A Durian Hunter’s Bonanza at the Food Fair in HKCEC

I was very happy to discover that PB is as much of a durian fanatic as I am. Except that I believe I have a pinch more self control than she does. Or maybe I just have more exposure to durians than she does. 

Anyway, the impromptu trip to the Food Fair in Wan Chai was revealing about our fondness for the stinky spikey fruit (she was willing to leave her 5 month old infant at home just for some private Durian time, a sign of true dedication to durians :)).

This Food Fair 2017 is the first I’ve attended since I’ve lived in Hong Kong. The crowds on a Friday mid afternoon was staggering… just as busy or maybe busier than the book expo. Ushers were stationed along the overhead walkway guiding people, they had also shut off the main walkway to the convention Center forcing people to exit and re-enter to the makeshift ticketing booths. The taxi queue was at least 30-45mins deep and cars weren’t being allowed to approach the main hall drop-off area. I had the baby in the carrier so I was accorded the privilege of going ahead in the queue. 

PB was late. Her taxi turned into the Hyatt hotel entrance but she didn’t realise that there wasn’t a connecting door to the convention Center. I got the twenty-five dollar tickets and waited for her by the entrance. 

When she arrived (all flustered) we headed straight up to the main exhibition hall area. Just like Art Basel, the organisers force you to head all the way down the corridor and enter from the fifth or sixth door. We went in and were amazed by the narrow corridor layout and the height of the booths, some of which towered two stories high full of LED lights. Promoters were standing on every corner handing out leaflets or just trying to get passers by to look at the products and gifts with purchase. 

There were lots of booths advertising durian but we soon discovered that most of these were selling durian pastries, snacks and moon cakes. There were only 2 booths selling fresh durian and a few booths selling frozen durian. I tried to take some photos but these really aren’t my best as we were trying to keep within 90 minutes and to cover the entire ground floor zone. It was a bit of a rush. We headed in and walked down to the end of the hall first, to work our way backwards.

The first booth we found selling the fresh stuff was Mr Durian.

Mao Shan wang on display at the Mr Durian booth


 The durians were priced at HKD 230 per kilo and their Mao Shang Wang durians were smallish, just over a kilo each. The booth next door was selling durian ice cream in a cup for HKD 100 each and some snacks and dried fruit. 

Dried durian for sale at Mr Durian booth

Fresh Mao Shan Wang for durian ice cream!!

Mao Shan Wang ice cream with fresh durian $100

Durian mochis and moon cakes at Mr Durian


We thought this was a pretty good booth and the durians looked fresh. Noted. Next. 

We cruised the aisles avidly searching out the next booth. Lots of booths selling durian biscuits and pastries… we just glanced at them and as this wasn’t our target, we moved on. 

Booth selling durian sandwich biscuit

Booth selling durian pastries and desserts

The Durian pastries that are so popular in Hong Kong

This booth specialised in Durian ice cream

Sampled the ice cream, a little too sweet

Durian biscuits, which ironically are artificially flavoured



Finally, towards the initial third of the hall, we came upon a booth decorated with lots of little durian stuffed toys. Well, it’s certainly one way to get attention.

Shared booth – sparkling juice and fresh durian!


 

Tree ripened Musang King Mao Shan Wang

HKD 488 per fruit and you can pay by EPS!

You can see the stuffed toy durians in this photo


They had a stack of fresh durian in husks piled high on the table. The price was marked as HKD 500 each. I approached and asked how many kilos each durian was. About 2 kilos was the answer. Not bad, but that would also be 2 kilos of uncertainty and disappointment if it didn’t turn out good. 

I made a memory mark of it and we moved on. PB spotted a booth with a massive Hello Kitty on it. 

Snow skin durian moon cake in a Hello Kitty Bag anyone?


Interestingly, they were selling durian mooncakes in a Hello Kitty cooler bag. She waved me over and had already started negotiations for two durian mochis. “Here,” she said, “try this.”

Negotiations taking place

Not too expensive

Thanks PB for my durian mochi 🙂

Nice cold durian mochi


Not bad,” I replied, trying to balance the second half of my mochi on the tiny stick of a toothpick. “Flavour is good and it had texture, but still nothing like the real thing.

We consumed the rest of it rapidly and threw the sticks in the bin. 

