Go…Go…Go.. Durian Omakase!

I love this wonderful marketing strategy by 99 Old Trees in Singapore. Durian omakase (colloquially termed Sukawa by 99 Old trees.. a very Singlish phrase) is such a fabulous idea… it means you show up and the vendor picks a variety of the best fruit for you to sample (in unlimited supply). A few innovative companies in Hong Kong (that are from KL) have started doing this at sit down events, but no one has thought to coin it an “omakase” as it’s much more of a durian tasting of different varietals than necessarily the BEST of each one.

Check out this article about what 99 Old Trees is doing and do watch that video with Genevieve Loh, she’s superbly funny 😆.

I really miss being in Malaysia for durian season… is anyone coming to HK from KL/SG and can bring some omakase up for me? I miss having other varietals. In HK they only bother bringing in Musang king and maybe black thorn. Sometimes the Musang king is only so-so. I miss a good Tekka!

Ps. For the foodie uninitiated (from Wikipedia): Omakase is the Japanese tradition of letting a chef choose your order. The word means “I will leave it to you.” It’s a fine tradition that gives the chef creative freedom and the customer a memorable dining experience. Any good chef is a creative individual. … Omakase lets the chef flex their culinary talents.

A FB friend just went to 99 Old Trees and reported a stellar experience. Find them off Little India at 46 Owen Rd, #01-277 Singapore, Near Pek Kio Food Centre. But you’d better call them first… after this promo, I wonder if there’ll be any Durians left! Durians usually arrive from malaysia in the afternoon so get your tummy ready after 6pm…

Tel: +65 98222495 book by noon I would imagine!

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Durian buffet: Eat until you pengsan

Translation. Pengsan= Drop.

Eat until you drop. Buuurrrp.

What’s not to love about durian buffets? Imagine, getting to eat variations of the same thing… what if it were a cheese buffet or a pork cutlet buffet. Do you think it would inspire the same fervor and enthusiasm? I’ve been to cheese and wine tastings before, it’s usually limited to a small amount of cheese and just one glass of wine per bottle. Yawn. Boring.

So I’ve been to a few durian buffets but this one was different.

The durian buffet organized by the Wanchai road shop 猫山旺 was held at The Hub just off the main pedestrian bridge linking the MTR station to the Immigration building. I was a little late to the party.

Wow. Everyone was already seated and there wasn’t a seat to spare. Hmm 🤔 (wondering whether I could get a seat).

I spied a nice lady in white wandering around the entrance with a tag and proceeded to ask if she was Carol.

Oh no no I’m not Carol, (she’s Carmen) Carol is somewhere in the back getting the durians ready, you can go have a look.”

Okay… off I go to the back. There was no shortage of things to see.

Firstly, you see what hybrids they’re serving. Here you can admire the different shapes, spikes and forms of the durian husk.

Then, a table full of gift suggestions. Want to send a fresh fruit hamper with a fresh durian? They’ve got you covered. (Let me know if you need special gloves for opening them, I can sort you out.)

And if you’re not into fresh and prefer durian in its other forms… well you won’t be disappointed either.

Durian chocolate, crisps, coffee.. I think those possibilities are endless.. but that’s if you’re just into the flavor. Which I think is sort of missing the point… there’s just so much more to the fruit.

What’s really nice is that they bothered with mangosteens. Very thoughtful to include the queen of fruits. It’s the yang to the durian’s ying.. helps to balance out the heatiness of durians.. or so the chinese saying goes. Mangosteen is an equally difficult fruit. It spoils easily, the juices stain everything it contacts with and the worst part? It’s often full of large black ants. They hide under those beguiling green sepals and spill out once you’ve disturbed their hiding place. I hope the Hub fumigated after the event or some residents are going to massively complain.

After the Queen here come the Kings!

All these are for sale of course. What about the buffet?

Nice. I liked that they used black serving plates. Good contrast.

I finally found Carol who was really busy getting the servers to do the serving. I decided to introduce myself to the boss dressed in white, Jessie. After some discussion with her, I was ushered over to a seat and assigned with my tray.

How exciting! I couldn’t wait to catch up. Everyone else had already demolished their tray and were onto their second round.

Note the banana leaf underneath the durian. Great idea to make it authentic Malaysian style 👍👍! The organizers also strung up Malaysian flags and had coconut water and bottled water on the tables. This was well thought through.

While people were eating, on stage there was a running commentary about different types of durian, what they look like, their flavors etc.

