was similar to the MSW that we bought from downstairs. So we were confident that it was indeed MSW that was delivered.

There were noticeable differences between the pieces, with some being sweeter than others, and we figured that they came mainly from two different fruits, with a couple of pieces from a third fruit to make up weight. We weighed both boxes and each was around 440gm, sitting comfortably on the higher end of their stated range.

Despite being the only thing we ate for dinner, 880gm of durian was too much for the two of us to finish. Still, out of the 16 seeds, we managed to polish off a respectable 13.

What do you do with durian that you can’t finish? Why, you freeze them of course, so that you can enjoy them on another day. It transforms into the purest durian ice cream that you can’t buy in stores. Just remember to thaw them out properly before eating to restore their soft and delicious creaminess.

So, when the next durian season comes along, will we buy our durians online or offline?

The answer, is that it depends.

If our fruit stall downstairs offers D24, XO or Ang Hae durians at market prices, we’ll probably just buy them from Ah Ming. But if a credible online stall sells MSW at an attractive price, we might consider ordering online again.

Or… we could just end up buying a durian cake and attempting to eat the entire thing in one sitting.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, I may earn a commission. Thanks.

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