Durian deception: When a durian snack is not a durian snack

You would generally expect that when you buy a durian snack you’d be getting a snack with durian in it. You would be hoping for that creamy texture….. that aromatic-pungent scent….. the tinge of bitterness when it melts on your tongue…

Not the overwhelming cloying sweetness of straight up sugar and egg. 

Let’s survey a few durian snacks sold around the shops here and see what they contain.

1) Durian cakes – classic flavour, with “Rich Durian Flavour”. 

The picture looks positively delicious. There’s a sponge cake exterior (thinking kueh bahalu here) and a durian filled interior. Made by a company called Natural House that takes the effort to emphasise Natural (自然). There’s a nice picture of a durian revealing its fantastic interior just by the cake. This was sold at Save More


Now let’s examine the ingredients.


Ok maybe that’s a little too small to read, but you can see the pictoral description on the back of the box. Zoom in a little will ya.


If you look at the ingredients closely you will realise that you are being led astray. There is no durian in this cake whatsoever. Instead, you’d be consuming flour, emulsifiers, palm oil and a bunch of sugars and artificial flavours. E450, E500, E341, E102, E471, E282. Thank you for declaring the artificial ingredients in detail.

Would I buy this? NO. Not even for HKD 18 (USD 3) My poor liver would be crying out in pure torment.

2) Kai Kee Durian Egg Rolls. (Note that the durian version costs 20% more than the Coffee and Curry flavours.)


Nice packaging ✅ , pricing not exorbitant ✅ , good looking durian in the cover ✅ , from Malaysia ✅ . 

Now let’s flip it over and see what’s within.


Ok, so the ingredients are: Egg, Sugar, Wheat Flour, Rice flour, coconut milk, durian paste, durian flavour (flavour). 

I take it that the last ingredient is actually artificial durian flavouring. No E colours or numbers stated but I think they must be lumped under that last ingredient.

Well, at least there’s some durian paste that went into it, though it may be less than 1%.

Would I buy this? Maybe. It’s the same contents as egg rolls just with durian flavour for HKD 58 (USD 8). Or how about we just stick with the plain egg rolls…. 

3) Kai Kee “durian ice cream cookies”

As an alternative to the egg rolls, Kai Kee also has these cookies for sale. 

So they are “handmade” and a durian flavour.  Let’s flip it over.


What? It’s worse than the egg rolls. It is only flavoured with durian…. hmm. Yet again, no declaration of E numbers that went into this.

4) Homei Durian kaya

If you love kaya like me, you would always be on the lookout for kaya. Nothing beats fresh kaya… I usually get a bottle or two if anyone is coming from Singapore or Malaysia. This brand of durian kaya from Homei is distributed in several shops in Wanchai. You’ll find the same product cheapest at the Save More store in Wanchai market’s Stone Nullah Lane. It’s less than HKD 20 per bottle.


For those who are uninitiated in the ways of kaya, it’s largely made from coconut milk  but is often cooked with Pandan leaves to impart a fragrance to the runny texture.

Did any durian make its way into the kaya?


Sugar is the first and the largest component (don’t get a heart attack reading this), followed by durian at 25%, egg at 15%, water, corn starch, salt and colouring E102. Find out more about the ubiquitous E102 here.

Would I buy this? No. I can wait till the next visitor from Singapore or Malaysia comes and brings me a tub of fresh Killeney kopitiam kaya

None of those E colours thank you. 


5) Durian pralines by Hemelz


I saw these pralines in Singapore’s Tanglin Mall supermarket during Chinese New Year (February) and was intrigued enough to take a photo. 

The three top ingredients are durian paste, vegetable fat and sugar though the relative quantities are not stated. 

Would I buy it? Maybe. Just to satisfy my curiosity.

🐱🐱🐱🐱🤸🏻‍♂️🤸🏻‍♂️do more exercise if you’re consuming this much sugar..

If it’s off season and you’re craving some durian, I highly recommend the lyophilised (aka freeze dried) version. It’s definitely lost the texture of the fresh durian but the flavours are released nicely on your palate and you know there’s nothing else adulterating it.