Mark, the durian supplier from Malaysia was up there to provide his expertise on durian cultivars in Cantonese. (Note, I did speed the video up 2x to save some time. Mark doesn’t really sound like a cartoon character! :))

Was anyone actually listening? Yes and No. I think most people there were durian enthusiasts and they knew what they were there to eat. They were just tucking into every serving. But it was good to have running commentary, definitely makes it more lively.

In the paper cup provided for each person was a plastic glove. Almost everyone I saw on the room had used one. That’s how I know they are from Hong Kong. Everyone here has been conditioned to be hygiene obsessed. So they’ll wash their hands, then put on the glove to eat.

As my faithful blog readers know, that is just not the way I like it. I want to feel the durian flesh on my fingertips. I want to hold it with my pincer-like grip and know the size of the seed. Most importantly, when you use your bare hands, the chances of it slipping and popping onto your shirt or lap is much reduced. Well, that’s just my opinion. Use your gloves if you want 😉.

I was quite impressed with the graphics, -nicely done- explaining the various states in peninsular Malaysia and where durians are grown (yes, virtually all have durian).

I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get more of the Musang king or the 金包which I was rather taken with. Instead it was the much less flavorful D24 that made the rounds and I noticed that many of these were left wasted on plates. Perhaps the organizers should note this and ask what their audience would like more of… we could hold up a sign saying “more 金包over here please”

Soon after, the packaged samples came out… first the durian ice cream. It came out already in balls with a serving spoon. Not bad but not everyone could be bothered.

Then the durian mochis. These were straight out of the freezer but had a bit of condensation at the side. I found these to be too chewy. Not my thing.

But Z was into the durian cheesecake. Not that it had a strong durian flavor to it, that’s probably why she could stay to pick at it until it was mostly gone.

I had been persuading her to try some durians with me but to no avail. Basic rule of parenting, pick your battles. I figured this wasn’t one I needed to win. She could see how much fun I was having, so I’ll just stay optimistic.

To amp up the fun, the organizers had a lucky draw to win durians and a little contest to test the knowledge of the participants. The winners got to take home a whole durian each.

Everyone was encouraged to buy some durian on the way out to take home and autograph their big durian wall.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Jessie and Benny’s team and commend them on the expert organization of the event. Jessie and Benny run a successful seafood export business and started this business due to their own passion for durian. A tip for the owners….I asked several participants how they came to know of it… were they clients of the durian shop like I was?

No… they all knew about it through Facebook groups and love going to durian buffets! These were the serial durian buffet goers (SDBFG).

More on the SDBFGs in another blogpost.

If you’re in the city and craving some durian, these guys will sort you out. The service is a little gruff but I think the quality may be more reliable than other stalls as they fly the durians in fresh daily. And if you’re too tired to head out… call them they deliver!

Open 10am to 10pm. Call to pre-order at +852 9171 3882.

Ps. At the conclusion of the event, they announced a buy 3 get 1 free promotion. I bought 2 金包, 1猫山王 and 1D101. Shared with PB who was a very happy chick.

Here’s the cute assistant courier.

Last few spots on Lindsay’s durian tour for 2017

According to the Star newspaper in Malaysia, numbers of durians are down but the number of durian consumers are up. So this year we’ll be experiencing a price squeeze for durian… again. 

Durian orchard tours snapped up

For those making the annual pilgrimage to Penang for durian tasting, you’d best hurry as the bookings have been made by many others. 

Lindsay Gasik’s Bao Sheng durian farm tour in Penang is probably best to go with if you want an English speaking guide. 

If you prefer a more chinese D-I-Y experience which is less luxe (possibly no air conditioning and definitely no swimming pool) and more rural (ie harder to get to) you can check out this list of durian orchards by Jojo or give Fook Gor a call to confirm that they haven’t exported the best ones to KL…

“Agrotainment”, KenDurian: Durian fiesta in Dataran Merdeka

Malaysians are generally very good at coining new terms, and the ministers of state transmit these through mainstream media. So now, apart from “sportstainment”, “edutainment”, we now have “agrotainment“.

 Pretty silly as my toddler would say. 

Anyway, this article reports that the durian fest held at Dataran Merdeka was such a huge success that it might be held every last weekend of July. From the video, it looked like a very civilised affair, with a tent, tables with table cloths, chairs and plates. People are seen selecting their durians and packing them into plastic containers. I’m not sure whether it was mostly kampung durians and those of less popular breeds… Most of the best durians are often exported to the highest bidders around the region.

