SW, ZI and I are spending 2 weeks in Taipei and we’re checking out various parts of the city. A search for a late lunch resulted in 3 ladies pointing us in the direction of Yong Kang Jie for famous beef noodle soup.
After devouring a bowl of hot soup, I needed something sweet. At 4pm, most stalls were on a break before dinner.
Just as I was resigning myself to a dessert-less afternoon, we chanced upon a fruit stall. It was tiny and a 2 man film crew occupied the interior… Interviewing the owners and gesturing animatedly at the fruit selections. I picked up some Taiwan-grown kyoho grapes (still far inferior to the Japanese version, but costs less than half) and paid the cashier. She was so occupied with the film crew that she gave me the change and forgot my grapes.
It was while I was searching for my grapes that I spied the sign for durian. I asked the lady if they were available and where they were from. "Yes yes, they are from Thailand" she said. From her tone of voice, I knew she wanted to get back to the filming.
I didn’t bother asking her for more details so all I have for you is that if you are desperate for durian in Taipei, you can get a dried (120 NT) or frozen Thai version of it in the small fruit stall in Yong Kang Jie. Nearest underground station is Dong Men.
Hmm. Infertility is one of those subjects that is taboo and sensitive in every culture. No one wants to admit that they are infertile for any reason and most go to great lengths to demonstrate that they can have children by having as many as possible (note that this is actually different from the demonstration of virility, although it should ultimately be linked to the same outcome).
Does Durian have a role to play in this? Well, I was quite surprised to read in an article that in Tamil Nadu (one of India’s largest states, or maybe it is the largest), the locals there think so.
*Credit for the picture here to Dr. Leslie Tay from ieatishootipost
Ooty: The extended durian fruiting season at the horticulture farm (GHF) on the Burliar slopes comes as a major surprise for horticulturalists. The durian season usually runs between mid-July and mid-September, but this year the extended season has been witnessing good yields.
A durian fetches as much as Rs 600 per kg as barren couples try their luck through this fruit, which is said to help in providing help in tackling infertility problems. Call it magic or miracle, the rare fruit durian is much sought after by childless couples.
Saying that it is surprising to note that the durian season is extending beyond September, M. Pragasam, assistant director of horticulture (farms), said that this year the department had to call for a second auction in the month of October as there has been a good yield this month too.
While the government has earned additional income through durian, the reasons for the extended season may be the good rainfall in September and the delayed fertilisation in parts of the trees, he said.
“Even though there is no scientific evidence till date to speak for that this fruit solves the infertility problems, it is widely believed from ancient times that it cures the problems related to infertility and helps women to conceive.
Hence the demand is high for this fruit among childless couples. Quite a few couples who were blessed with a child after consuming durian in the past informed us over phone and letters about this miracle fruit. So, the demand for this fruit is always there” he pointed out.
V.J. Babu, who won the bid in October to harvest durian fruits at GHF in Burliar, said there are about 34 durian trees in GHF which continue to bear fruit. “Only when the fully matured fruit falls down do we pick it up and bring it for sale. We expect around 700 fruits this season. The demand is still there and those who want to buy this fruit mostly come to the venue to buy them” he said.
Does Durian consumption make you feel like pro-creating? Usually after eating a huge durian feast, they fall asleep and that’s when the pro-creation happens, thus linking it to fertility. Hmm. (A huge protein intake would do the same but there are lots of vegetarians there so perhaps durians are a substitute).
Over the last month, SW and I have made a trip to Bangkok and a trip to Vietnam. Both trips were for work but we managed to squeeze out some time to meet friends and have a bit of sightseeing and fun. My mum joined us on the trip to BKK and she proudly told me that she’d bought some Monthong Durian Sweets for an uncle who lives in London. When she tried to give them to my uncle, he didn’t want them, telling her that he was on a diet and was trying to get rid of his huge belly!
Ah well. It all smells pretty good and not too strong. If anyone is reading this post and would like a stick, send me your name and address. I’m happy to put it in the post to you as a gift from Stinky Spikes (as long as stocks last!).
