Friday, 30 August 2013

North South East West ... Where's the Best? Part Two

As recommended by a good friend, I have travelled to the West, to seek out a reliable and honest seller, who has been plying the trade there when I was in primary school, 1986 to be exact.

He is affectionately know by the neighbourhood residents as Botak, his trademark shine that greets you the way the smell of the durians greeted me.

Mr Kho aka Botak Kho, is a man of small statue. Small he maybe but definitely a calm and collected bespectacled guy.

He gives one an impression that action speaks louder than words, unassumingly he is busy ponking the durians for the throbs of customers. (Ponking here refers to the action of his Durian knife smacking away the durians to determine the preferences. Learnt something from him when I was there).

Mr Kho hails from the Queens Garden in Johor many many umpteen moons ago, 360 moons to be exact. He started off working as a Durian Assistant at Katong Shopping Center vicinity, then became the Head Honcho of his own Durian Stall.

Unfortunately,  a fire broke out and all was lost. But that did not stop him from plying his trade for the next 27 years in Bukit Batok.
He used to be selling in front of this Fruit Stall called Ming Gang, which was own by his brother. Subsequently, the Fruit Stall shifted while Mr Kho, remained ever since. Today it is taken by a bakery named Bakery Express. Now he can be found at Blk 164, #01-150 Bukit Batok St. 11. (right in front of this Bakery, near to the Hawker Center).

It was such an honour for me to have known that Mr Kho, who normally shies away from Media coverage, has reluctantly agreed to be photograph by me. This is amidst of much cajoling from my friend. He told me he has been trying to get him be photographed for many years but Mr Kho was just too shy.

As the season currently is offering MSW and D24, I have requested for 1 of each to try. My usual routine, to identify how the Seller chooses the Durians. In these days, unlike the past, where most of the durians sold are usually selected by the Sellers.

Not sure if you do notice the trend 20years ago, it is a norm to have more people crowding around the front of the store to pick their own durian and people will share, smell and scrutinize the durian like their lives depend on it.

Some of the reason for the change would be, the business model has evolved, and it has become more efficient for the sellers to choose on behalf of the buyers. This is good and bad. Good because it is now faster to buy durians. Bad means we essentially begins to lose our skills in choosing the best durian there is on our own, and has a heavy reliance on the sellers to do the job for us.

Anyway, that was just a thought that flashes across my mind. To me, it would be definitely useful to know how to pick the best ones based on the observation of the durian via your 6 sensories. (hear, see, smell, touch, taste and instinct)

The latest business model is now based Trust. How much rapport you can build with the seller is how much the percentage of yield you can get back from the 'Harvesting' at the stall. The more time you spend buying from the same seller, does yield a correlated experience of an upward curve towards a win-win situations. Which then translates to savings into your pocket.

The seller would also love selling to regulars because he is familiar with your taste preferences and you will also reduce the need to repeat yourself that many times. Just like how my friend had been doing for the past 7 years. All he need was to call to reserve the quantity he desired, walk in to pay and collect, literally that all he needs to do.

How is it that this Mr Kho was kept as a secret for that many years and yet many more did not discover this Gem, I also do not know. He only told me that he likes this neighbourhood and the neighbourhood is tolerant to have him around. 95% of his customers are all repeat customers. Strange but great, he sells by the baskets of durians, without any form of advertisement, since he started selling durians.

Back to my orders, he asked what are my preferences and he proceed to pick the durians and ponk ponk ponk, flip and toss, and start hacking away. "Hey Mr Kho, Wait. wait. wait.... I would like to know how you know which ones are the bitter and which are sweet?" because I saw him choosing the durians without sniffing.

He briefly shared with me, that it is possible to choose durians without sniffing and still get the Bitter or Sweet. Great, it is time for me to learn new stuff. hehehe.

Ponk Ponk Ponk was all I learned. That's the key. Yes, you have heard me right. How?

The sound that echoes through your hand that holds the durian holds the key to identify the Durian's texture. Closely related to the taste, the Rule of Thumb is: Wet = Bitter; Dry = Sweet.

Ah... finally after all these years, I have learnt some inner secrets of the trade, such knowledge was what money can't buy. Mr Kho was generous enough to have shared this with me, and casually tells me. Master this, you will master the trade. Hehehe...I got more than what I came for. Have you?

 Oh... By the way if you were wondering why I would post the pic on the cellaphane wrapped styro boxes of durians? Here is another discovery! It is the only store I have come across island wide, so far, that sellers the Real McCoy at such affordable prices that I can't believe my own eyes.

They were packed right in front of me by Lat Kui, the assistant helping Mr Kho. No hidden agenda at all, what I understood from him is that all thses MSW and D24 that are packed and sold, are actually those durians where Mr Kho opens up and finds them the quality level does not meet his mark.

That's all to it, it is still very edible and good durians. See for yourself. The pricing is just unbelievable. I should have found this stall moons ago! The verdict of my durians that I have asked for? Beyond the yummy words one could describe, the MSW and D24 was indeed very fresh and the quality is of excellent grade! Definitely THE Stall in the West to go for. By the way, Mr Kho is also known for his Ganghai. (which is now not in season).

Do check him out. Call 8156 2247. Thank you for reading. Have a nice day! Thank you to a fellow Durian Enthusiast like myself for such a great find!

Mr Kho's update: Adress changed to Blk 157 Bukit Batok St 11.