Of course, this could also be the situation in the VIP tent where the minister was given the tasting tour… Perhaps everyone else was shunted outside.

If you were there, please let me know what you thought of it since this is now thought of and promoted as a national event…!

News Alert: Semarang Durian Fest, Jan 23-24th, Indonesia

This announcement was published in the Jakarta Post (local Indonesian newspaper). 

 Apparently a durian fest complete with durian and rambutan eating competitions will be held in Semarang, a city in Central Java. Semarang, famous for its Jamu and beautiful batik, has a sub district known as Mijen as a regional retail and distribution Center. This is really in the boonies by the way. I reckon it’ll take at least an hour from the city in good traffic conditions.

it sounds like a fixed price fruit buffet is on offer. No mention as to the type of durians but I’m sure it’ll be fun for the locals (riotous celebration as stated) nonetheless.

Discover Durians and Peruvian Food at the same time

If you are in Hong Kong today, tonight is your last chance to check out the Discover Peru buffet at Hotel Icon. Sorry for the late notice but we only went to lunch yesterday.

The Peruvian food was delicious, if you go, I highly recommend that you try the ceviche (Peruvian style sashimi) and the Peruvian Shrimp soup which was a highlight. As I went with the Peruvian group here, the dishes were especially authentic and the chef made up a little bit of extra ceviche for our table. Those corn pops (equivalent of beer nuts I’m told) were simply yummy.

Anyway, the Icon Hotel’s restaurant called the Market, has an extensive buffet selection with great presentation. The dessert counter was especially impressive with its nice decor, and of course a fascinating range of durian desserts which I have rarely come across in any hotel buffet.

Here are pictures of what’s available.

Deep Fried Durian Puffs

Deep Fried Durian Puffs

 

First up, durian puffs. I sent SW off to get some dessert and he came back all bright eyed as though he’d dug up some secret treasure. Inside, whole pieces of durian that would fit in the palm of your hand were wrapped in a rice flour and deep fried. Nice flavor but I couldn’t tell if it was MSW or really ripe Monthong.

Probably not the healthiest, but if you’re after healthy, you shouldn’t be anywhere near this counter.

 

 

Durian Cheesecake Squares

Durian Cheesecake Square

 

 

Next up, the durian cheese cake. Lightly baked, this was a nice size to leave you with two bites.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a baked durian cheese morsel. I’m not a big fan of tarts so I didn’t try this but guess it;s a crunchy rendition of the cheesecake.

Baked Durian Cheese Morsels

Baked Durian Cheese Morsels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Durian Pannacotta

Durian Pannacotta

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the durian panna cotta, nicely presented.

Mao Shan Wang Ice Cream

Mao Shan Wang Ice Cream

 

 

And finally the durian ice cream.

 

 

 

 

The ice cream was quite delicious. Full on cold MSW which was cold, creamy and pure durian. Even ZI loved it.

Mao Shan Wang Ice Cream Close up

Mao Shan Wang Ice Cream Close up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So if you have nothing on for dinner, maybe check out the restaurant at the ICON in East TST tonight.

The Market Restaurant @ ICON Hotel

The Market Restaurant @ ICON Hotel

Durian Mobilization 2013: Behind the Scenes

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.

Durian Prep Team

Durian Prep Team, one hand gloved, one hand with a blade

Four guys doing all the slicing and dicing.

Durian Prep Team hard at work

Durian Prep Team hard at work

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!

Empty those baskets!

Empty those baskets!

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.

Eagerly awaiting to be served

Eagerly awaiting to be served the next course of durian

Some even brought their own table and bench!

Some even brought their own table and bench!

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.

TV news durian coverage

TV news durian 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.

Ah Seng doing the sniff QC

Ah Seng doing the sniff QC for each Mao Shan Wang

And then the durians were served to the delighted fans.

Would you like some?

Would you like some?

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).

This is for you to take home

This is for you to take home

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.

It’s been a long day and night for Ah Seng’s team

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.

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Dr Leslie Tay autographing books sold at the event

And then finally Dr. Leslie Tay is free to give a full interview for the TV press which you can watch here.

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Dr. Leslie Tay interviewed for news TV

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!

After dessert, they had dinner!

After dessert, they had dinner!

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.

This was the MSW we brought home and consumed the next day

This was the MSW we brought home and consumed the next day

It fragranced out the fridge of course. A nice reminder of the event we attended the night before.