Monday 24 June 2019

How I survived the $4.50 durian buffet

A durian buffet for $4.50?

That’s less than the price of a Mala Burger meal at Burger King.

Even though I’m not a durian lover (we’re just friends), it was an offer I couldn’t resist.

But, of course, there was a catch.

The buffet was at Plaza Singapura and you had to spend at least $45 in a single receipt at the mall to get one $4.50 durian buffet ticket for an appointed 45-minute session.

Why the recurring number 45? Because it’s Plaza Singapura’s 45th anniversary.

Yes, that’s how many years since Singaporeans first heard of Yaohan.

Anyway, a week before the durian buffet, my daughter managed to spend over $90 on a hoodie and too many T-shirts at the Uniqlo outlet so that I could get two tickets because I knew I couldn’t survive a durian buffet on my own.

But my daughter hates durian. My wife hates durian. My son hates spending time with me.

So I asked my mother. She is 78.

If she dies from eating too many durians, at least she would die happy – and fed.

She even came prepared with her own bottle of salt water because, you know, that’s what you’re supposed to drink when you eat durian.

I don’t know whether she had been to a durian buffet before, but I hadn’t.

The Plaza Sing buffet sessions were spread out from last Friday to yesterday. I got tickets for the Saturday session at 2pm.

To get ready for D-Day, I went on Friday to recce a session and gathered some intelligence.

The buffet was held outdoors under a tent in front of the mall, presumably so as to not stink up the building. Queues had formed more than half an hour before the session started. Plastic gloves were provided.

Each person was given four or five pieces of freshly harvested durian of different varieties on a paper tray.

Once you finished eating, you had to leave the tent and queue again for another tray.

You could queue as many times as you wanted up until 15 minutes before the session ended, because by then you wouldn’t be able to get your durian in time anyway.

If you went early enough, you could easily get at least three trays of durian.

On Saturday, my strategy was to re-queue immediately after getting a tray, leaving my durian with my mother. Repeat until time was up. This way, I could maximise my haul and eat later.

Well, that was the plan anyway. After I got my second tray, my mother offered to re-queue in my place so that I could enjoy the fruits of my labour.

But after she returned with another tray, I realised there was such thing as too much of a good thing.

I didn’t want to eat any more durian and neither did she. Her salt water didn’t help.

I had to force myself to finish the last piece.

So even though there was still time to re-queue, I decided to throw in my yellow-stained gloves and surrender.

It had been only 25 minutes.

I fought the durian buffet and the durian buffet won.

We left the tent and went to Tim Ho Wan to recover with dim sum and Chinese tea.

My mother claimed this was the first time I had ever taken her out to eat. (I guess she didn’t count her birthday meals.)

And all it took was a $4.50 durian buffet. (Terms and conditions apply.)

Thank you, Plaza Sing. For your next anniversary, you should bring back Yaohan.

- Published in The New Paper, 24 June 2019

EARLIER: Forbidden fruit is smelliest: I was cast out because I wanted to eat durians