Mooncake Festival this year falls on September 19th (Thursday). If you’ve been anywhere near the hotels, malls and chinese restaurants, I have no doubt that you have been marketed to or fed mooncakes by that particular retailer. It’s almost impossible to avoid the mooncake craze in Singapore. The flavors used to be very “traditional”. Lotus seed paste with melon seed (now quite a rarity). Lotus seed paste with single/double/quadruple yolk(s). Assorted nuts and ham. Now, there are so many varieties that if we brought an ancient Chinese person from many dynasties ago back to life, he’d be surprised and spoilt for choice. Pastry chefs vying to outdo one another became more creative. Snowskin mooncakes became a raging success, these unbaked chilled mooncakes are closer to ice-cream in texture and are more delicate. This paved the way for increasingly dessert like creations, such as durian mooncake, cempadak mooncake, sesame, yam mooncake etc.
At Goodwood Hotel, it wasn’t just durian mooncakes. It was Mao Shan Wang Mooncake, or D24 mooncake, Red Prawn, D88 or Butter mooncake. Perhaps this pastry chef is from Penang, or perhaps the Goodwood received many guests from Penang. They’ve been offering these for a few years and I guess it’s proved popular, most probably as gifts.
The coloring differentiates the flavors, I thought it was an interesting choice by the chef to make the Mao Shan Wang an almost ivory white, the D24 a golden yellow and the Red Prawn, well, Red. (If you’re a regular durian consumer, you would know that real MSW’s are always rich yellow in color, more so than the D24′s. Maybe a lighter color denotes a more delicate taste and price). Anyway, I reckon they attached a scarcity value to the mooncakes and made them great gifts. They were flying off the shelves into little cool packs when I was there on Saturday afternoon. People in the queue ahead of me were purchasing five or six boxes at a go. I didn’t observe anyone buying the giant versions though. At around SGD 90 per box (no discounts even if you hold a Citibank card), you’d better be sharing it with someone special. *Many other hotel/restaurants have also followed suit and are offering durian based mooncakes. I admit that I would prefer to eat the fruit unadulterated.
This news piece was pretty funny…. Durians can sometimes smell like gas. I wonder what sort of “lab tests” they were running… probably more like taste tests or a feast.
SYDNEY: Building security and emergency staff in Sydney have raised a stink about a trial consignment of Malaysian chilled durians shipped to the Harbour City, mistaking the odoriferous fruit’s smell for a gas leak.
Agriculture Malaysia staff have taken the misunderstanding on the nose, allaying the Aussies’ concerns if not their dislike of the pungent odour.
Malaysia’s Sydney Consulate agriculture director Muhammad Rudy Khairudin Mohd Nor said the ‘gas’ alert followed Agriculture Malaysia staff opening 10 packs of ‘Musang King’ and ‘D24′ durians at 2 pm for lab tests in their Sydney CBD office.
The strong, pungent smell of the durians went into the ventilation system and reached the next office on the 15th floor of the Market St building.
“The staff in the adjoining office, all Caucasians, panicked because they thought there was a gas leak … they summoned the emergency services. The whole floor was evacuated within minutes,” he said.
Muhammad Rudy said security and emergency staff arrived at the 15th floor to investigate and, sniffing out evidence, ended up at the consulate seeking answers.
“We explained that the smell came from the durians. The officers were amazed and puzzled how similar the smell was to gas, although they were convinced after we showed them the fruit and how it smells,” he added.
Muhammad Rudy said three more Australian technical officers took up the scent about three hours later “They roamed around the office to ensure that the smell is really not from leaking gas.”
He said the consulate decided to avoid further misunderstandings by moving the durians and the lab testing to the Sydney Malaysia Hall students’ accommodation.
“We did not get any complaint from anyone. In fact, the smell was very well received by the Malaysian students … who had not smelt fresh durian for a long time. Who would have thought that exporting durians to Australia could be so challenging?” he said.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Lasallians in Melbourne are planning a Lasallian Durian Festival in November, hopefully to be held at the SP Setia’s exclusive development site in St Kilda Road.
The durian is very popular in Sydney but is yet to make its mark in Melbourne, the home of 70,000 Malaysians and 9,000 students. – Bernama
As with any successful show or event, there is always a diligent team working behind the scenes to set the stage, move the props and ensure that everything is put away at the end for the next show. While everyone was seated and enjoying the main durian discourse, I decided to take a walk behind the screen to see how the back room was operating. It was an impressive display of teamwork and agility.
Ah Seng’s team were well organized. There were durian sorters, durian cutters and durian deliverers. Under the fluorescent lights in the car park adjacent to the canopy, the durian cutters lined up some crates that served as stools. Durian sorters then dragged the baskets of durians over to be sniffed, sliced open and checked. The durians were then deposited singly into each awaiting basket, designated for each deliverer to take to the group inside.
