Anyone here a fan of durian?
Actually, a better question would be: who wants to try Durian Fried Rice
Yes, that potent-smelling fruit greets our beloved lunch fix. This dish has taken social media by storm recently, as many people are failing to wrap their heads around the combination, yet are also yearning to taste it.
It all began when Trevor James, or better known as The Food Ranger, tried this out-of-the-norm recipe at Ah Chong Fried Rice.
As part of his street food series, the Canadian vlogger elatedly nodded yes to the durian fried rice with sambal belacan and his reaction blew Malaysians away.
How could a pungent, creamy fruit be happy bedfellows with wok-fried rice and shrimp-based sambal?
With similar doubts, we let our taste buds be the judge.
The stall that started it all
Sited in WA Coffee Cafe along King Street, Ah Chong Fried Rice
far surpass the usual choices found on the menu of what feels like most fried rice spots in Penang.
Expect unusual combinations like XO Sauce + Sarawak Salted Stringray Fried Rice, Nam Yue Chicken Chop Fried Rice and of course, the Durian Fried Rice.
(Pssst, caviar fried rice coming soon)
The stall is manned by two friends, Mark Ng and Mike Chong, who have thrown the rule book out of the window to deliver flavours that will leave an impression.
For our order, Chef Chong started off with rudimentary ingredients such as shrimps, cabbage, carrot, egg, rice and soy sauce.
After quick tosses and stirs over the wok, spoonfuls of durian flesh were added, then finished with chopped spring onions.
But it wasn’t until two huge pieces of Durian Kunyit were placed over the bed of the rice that we released just how much durian we were about to consume. Once paired with their homemade sambal and calamansi, it was time to dig in.
Pro tip: for those who prefer Musang King Durian, you need to book in advance.
Tasting the dish
The dish appeared two-toned and the fruit’s stinky reputation was subdued by the 'wok hei
' (literally translated to 'the air of the wok') essence.
Our first mouthfuls revealed a symmetry of savouriness and spiciness with undertones of sweetness from the durian. Texture-wise, the fleshes weren’t in clumps as our imagined nemesis.
Rather, an ideal midpoint between clingy and loose. As Mark hinted, we squeezed the calamansi juice over the sambal as its sour, citrusy notes further enhanced the interplay of flavours.
The key was to get a little bit of everything in each bite and pause in between to register the unique pleasure of it.
As for the final part, we dipped the durian chunks into the sambal, just as Trevor James did.
Sweet, spicy and creamy, with a distinctive aroma, it was unlike any durian experience we had before and it kept us going.
The infused durian fleshes did work well with the rice and sambal, but it was the durian pieces that pushed our belly boundaries a tad much.
We also tried their Roasted Pork Belly Sambal and it was as delicious as it appeared.
The meat, juicy and tender, perfectly absorbed the richness of the semi-sweet sambal.
Having tried all kinds of fried rice before, the Durian Fried Rice may look like the most one-dimensional fried rice ever, but it surprisingly did not.
The custard-coloured fruit did not masquerade the entire dish, rather, it imparted a pleasant richness that would grow over you.
And to us, Ah Chong Fried Rice's sambal should share the spotlight as well.
Durian purists may still baulk at this combination but if you're armed with an appetite and curious palate, this Durian Fried Rice should be part of your must-eat list.
We were daunted at first but delighted upon trying. How about you?