A durian retailer folds

There was a little booth located on Bullock Lane selling durian desserts and other sweet treats. Their focus was really on durian derived desserts though. With nowhere to sit and all being takeaway, I guess it had limited appeal and the rental must have increased by 30% just like the rest of the shops along the same part of Wanchai Road.


Now it’s a temporary mobile phone and computer accessory/gadget retailer which seems to be the go to business whenever the original store concept fails and the landlord is waiting for another long term legitimate business owner to come through.

Musang King 🐱⛰ 👑 Durian for sale at CitySuper, Times Square

If it’s at Taste, it’s also gotta be available at CitySuper. In I went to hunt down the durian in Causeway Bay.

It’s right at the front entrance, impossible to miss. Sitting high up on a display bench, whole durians sans cling film beckon. The packaged durians packed in impenetrable stiff plastic wrapping. Not a whiff of any aroma at all. 

Boxed durian for sale at CitySuper


But the colour looked good. 
And the price…? Well, expect to pay at least twice the price for this box of gold at CitySuper.

Durian Priced by weight at CitySuper


Mmm looks good….

Boxed Musang king at CitySuper


Pretty funny that they translate it literally as “durian meat“. I suppose “durian flesh” doesn’t sound much better.

Durian Radar: Sudden and unexpected appearance of the Musang King

I was cruising through the supermarket Taste at Hopewell Center for a carton of milk. The route entails going past the personal care section, baby diapering section, household cleaning section, the toilet & tissues section. When I rounded the bend at the Japanese/ Taiwanese premium fruit display and the deli area selling expensive cheeses, right in front of me was the fast moving fruit display. 

👀ZZZziiiingggg!!! 👀

These fruits sit on top of barrels and are here at this intersection to get your attention. My eyes spied a small mass of familiar durian yellow in two tones… it was Thai on one side and Malaysian on the other. All packed in cling film for sale. The Mao Shan Wang looked like it was a nice and creamy.. good colour. 

At least you can see what you’re buying


At a display table perpendicular to the ready to consume durian, whole durians wrapped in cling film! Each going for a set price of HKD 299.9 per piece. I don’t know why it’s not just $300. Purchasing psychology I guess. 

Each going for $299 HKD


If you need a fix, head down and grab one.  It’s not expensive compared to what regular stall pricing would be for HK, but it’s off season time so the flavour may not be as intense… I couldn’t detect the aroma at all, these durians weren’t double wrapped.

Durian size comparison with apples

The only issue is that you might have to split the husk yourself. No simple feat unless you refer to a video instruction. 

Check out this video by Mark Wiens eating durian in Singapore... one of my favourite YouTube chefs (awesome Som Tum and Tom Yum Soup Mark) happy to know he likes durian too.

Malaysian Stamp features the durian 

Among other local fruits, the durian stands out in size and colour. There are two durians on the stamp, at the front and back. The durian-like fruit in the middle is a jackfruit, known locally as the “nangka“. Nestled at the back is the hairy rambutan and in the front is the purple husked mangosteen.


Thanks to Meredith DPS for sending it to me!

The avid use of packaging to prolong freshness and morphology 

Valentine’s Day is approaching and soon the markets and card shops will be filled with silly novelties. One particular novelty made the news here in HK for the wrong reason. 

Valentine’s Day Strawberry


CitySuper, one of the high end supermarkets has stocked up on a special Kotoka Strawberry from Japan. The problem, highlighted on social media, was it’s over-the-top packaging. Nestled in a styrofoam netting and encased in a custom box with a clear cover, the strawberry was designed with Valentine’s Day in mind. The packaging looks like it could fit 4 equal sized strawberries easily. 


What perverse pleasure there is in the consumption of one strawberry boggles the mind… unless it is infused with aphrodisiac properties that when your loved one bites into it, they…. (I’ll leave this part up to your imagination). 

Japanese strawberries on sale at Taste


Pretty much all the high end fruits from Taiwan and Japan are packaged this way for sale at the supermarket.