So here are the guys who freshly opened almost 900Kg worth of durian. It takes practice and skill to get them right every time and with speed. Every durian was opened in approximately 5 seconds.
Four guys doing all the slicing and dicing.
Empty the black baskets of all the durians and place durians into the white baskets. They would then wait until the next course was called for. So all the durians were opened fresh!
This was the eagerly-awaiting-durian-consuming-crowd. You can see durian lovers of all ages, and despite the late hour, it was a family affair.
I was really amazed to see the spectrum of preparation from the participants as well. It wasn’t just the durian guys who were organized. Check out this pop up table and bench one group brought along. It seats four people and looks quite sturdy for picnics. Wish I asked them where they got it!
There were also several sexy reporters at the scene posing with the durian to give the event good
cleavage, oops, coverage.
What impressed me was Ah Seng’s determination to end the event on a solid note. When it came to the Mao Shan Wangs, he took matters into his own hands. He strode up to the cutting area and insisted on sniffing every durian individually prior to it being served. His nose was probably the best quality control check around.
And then the durians were served to the delighted fans.
But many people were full by that time and Ah Seng had ensured enough MSW’s to go around. So my group was offered an extra one, which we couldn’t finish and was given to me to take home (since I was doing most of the walking around and less of the eating).
Ah Seng’s family team exhausted but happy after all the durians done with. The clean up could then begin. There were several green skips arranged near the van to take the husks, seeds and other waste away.
The crowd cleared out pretty quickly after the event was done. Loud pumping music by the DJ’s signaled that it was time to leave. Dr Leslie announced that he would sign books purchased at the event earlier in the day so the queue established itself once all the picnic-ers cleared out.
And then finally Dr. Leslie Tay is free to give a full interview for the TV press which you can watch here.
I was really surprised when I saw one group that didn’t clear out with the others. This well organized group brought a fantastic dinner to have after the durian smorgasbord. I could see fried bee hoon, char kway teow, nasi lemak and chicken wings (?). Hmm.. I was pretty full from the durians and we had planned not to do dinner but the food did look quite delicious… especially how they were eating it!
This was the MSW we brought home in a plastic bag. It was already sliced open and we had to gently carry it back so as not to break the bag and avoid poking ourselves (durian thorns are sharp!). I packed it in a plastic box when I got home and stuck it in the fridge. We ate it nice and cold the next day.
It fragranced out the fridge of course. A nice reminder of the event we attended the night before.
10th August 2013
Dr. Leslie Tay of ieat.ishoot.ipost couldn’t have chosen a better weekend. The Muslim celebration of Hari Raya Eidulfitri coincided with Singapore’s National Day weekend and gave everyone within 2 hours flight a nice 4-day vacation. So the 10th of August 2013 was the day that was chosen for the Durian Degustation XII, which became a more ambitious project and evolved into a “Durian Mobilization” (borrowing terms from the national service here!). At 35 SGD per person, a donation towards a charitable cause and a promise to appreciate different cultivars, we couldn’t think of a better way to spend an evening.
Under the large canopy of the Telok Ayer Community Center, everyone began to take their places by 6.30pm (even though the event was due to start only at 7.30pm). Since it was a free seating event with everyone bringing their own picnic mats and other paraphernalia, it was a good idea to get there reasonably early. The event was well organized and controlled, numbers marked out assigned “spaces” where groups of 6-12 people would sit together. I was to meet up with Jessica and sit with her group. “Meet me at the back of the community center at 7″ she said, “that’s where they’ll be unloading the durians”.
We parked the car a block away and took a nice stroll via the park at the back of the community center. As we approached the car park for the community center, we saw lots of people milling around…. the durians!
All the durians were looking fresh and prickly with long stems on (a very good indication of freshness) and neatly stacked in baskets. Each basket was labelled clearly with the cultivar.
Was there any intention in the order of the baskets?
Well, I think if you read chinese script, the direction is always top to bottom and left to right. If you look at the photo above, I think you can deduce which durians were thought to be popular with the crowd. The small stacks are for “appreciation” while the larger stacks are for “consumption”. The higher the stack, the more to go around. I’d say the D13′s and the MSW’s win hands down. There were some tables parallel to the baskets and the supplier had left his name card out for anyone who still maintains a rolodex.
