The Bentong Durian Shop, Your All Year Durian Fix
The Bentong Durian Shop is a fairly new kind of place. Just a few years ago, Malaysians loved durian, but didn’t bother focusing their obsession into entire shops/cafes focused on all-things-durian. But now there’s a wave bringing Chinese tourists and Malaysians alike out into the small places, the cute places, the places where no one would likely go unless they were super duper obsessed with durian. It means places like The Bentong Durian Shop can exist and be excellent and provide durian all year to those super duper obsessed (like you).
About Bentong Durian Town
Bentong is perhaps the most famous place for durian in Malaysia after Penang Island. It’s just an hour’s drive over the mountain range from big-city KL, yet feels like a small, cozy, walk-able little town. The streets are arranged in square blocks of tidy Chinese shop houses dating from the early 1900’s, kept tidy with fresh paint and delightfully surprising murals and decorations.
There’s a lot of delightful, surprising little things about Bentong, (like their obsession with ginger) that will be covered in a future Bentong Durian Guide, because if you’re a durian lover, chances are that you will make your way here hunting Tekkah, D24, D88, D144, and Musang King at some point very soon.
One of the most surprising things about Bentong, is you can typically find fresh durian here all year round.
I’ve written about these Bentong durian stalls previously, but a more reliable all-year durian stop is The Bentong Durian Shop (also called MSK Fresh Fruits) in downtown Bentong.
The Bentong Durian Shop: MSK Fresh Fruits
The Bentong Durian Shop is, as you might have guessed,100% dedicated to the D. It sits on one of the small cross streets running perpendicular to the two one-way thoroughfares that traverse Bentong, just a block away from the morning market.
If you weren’t hunting durian, you would likely never find it.
The shop is tiny, but like everything in Bentong, coated in fresh paint and super tidy. It’s so neatly organized that at first glance you might not imagine there’s much to find here, but the shop stocks pretty much everything durian you ever imagined, plus ginger.
Hey, it’s Bentong. There has to be ginger in everything.
After all, ginger used to be one of the main reasons local tourists came to Bentong on the weekends. They’d eat stir-fried ginger at the restaurants and drink ginger tea in the cooler, misty mountain morning, then head to the morning market and the Chamaeng Waterfall.
But that was once upon a time when the durian season happened just twice per year. Now there is durian available almost all the time.
So now the Bentong Durian Shop never closes, not on holidays, and especially not on the weekends when the durian hunters arrive. They will never be durian-disappointed at the Bentong Durian Shop. There’s too many durian options.
And yes, my new book, The Durian Tourist’s Guide to Penang, is stocked there too.
It has it’s own shelf among the durian cookies and crackers, durian coffees and cakes and jams and jellies and chips and candies and everything else durian you never thought of before.
There’s also a freezer section stocking multiple varieties of frozen durian grown on the shop owner’s own farm and packed in his own factory.
And then there is the surprisingly extensive ice cream section.
Durian Ice Cream
You would think just one flavor of durian ice cream would be enough, but no.
Ice cream was Stephen Chow’s gateway to Duriandom. In 2009, Chow owned and operated three coffee shops in the Bentong area specializing in his own brand of ice cream, CKP, named after his father. But he wasn’t happy with the quality of the durian pulp available, so he began growing his own durians.
By 2013, he closed down all of his coffee shops to focus on growing durian and making durian and other fruit products (see next photo ↓ ↓ ????) at his durian-packing factory.
So today’s ice cream selection is just a little bit outlandish.
At The Bentong Durian Shop, you’ll find not just durian ice cream, but Musang King Ice Cream, D24 Ice Cream, D101 Ice Cream, Ocee Ice Cream, other fruits like Cempedak, Passionfruit and Mango and then the mostly normal Dark Chocolate, French Vanilla, Coconut, Strawberry and Black Sesame. Unfortunately none of these are vegan (all have milk imported from New Zealand) or yours truly would have made sure the Cempedak Ice Cream is always out of stock.
But my favorite item isn’t durian related at all.
I’m a little bit obsessed with the dried dragonfruit that Stephen makes and sells at The Bentong Durian Shop. It’s a deep violet color, the thin layers of dragonfruit compressed together into chewy mouthfuls full of seeds that pop between your teeth.
He also has dried bananas, dried pineapple, dried jackfruit, and dried mango, which he dries in trays stacked into dehydrators at his durian-packing factory.
He got the idea for dried fruit when his oldest child became old enough for solid food. He wanted healthy, chewy little bitesized snacks for her. With so much fruit available for his ice cream business, he decided to start dehydrating the fruit too.
The dried fruits are available in small, cutesy packaging or in larger 500 gram bags.