Green groups in Hong Kong are up in arms over the wasteful packaging and are pressuring the supermarkets to reduce fruit packaging. This is all very well, except that the people running these green organisations are gweilos (no offence meant) who haven’t observed locals and chinese people in general buying fruit. 

In my observations, many of the auntie and granny looking types like to hover by the fresh fruit crates, this is for two reasons. 

1) they are using all the processing power they have to compute the price per fruit and which is more expensive and why. Then…

2) they wait to see who else is buying what. If they see several picking fruit from a particular crate, the rate of attraction suddenly increases and there’s a waterhole effect where all the grannies need to get their hands on one before it runs out. 

In the meantime, the fruit in this crate (let’s say apples in this case), get picked and pressed and generally molested all around. If for any reason it is dissatisfactory, it gets tossed back into the crate and another is subjected to the same fate until the granny finds the best one. Ok, I confess that I am like a granny in my selection, and that is because the apples I purchase are the most expensive and I’d like to ensure that they are edible after everyone else has had a go. So what does the supermarket do with all this spoiled rejected apples? I suppose it’s off to the processing plant and that’s where the juices on the shelf come from. 

Anyway. In the case of the durian, the fruit can be shipped in its husk if fresh. That’s probably the greenest packaged pricey fruit there is. However, many are being sold frozen now, cling film is used to conserve shape and hygiene on a piece by piece basis. That’s still at least a meter or two of cling film per durian.

If only someone could recycle durian husks into a biodegradable packaging for durian and other fruits… that would be very green indeed. 

Alternatively, get all the fussy ones to head off to the wet market where the fruit man watches his fruit like a hawk and everything gets dropped together in a bag on the assumption that you’ll handle them with care.

This is how the Kotoka Strawberry is packaged in Japan. Where do all their packaging waste go? Or is it only for export?

Invitation to visit Fruit 🐒Monkeys, Singapore

I suppose if you were to open a fruit business in the chinese astrological year of the monkey, it would make sense to include the word monkey in the name. Particularly because it is so apt that monkeys love fruit. Especially high calorie ones like durian.

It was a pleasant surprise to receive an invite from the two founders of Fruit Monkeys, to check out their new durian enterprise. Kaida (Chief Inspiration Officer) got in touch and seemed genuinely pleased when I agreed to pop in sometime over the Christmas / New Year period when I was in Singapore. Please note that this is not a paid review, we were charged for what we chose and consumed. 

Fruit Monkeys is located along a street which I would normally never travel on, nor pass by en route somewhere nor on foot. It’s located near Farrer Park MRT station/ hospital, on Rangoon Road but would still be several minutes walk. There’s ample street parking if you’re inclined to drive but no covered areas so be prepared to get a bit soaked in wet weather. Who eats durians on rainy days? 🙋🏻

I popped in to pick up some durian as a gift for a friends house visit, and give Fruit Monkeys a chance. The owners chose to take a shop lot in a newly constructed podium space, not your typical durian stall with such posh digs. The vicinity feels quite experimental and the transitioning of shops in the neighbourhood indicates gradual gentrification of the area. 


As you can see, this isn’t a durian stall that you’d come across… you definitely have to know about it to find it.


At the end of the corridor, Fruit Monkeys has a neat and simple concept, with their durians sunbathing on the terrace. 


Bernard, (the other owner) was tending to the shop that day. 

What could he recommend? 


Bernard said the Xiao Jin feng was excellent, would I like to try it and take a few besides the usual Mao Shan Wangs. Sure, why not. I like to try what the owner recommends, gives me a guage of their taste.


The Jin feng (Golden Phoenix) is indeed “Xiao“, it would fit in the palm of your hand. Perfectly shaped like a little plumper than a rugby ball, it’s too cute weighing in at just over a kilo per fruit. The fruit to husk ratio is pretty decent too.


The durian was opened and I was offered the tasting portion (i.e. Pick the corner seed).


It tasted like ice cream. The flesh was sweet and very smooth. I decided to take 3 of these little ones.

Now onto the main course. I was pretty keen to try this Old Tree Musang King that the owners rave about.