“Come come” motioned Jessica ” we need to get you guys registered. The registration is over at the end here and we’ll be sitting at placemat number 9.”
We left our various mats and bags with Jessica’s family and the friendly group and headed over to the registration table.
Everyone came casually dressed, prepared for warm weather and a rather breezeless evening. Despite the lack of any fans, I am pleased to report that there were no mosquitoes in sight and it was quite cool due to the overcast day. The registration counter took our details and issued us wrist tags (ala disco clubs or F1).
Walking past the event billboards, we noticed a table strategically placed in the middle by the stage. This was the real advertisement and menu for the event and the press. Each fruit was placed in eating sequence with a little descriptive notecard.
After rounds of introductions and getting comfortable on our little picnic mat, we realized that after a while, none of us could really hear each other that well anymore. The loud pumping music in the background (yes, there was a live DJ and loudspeakers) matched the din of everyone trying to have a conversation. It was getting dark and if it had been quiet, we would have probably heard some stomachs growling. The seating area probably reached almost full capacity. In his opening speech, Dr. Leslie Tay welcomed all 300+ participants and shared the program for the evening. He mentioned that some participants had probably starved themselves all day for this durian buffet, but it was in fact not a buffet but more of a tasting session. he said that Ah Seng -the durian supplier partner he worked with- had imported 900Kg of durian for the event. So that would be approximately less than 3Kg of durian per person. (Well, durians are weighed with the husks which effectively make it heavier. One durian can weigh between 2-3 Kg, so effectively each person would be consuming one durian each :)).
Dr. Leslie organized this event with the Singapore Kindness Movement, so the Chairman got to tell everyone to be nice to one another. Everyone was nice there but I think it would have been an interesting test to put all the durians out and see what happens in a free-for-all. The durians were served to each group, to prevent fights and general chaos I suppose (note that the Genting event was also supposed to be organized like this).
Then Dr. Leslie introduced the star of the show, Ah Seng the durian man. Everyone was much more interested in him!
Once all the introductions were done, it was time to get on with the show. Dr. Leslie gave the nod and Ah Seng went on stage to tell everyone about the first durian we were about to experience…. the Black Pearl (not from the Pirates of the Caribbean, that’s a different Black Pearl). So drumroll….. dum dum dum dee dum…… and like the start of a chinese wedding dinner, out marched the volunteers carrying a basket with a fruit to be delivered to each group of durian fanatics. Now for the durian photos…..
Everyone in my group was very courteous, no snatching, no hoarding and no fingering (excuse the lingo) of the fruit. The fruit laden husks were proffered around and each person picked their piece. Next up the Ang Hae…
Then the XO….
And then everything in between and then the Mao Shan Wang
Photogenic durians all of them. Check out this tiny seed.
The thing about eating durian slowly in courses is that it fills you up. People wonder why the mediterranean and french people are slim, that’s because it’s not just what they eat but how they eat it. A french lunch is typically taken seriously and slowly, savoring every bite. So you eat less over a longer period of time. All of us could definitely have eaten more if the durian was placed in front of us all at once in boxes (hands up those who can easily finish a box of durians from the fridge). Being served just ensures that the timing was well spaced out (I guess also to let your palate recharge) and that you eat at a slower pace. Hence eating less but feeling full by the time we got to the end. I have mixed feelings about whether there should have been quite as many durian types served. When we got to the MSW, everyone was pretty full and some already had quite enough of durian. So the appreciation was less in a way.
While all the durian lovers were chowing down and listening to the interesting narratives by Dr. Leslie (quips like “Durian husks contain enzymes so wash your hands in it after eating”; “i should invent a durian detergent”; “Is it a myth that you shouldn’t eat durian and drink” etc), there was a lot going on behind the scenes. Check it out in my next post.
Okay I did a bit more reading and here are the supermarkets that will be distributing the durian. No prices mentioned but I reckon it might be pricey.
V Plus Supermarkets in Campsie and Liverpool.
Kingsford Oriental and Asian stores in Cabramatta
They will be stocking D24s and the Raja Musang (Mao San Wang).
So if you’re walking by and expecting the wafting smell of durians… I doubt you’ll be smelling any as it’ll likely be well packed!
From Bernama News:
MELBOURNE, Oct 30 (Bernama) — Southeast Asian customers waited with eager anticipation as the latest shipment of “Raja Musang”, the “King of Durian”, hit some Asian stores in Sydney this week.