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Durian snacks and kaya available at Save More in Wan Chai Market

On my recent trip to Save More to buy Nescafé 3 in 1 mix coffee, I had a bit of time to browse around. I was quite surprised to find a few packaged durian snacks for sale. Or maybe I shouldn’t be…as Philippinos do love durian and this is a shop that they frequent. 

Well here goes…

First up, durian white coffee from Ipoh, this is promoted as a 4 in 1!! 


It’s cheap, but I’m just not sure whether you’d enjoy waking up to a durian coffee every morning… Hmm…

Next up the same brand of durian kaya I saw in the coconut shop, Homei (which, in Cantonese means fragrant).


The bottle is a more manageable size, it’s half the volume for over half the price. (Bigger bottles are $30). Note that it’s very high in sugar, eat sparingly 🙂

Then this durian filled sandwich cookie called Durian Chaplet. $18 for a box. Also available in pineapple flavour.

The competitor would be durian cream biscuits in a flexible packaging which is $15 per pack.


If you need to pick any of these up, you can get them at Save More in Stone Nullah Lane in Wan Chai market.

Durian Kaya and durian coated crackers sold in Hong Kong

Walking on Hennessy Road in the direction from Wan chai MTR towards Causeway Bay is always quite an unpleasant experience. It’s usually crowded full of people queuing for buses and waiting at busy intersections to cross the road, bus fumes and general noise from the sheer volume of buses that ply the street. 

On a Saturday or Sunday morning however, it can be a bit more pleasant. 


Along the stretch of Hennessy (walking in direction of traffic) between Fleming and Stewart intersections, a few new shops have opened to sell a variety of groceries. 

The first one I came across was a shop called A CAP coconuts specialising in coconut based products. This is unlike the fresh coconut shop in Wan chai market. 


This shop sells more processed coconut based products, ranging from coconut oils for consumption to skin products and drinks.
It was here that I spied this…


Oooh kaya. I have a bottle that my mum

Just brought up for me, but that’s the best Singaporean pandan Kiliney road kopitiam kaya… 

This stuff was probably made from processed pulp that didn’t make the cut for consumption in its natural state. I turned the bottle around to look at the details.


Well it doesn’t say Mao Shan Wang… So how good could it be?? When I finish my kaya at home, perhaps I’ll come back for this.

A few shops down the street, another snack shop selling cheap tidbits of all sorts had this durian crispy cake.


I’m not terribly impressed with the packaging and wonder who’s buying?!

Uh Oh.. Trouble with the durian pastries at Goodwood Park Hotel, Singapore

TW’s favourite durian go to location for durian sweets is in the news again, unfortunately not in a good way.

Here’s the headline…
Goodwood Park bakery licence suspended after 76 food poisoning cases linked to durian pastries 

  

  
Hope they figure out the issue(s) and sort it out soon. 

Mid-Autumn Festival: Durian Mooncake in Hong Kong

It was the mid-Autumn festival last weekend. Quite drizzly in parts but it did clear up to a full moon on the day itself.

The day before, that is on the 8th of September, I was in Tsing Yi and in the Maritime mall waiting to meet up with a friend. In the concourse area was a typical exhibition booth space where many bakeries, restaurants and candy shops were hawking their wares. Of course, most of it was festival related and moon cakes were the main feature.

As I strolled around the booths, I was hunting for something very specific. Guess what…? It wasn’t durian moon cakes. I really like the piggy in the basket moon cake biscuit. It’s essentially the dough skin of the baked moon cakes which is crafted into the shape of a piglet. Most of the time, it’s the dough all the way through but sometimes they include the lotus seed filling which is super delicious. Anyway, it’s getting harder and harder to find a good one. I used to love the ones that the Shangri La in Singapore made, shaped in lions or goldfish (they no longer do this).

Would I have more luck in Hong Kong, I wondered….

Well, quite suddenly, I halted in my tracks. I spotted a stall selling moon cakes with durian. It was the only stall I had seen in the entire exhibition. Just to make sure that this was the case, I walked around twice more and confirmed that this was indeed the only stall.

