Crowned with thorns and exuding a royal stink, the durian occupies the throne as Southeast Asia’s King of Fruits. A sizable number of Malaysia’s durian orchards are located in Penang, which probably explains why Penangites harbour such hardcore love for the oft-misunderstood fruit. While purists turn their nose up at anything that wasn’t pried straight from the husk, the more liberal enthusiasts welcome creative twists to enjoying durian. If you fall into the latter group, this is the checklist for you. These desserts are tried and tested, and are rated according to their pungency.
Beng Heong, one of many offshoots from the famous Him Heang bakery, is spicing up the competition by churning out contemporary takes on classic Penang pastries. Few other bakeries prepare Tambun biscuits or tau sar piah (mung bean biscuits) in such a wide assortment of flavours including peanut, yam, pandan, pineapple and durian. The durian-flavoured Tambun biscuits carry only the barest essence of durian, thus making them perfect for timorous eaters. Browse the store’s thorough range of traditional Hokkien confectionery such as beh teh saw (Chinese horseshoe biscuits), hor chio piah (pepper biscuits) and lou por piah (wife cakes) as well.
Price: RM8.60 for 32 pieces
Pungency factor: 1/5
This unassuming café located in the heart of George Town provides a welcome respite after a long day of sightseeing. Quench your thirst with the likes of juice, beer or coffee – including durian-flavoured coffee. If the caffeine content doesn’t shake you up, the aroma of durian will.
Price: RM3.50 (Hot) / RM4 (Cold)
Pungency factor: 2/5
Passion Heart Cafe’s second durian dessert is reminiscent of a brownie, except with chocolate substituted for durian. The baked durian cake is extremely dense, and best washed down with a cup of tea or coffee. Finding chunky bits of durian inside the slice of cake was like discovering hidden treasure inside a cave. Hats off if you can finish the whole thing!
Pungency factor: 3/5
Pop these addictive, bite-sized cream puffs into your mouth whole or risk making a delicious mess. Light choux pastry gives way to chilled custard that tastes like the real deal. Buy a box for your friends and family, because anything this good is worth sharing. Taste Better has outlets at Queensbay Mall, Gurney Paragon and Chew Jetty.
Price: Box of six pieces for RM10.60
Pungency factor: 5/5
Apparently, durian cravings can be etched on one’s face. The stranger, whom I approached for directions to the elusive Kek Seng Coffee Shop, shot me a toothy, knowing smile and asked, ‘Durian ice cream?’ Upon arrival, Kek Seng’s equally clairvoyant proprietor took one look at me and shouted to the kitchen, ‘Ais kacang taroh durian ais krim! (Ice kacang with durian ice cream!)’ Kek Seng’s shaved ice dessert is a magnificent mess topped with two scoops of homemade durian ice cream, rainbow gelatin, sweet black beans, canned corn, Sarsi and rose syrup. You’re more than likely to get brain freeze from wolfing down the delicious concoction, but don’t make a stink – it’s worth it.
Pungency factor: 2/5