The History of The Bentong Durian Shop
I first met Stephen Chow (right) at Bentong Durian King shop in Taman Desa Damai, just 10 minutes north of Bentong on the road to Raub.
The two shops are easy to confuse, because Stephen and his business partner Thai work together closely, but own different stores.
Stephen owns The Bentong Durian Shop, while Mr. Thai owns Bentong Durian King. But you’ll see banners from one stretched across the other’s doorway, they share a logo, and Stephen’s ice cream is available at both.
The main difference is that while Stephen’s shop is open every day and offers a wide range of durian products, Mr. Thai’s is closed whenever it’s not durian season and focuses primarily on fresh durian. But if he doesn’t have enough durian to make it worth opening his own shop, Mr. Thai will send his durians to Stephen. So……
Stephen almost always has fresh durian sitting in front of his shop. So onwards to the durian review….
The day that I took my Durian Tour group by The Bentong Durian Shop, we were on a special mission for Tekkah. The group had decreed Tekkah to be their favorite, and we needed to find more. So I called ahead to make a reservation and arrived to find 20kg of Tekkah waiting for us.
That’s one of things I like about Stephen’s durian business: he’s reliable, and the durians are reliable too.
All of the photos below are from Stephen’s farms.
Tekkah is usually a crowd pleaser for my groups. It’s fleshy and thick, creamy and strong tasting. Or maybe I give them a bias, since it’s one of my favorites they have to fight me to get a piece ????
It can also be a little bit tricky to find. Tekkah is a mid-season durian, and it seems to only be around a few weeks before it goes sweet and watery or begins to ripen too quickly, turning fluffy-fizzy and sour.
So for me, when a group requests Tekkah, it’s a bit of a gamble. I trust Stephen to choose good Tekkah, or not waste my time if he doesn’t have any. This Tekkah was just to spec, and we gobbled up all 20kg between just 8 of us.
D24 is more reliable than Tekkah, and Stephen has a lot of it. It’s one of the main durians he uses for his products, and it has a pretty long season, so there’s usually fresh D24 on the table in front of the shop.
It means he’s invested pretty heavily in sourcing D24, and good D24. The one in the photo above is from one of his highland properties. You can tell because it has that delicious color variation, where the pale-gold of normal D24 pales into a chilly ivory that denotes an old-tree, highland D24 that is going to have that slightly granular, back-of-the-mouth creamy sweetness of cookie dough.
I’m getting hungry just looking at this one.
Musang King is an early-season variety, but seems to fruit more frequently per year than other durians. Durian farmers have been reporting that their Musang Kings fruit as many as 4 times per year! It’s also so popular that Stephen has planted it at all of his durian farms around Bentong and Raub — the lowlands, the highlands, the inbetweenlands– giving him a lot of different micro-seasons.
This particular Musang King was eaten during a mini-season in March, 2017, when I had low expectations for it. It was a shocker for me. I expected MSK that time of year to be dry and sweet, a total “blah” for durian.
But this one was smooth, fatty and bitter, one of the best examples of fresh, tree-dropped Musang King that I’ve had.
I should never have doubted Stephen.
Where to Stay in Bentong
I’ve tried out a lot of the hotels in the Bentong area, and I’m sad to say the downtown area has nothing too exciting.
EV World is the cleanest, newest, best super-budget option. I actually have a membership with their hotel chain. It’s right in the main block system, so an easy walk to the night market, the morning market, the vegetarian restaurants, and of course, The Bentong Durian Shop. The downside is that, unless you pay for the VIP room, you won’t have a window in your room. Hotel Kristal is right there in the downtown, but is quite a bit more expensive and also so small it books out very quickly.
If you’re willing to walk, about 1.5km from the downtown core is a newer urban center with two hotels next door to each other. Tras Mutiara is the more well-known option, but I went for Golden Peaks Inn, abbreviated GPI (room showed above) for better value.
If you have a car and don’t mind staying somewhere a bit remote, where you’ll need to drive 15-20 minutes for food, Suria Hotspring is a quirky but nice option and the Waterway Villa actually has a Musang King durian farm on the premises.
Getting to The Bentong Durian Shop
The Bentong Durian Shop is on Jalan Wayang. If you are entering Bentong from KL, you’ll need to turn to the left when the two-way road splits to a one-way. Follow the road 4 blocks, and turn left on the next road after the Pasar (market) building.
The Bentong Durian Shop Location
Address: Jalan Wayang, 28700 Bentong, Pahang
Open Daily, 10AM – 7PM
Tel: +60 9-222 1267
*This post was originally posted by www.yearofthedurian.com