The Elusive Search for Durian in Davao City
The recent long weekend found me in Davao City where I had originally planned to feast on durian. For the past two or three years, I have been flying to Davao to indulge in the King of Fruits. Much has already been written about durian's polarizing qualities: its overpowering scent and forbidding exterior. Fans, however, cannot seem to get enough of its creamy, toffee and caramel-like flavors.
So far, I have been successful in my quest--once even sampling five different variants in two days. This year was different.
I had read that the harvest had been lower than previous years but I did not expect to be served unripe durian when I went to the fruit stands on Magsaysay Ave. across Davao's Chinatown. I quickly sent it back and was given another that was only slightly better. I lost my appetite soon after.
Fortunately, I "discovered" two restaurants that saved my annual trip. Yellowfin is a Filipino restaurant chain in Davao with a wide array of tuna dishes. The grilled tuna belly is a favorite and is sold per 100 grams, with a minimum of 400 grams per order.
For dinner that evening, I chose instead the Sinigang na Ulo ng Salmon that arrived piping hot and chockfull of vegetables like sitaw (string beans), kangkong (swamp cabbage), sliced eggplants and tomatoes. I detected bagoong (fermented shrimp paste) that enhanced the flavor of the fresh fish.
At just P150 an order, it came in an ample serving good for sharing although I have to admit I ate it by myself.
After mass on Sunday afternoon at San Pedro church in downtown Davao, I opted for an early dinner at Caitlyn's Dumpling Bar and Restaurant (+63 923 888 2777). The small-sized eatery on Circumferential Road only opened three years ago after locals clamored for the siomai dumplings that were originally only sold frozen at trade fairs.
They still sell packs of frozen dumplings but now customers can order cooked food for takeout or eat at one of several wooden tables. The Spicy fried dumpling (P85 for 5 pieces) was meaty and flavorful and best enjoyed with rice.
It's their siopao, however, that offers real value for money. At P25 per piece for the pork asado, chicken asado or pork bola-bola variants, it's hot, filling and inexpensive.
Maybe next year, I'll get here in time for durian season. Until then, there's always durian ice cream.