Durian mooncake pricelist

Durian moon cake price list

This was certainly the most attractively designed price list among all the stalls (to me anyway). You can see how the price escalates to almost double between the D24 and the Mao Shan Wang fillings. All these are snow skin chilled durian moon cakes only, no baked ones. The price on the left indicates the per box cost, while the price on the right indicates how much it costs per cake, if you wish to buy them individually. Interesting that the most expensive one is a durian which I think is called the golden phoenix (last on the list).

Only 2 boxes of D24 mooncakes left

Only 2 boxes of D24 mooncakes left

Now, a peep into the fridge to see the goods. The fridge looked empty except for 2 boxes of D24. These boxes came in a yellowy green hue. Not looking that festive to me, but I guess business was brisk.

See before you buy

See before you buy

A check on the other side of the booth revealed similarly good business for the more expensive varieties. A lady had just purchased a box, which you can see the sales person closing the box. I think it’s great that you need to see and check that you’re getting the right ones, and that they let you. It appeared that some of these boxes had been booked and bagged already, awaiting collection.

Durian mooncakes in Hong Kong

Durian mooncakes in Hong Kong

Clearly these durians are from Malaysia. It says 100% Malaysian Durians on the of the brochure. But WAIT. On the bottom of this brochure, it says “Product of Singapore”. Quite creative, sneaky and probably at a good profit… but that’s food globalization for you.

Did anyone have durian moon cakes this year? Please share your experience.

Ps. If you’re wondering if I managed to buy that piglet, I did, but it was the very last one, retailed at 22 HKD. It was from another booth but I wasn’t that impressed with the flavor. Sigh.

The Rich and Good Cake Shop: Durian Swiss Roll

Durian Swiss Roll anyone?

If you’re craving some fresh durian dessert during a durian drought (or happen to be in the Arab Street ‘hood), you can buy a nice durian swiss roll from the Rich and Good Cake Shop. I bought one for my TW who was visiting from Chicago and he was very excited about it.

Overheard while in the queue.

Rrring RRiiing RRRrriinnggg…. (telephone call)

“hello, ya ya I am here”

other person speaks

“yes they sell swiss roll, what flavor you want”

other person speaks

“yes they sell swiss roll, got all kinds of flavor, carrot, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, durian what flavor you want?”

other person speaks

“no no carrot and strawberry not ready yet, another hour plus, you want durian or vanilla?”

other person speaks

“so you want or noooottt”

“ok ok I order a few now.”

This cake shop clearly has their slew of loyal customers. Judging by those in the queue, this was neither their first time here nor the first time they were queuing. At first I wasn’t sure how long it would take, every process in the shop seemed to still be non-automated and seriously pre-IBM. They don’t even have a POS, so you get a rather scrappy looking receipt. From the orders taken either at the door or by phone, everything was scribbled down by hand. It definitely retained the old-school feel and pumped out free delicious smells while you wait your turn to order. During this waiting time in the queue, there was plenty of time to browse the swiss rolls all neatly stacked in the fridge and to examine the flat cake that was exiting the oven on their trays in the tray trolleys. These were cooling and awaiting their turn to be “rolled” into a swiss roll with the requisite filling. They were definitely made on site.

Please note that this shop is a shop. Not a cafe, not a restaurant, nowhere to perch or sip an espresso. You get there (if you drive, put on a coupon for at least half an hour, park on Kandahar Street), get in the queue, wait your turn and get out. If you want the frills, check out the Japanese inspired cafe down the block, but beware the prices. If you’re price sensitive, there’s a little local modern kopitiam type of joint down the Southern end of the block.

As for my experience, I left after about half an hour with the swiss rolls for TW but unfortunately didn’t get to try them myself. That’ll be for my next trip.

Here’s their facebook page with very mixed reviews (although if you take into account what I mentioned above about the working conditions, you might sympathize with the staff), the various experiences posted should prepare you for yours. Notwithstanding, it feels nice to support an old Singapore business, there are so few of these cottage industries left: https://www.facebook.com/richandgoodcakeshop