So here it is. Rich deep yellow with perfectly translucent skin. Certainly looked fabulous considering how late it is in the season. Corner pick 😉


Of course it’s fabulous on my deprived palate… but it didn’t have quite enough of the bitter undertones which I like. Nonetheless I took two of these as the texture was spot on. 

The second MSW picked was apparently not up to par so the Sifu rejected it and selected another fruit.


Here’s the colour comparison.

As though testing me, the durian Sifu opening the fruit asked me “which one do you prefer?” 
“Jin Feng” was my reply. It was a winner in both smoothness of texture and a sweet richness that was unpretentious. He smiled knowingly and told me that it is only in season for two weeks. Ahh the joys of eating seasonal fruit… sort of the same highs as getting a limited edition of a luxury item. Total came to SGD 250 for 5 fruits. Not cheap but it came with Bernard’s personal guarantee.

I was getting these to go and it was a good way to see how it would be packed.


The durians were tipped into the usual plastic containers and then heat sealed in a bag. It did reduce the smell but as it was just one layer, the smell had begun to leak once I got into the car. Oh well we had it in “convertible mode” (windows down!). 

THE DEEP FREEZER FOR THE BODIES

There was a deep freezer in the corner of the store, I asked whether they could show me what they kept inside. No, just joking, there are no bodies here, just durian!


They had two categories in the freezer. One was packed premium Musang kings, all individually wrapped in cling film and packed tightly into more sturdy freezer friendly plastic box. The foil cover maintains the secrecy of what’s inside from prying eyes except that it wouldn’t fool an x-ray machine.  The other were standard takeaway style plastic boxes filled with the durians that were rejected, these are sold for processing to be recreated into purees and pulp for pastries etc. 


The premium grade frozen Musang kings go for SGD 110 per box and Bernard said that these were targeted to Indonesian clientele who liked to bring it home and eat it cold like ice cream. 

FACILITIES


I was reasonably impressed with the facilities, the shop was brightly lit, reasonably clean and free of bugs. There was a proper work table for the packing of the fruit and a nice wide and deep kitchen sink for washing hands and tools. The owners also had a bowl of candy out, presumably as an offering for drop ins or those needing to leave with a different flavour in their breath.


I noticed some durian brushes hung up at the side. It’s nice to keep your premium fruit looking cobweb and bug free. You can also see the different sized boxes available for travel takeaway next to their packaging materials ( i.e. Tape, scissors, heat sealing machine).

And if you go crazy excessive ordering and run out of cash, you can also pay by NETS and credit card.

I think this is a good place to take your guests for a durian experience (it’s important that first tries are good ones and at least Bernard and Kaida can curate). It’s covered so you can sit inside or in the covered walkway area if it rains. It’s also air conditioned for those who need it a little more luxe than the usual roadside haunts. 

Bernard’s perspective is that he caters for durian lovers. He gets his supplier to only select the best fruit from Johor and Pahang (Raub & Bentong specifically- well reputed and old durian plantations there). He says it’s expensive but he gets a guarantee on fruit quality. If it doesn’t pass the test, he says he gets to return or refund it. This is the same promise he offers his clients. They started out as fruit lovers and have now progressed to fruit vendors. 

Anyway back to the durians I bought. It was a gift to a friend. Our friend KM -a Kamoro indigenous tribe expert- is a durian lover. His wife GM even more so. They were so happy with the gift and really took time to savour every bite. Here’s the final evidence.

Seeds of Jin Feng and Musang King

Suggestion for property developers 

Durian, especially the Mao Shan Wang variety, has been exorbitantly priced this year. This article (Durian exports to China fruitful) reminds us why.

At this rate, it might be worth converting all that ringgit into land for a good durian plantation.. seems like it might be the best investment as it’s one of the Malaysian commodities that is actually continually increasing in value.

Perhaps those Chinese developers of forest city in Johor Bahru should consider putting fruit plantations on or adjacent to their property. This could entice buyers from China who are also durian lovers. Property & durian trees.. all long term investments.