Helen Harper

Durian drama

Durian season is underway again, evidenced by the smell coming from my next door neighbours and permeating through my own house.  For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, count yourselves lucky.
Generally speaking, I like to think of myself as someone who has found it easy to assimilate into South East Asian culture.  Squat toilets are fine.  Super spicy food – yum.  Sweaty tropics?  Give me more.  But when Malaysians ask me if I like Durian, my response is stereotypically foreign: ick, ick, ick.

Admittedly, the smell is far more off-putting than the taste.  Imagine rotting rubbish surrounded by a sea of marathon runners’ old socks and sprinkled liberally with blue cheese that’s been left out in the sun too long and you’ll get a vague idea.  Not for nothing is durian banned on planes or in many hotels.  One person enjoys durian and everyone else in a five hundred metre radius gets to ‘enjoy’ it too.

Here it’s affectionately regarded as the King of Fruits.  You can get durian ice cream, durian cake, durian chocolates and durian coffee.  Some claim that it’s addictive.  Others that it encourages fertility.  It’s certainly high in fat and very filling.  There’s even a week long durian festival currently taking place further up in the country.  I can’t deny how much people here love it.

Now where did I put my clothes pegs?

Photo by YIM Hafiz

Helen Harper

Themed restaurants

I don’t tend to be very good at lunch. Usually, it’s because I’m deep in writing mode and I’ll forget to eat. By the time 3pm hits and I’m really hungry, dinner seems so close that I generally just end up hanging on until then. Yesterday, however, I made an exception because I read about a new-ish restaurant that had opened up nearby called The Yellow Brick Road, with a sister café upstairs specialising in pancakes and with the wonderful title of the Wicked Pancake Parlour. Sadly for me (although obviously not for them), the place was packed and I couldn’t get a table. I’ll time it better next week!

 

I do absolutely love themed restaurants. There must be something about them which speaks to my inner child. They were hugely popular in Japan when I lived there. There was one serving pretty tapas and done up like a crazy cathedral inside (complete with gargoyles), another that was styled as a jail where you ate your meal chained to the table, and my personal favourite – a hodge podge of ideas that included requiring a password to enter, intermittent sounds of a train blasting through the PA system and a toilet with a strange giant plastic smiley face that would play music and move out from the wall towards your knees while you were taking care of business.

 

As a huge fan, the news of a Hello Kitty themed restaurant opening in Hong Kong last week had my toes curling up in delight. I just googled themed restaurants right now and the top result was a news item about a potential Puff the Magic Dragon chain starting up. Shivers of joy! Of course, not every theme works for every person. Dining In The Dark seems to be a concept which many cities around the world now boast of. If you’ve not heard of it, it generally involves pitch black, a mysterious set menu where your tastebuds are meant to do all the work, and blind waiting staff. I’ve been once – I’ll never go back. I’m just too darn claustrophobic and I hated every minute.

 

It seems that Urban Fantasy is ripe for its own themed restaurants. Imagine dark cityscapes across the walls, mini swords as eating utensils, and food items with names like ‘The Vampire’s Last Bite’ or ‘Wolf It Down’. Just think of the fun that could be had with creating cocktails to match. Hmmm…

Photo by brianscantlebury.com

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