Leading importer of this product to Australia, Weng Sam, director of Rockman Pty Ltd, one of Australia’s largest Asian importers and wholesalers, said he was expecting “great things from this deliciously succulent product”.
He has already started distributing it to his Asian grocery suppliers around Australia.
This is his second container load of durians valued at about A$70,000.
His first shipment comprised D24 and Raja Musang but the more expensive Raja Musang proved to be well-received and sold out within a couple of weeks.
“I initially brought in more D24 than Raja Musang, because it was cheaper and there was a demand for it in the market. But once buyers tasted Raja Musang, they said forget about it! No more D24,” Weng Sam said.
“There is no other durian that can beat the taste of Raja Musang!” he said. “But the only problem, of course, is the price. It fluctuates.”
But that does not seem to concern Australian customers.
“One excited lady said her husband did not care how costly durian was. He was just anxious to buy it as soon as it was available in stores and would even pay A$100 for one durian,” Weng San said.
“Another lady Elizabeth Chan remarked when she heard about the Malaysian durians in Sydney, it ‘light up my life’,” he said.
Johnny Wan, a Malaysian in Sydney sent his sister to get two cartons of the fruit. He said: “I don’t care how much it cost… I don’t want to miss it this time.”
Malaysians and Singaporeans have been contacting the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) Sydney office to find out which stores stocked the delicious Raja Musang.
For Sydney Matrade commissioner Ong Yew Chee, it was one fine afternoon where a phone call from Weng Sam started the Raja Musang entry into Sydney.
Weng San was looking for a supplier and Ong arranged a meeting with Hernan Corporation in Kuala Lumpur.
Rockman is grateful to Ong for the connection which has been working closely with Sydney Matrade to get more Malaysian products into Australia, including Dewina’s products, London Biscuits and Yik Khang Frozen Foodstuffs.
Raja Musang durian is being sold in several Asian supermarkets in Sydney such as V Plus Supermarkets in Campsie and Liverpool, Kingsford Oriental and Asian stores in Cabramatta where it has met with enormous success even among the Vietnamese community.
Although it has been under a week since this King of Durian been unloaded in Sydney, already a third of the container has a been sold, with new retailers in negotiations with Weng Sam, to get their orders in.
Some news that Malaysian durians are not only heading north to China but also to the Southern Hemisphere to Sydney…. Good news for durian lovers over there. More choices in the market apart from the frozen stuff and the durians from Queensland.
SEPANG: Sydney will be the first foreign market to receive Malaysian durians in fresh chilled form through a new packaging technology. Developed by theMalaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi), the modified atmosphere packaging is able to seal in the freshness of the durian flesh for up to three weeks. Previously, Malaysian durians were exported either in frozen form or as whole fruits. “The new packaging technology is more hygienic and is able to contain the freshness of the fruits’ taste, aroma, colour and texture. “Frozen durians, which can be kept for up to six months or even a year, does not taste as good because the tissues and enzymes of the fruits are dead. “They are not the same as fresh chilled durians,” Mardi senior principal research officer Latifah Mohd Noor said at the launch of the MASKargo cold chain product here yesterday. The launch was held in conjunction with Mardi’s trial durian shipment to the Australian city, which involves some two tonnes of the fruit being exported to Sydney in phases. The first batch of durian flesh weighing some 650kg was transported yesterday and will be sold in four supermarkets. MASKargo chief executive officer Mohd Yunus Idris said the durians were expected to reach Sydney’s supermarkets as fresh as when the fruits were first picked from the orchard. Mohd Yunus also announced the company’s partnership with Envirotainer in transporting the temperature-sensitive shipments. Latifah said the trial shipments were aimed at testing consumer demand for the fruit and to allow Mardi to evaluate the effectiveness of its new packaging technology.
“Envirotainer” – is that a fancy name for a fridge? I wonder what this new packaging is… perhaps packing with a neon gas or vacuum packaging.
What I thought interesting was the quantity of fruit being exported. Two tonnes of fruit. I suppose this is fruit without the husks. What types are being shipped are not mentioned. Perhaps another outflow of Mao Shan Wangs or another market for D24s. At the recent durian mobilization degustation XII, 300+ people consumed one tonne of durian (weighed with husks of course). So that might double up the quantity but still not that much in the market to go around. Sydney siders better find out which four supermarkets have got this special import coming….