Durian powder ice cream packets


Then we encountered this booth selling durian powder which you can reconstitute and make your own ice cream. Hmm. Well I guess if you don’t have fresh or pulp to work with, this may have to do. It makes me wonder how many durian ice cream makers are using this powdered formula.

Finally in the A section of the hall, I found the durianBB booth. The organisers had spent a lot on branding and you can just tell they are begging for an Instagram shot for your social media profile. 


Loaded with bags, boxes with their logos and staff all t-shirted up in the same, their booth felt cramped and there was a staff ratio of 5 per client visitor so it felt a bit much. 

The durianBB booth

Ice cream samples for tasting

Packaged frozen durian. But you can’t see what’s inside


They were plugging the durian ice creams, durian moon cakes, frozen durian, durian mochis… but no fresh durians. And it didn’t seem inexpensive.. there wasn’t an apparent discount or promo for buyers at the fair. So, we looked and reflected and they offered us some durian ice cream to try but it just wasn’t what we were into. 

So it was back to Mr. Durian

Pretty funny logo. Imagine eating durian in a suit?


We were contemplating which durian to pick up and share when a chinese guy sporting sunglasses and a durian ice cream cone appeared beside us and gestured for ten. Immediately the staff sprang into action, swiftly picking ten durians off our table (well technically not our table but it was where we were in our mid selection reverie). 

Hey!” PB exclaimed,”we were just trying to pick one!

Well“, I told PB,”good durians wait for no man… if we want to get it, better hurry and choose or the table will be swept clean!” This was, after all, the first day of the fair and the best would still be on sale. The guy produced $1500 and still managed to get some change for the ten durians. The staff were busy opening the husks to show the client then packed the durians in newspaper and into a plastic bag each. 

Wrapping the whole durian in newspaper for the chinese buyer


We wasted no more time. Once the staff had settled his purchase we got them to recommend one and open it for us, splitting it into two boxes. It looked and smelled good. 

Splitting the durian


PB looked and looked. She ended up buying a box of mixed durians to try. “What do you think?” She asked. It was a box of Jin feng, 101, red prawn and something else. I told her that those were all good breeds and worth a try. Those boxes cost only $100 each so she happily added it to her bag. 

The mixed box of durian


After the small splurge, we walked casually toward the exit and parted ways. She by taxi and me on foot. 

=============

PB messaged me that evening saying that she had devoured her entire lot to the ire of her husband. She couldn’t keep any in the fridge as he can’t stand the smell.. hence she ate it all in pretty much one sitting. 

I kept mine til the next night in the fridge when SW and I could have it leisurely. It was reliable Musang king, very enjoyable. 

    Advertisements

    Hong Kong’s crazy durian chefs

    How creative can one get with durian? Given the addictive nature and general lack of fruits for most of the year, I guess some restaurant chefs must think there’s a crowd that’s willing to pay for eating it in a variety of ways. 

    My question to the chefs is this. When cooking up a “durian-inspired” fusion dish, do you seek to enhance or dampen the durian flavour? 

    I suspect that any “cooking process” actually destroys the delicate aromas of the durian. But if the fruit isn’t so good then maybe it’s not a bad thing..

    Thai Yuen : durian curry fried crabs, durian cheese baked big-head shrimp, durian cheese deep-fried spring roll and Thai durian fried rice. (Uses Monthong)

    Honeymoon Dessert: durian pizza, durian milkshake, durian pancake, durian shaved ice with black glutinous rice.

    Musang King: sells the frozen Musang kings at -18 degrees C. Also sells pulp for dessert creation.

    Fisher & Farmer: Durian chicken pot. (Uses Monthong)

    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.

    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.

    Durian flavoured condoms

    Well this article was certainly enlightening. I had no idea there would be a market for a durian flavoured condom. 

    Apparently a company in Bangkok is commencing production of these. Whether their market survey showed that it would be profitable as a promo gimmick or a staple product, would be interesting to know… 

    And, they’re not the first to produce durian flavoured condoms

    either, an Indonesian company was the pioneer in this area.. I wonder whether sales of this product has been good. You can see on their website (Sutra Fiesta) that they package the condom with other sex toys…
    There is a prevailing idea that durian inspires kinkiness and perhaps sex.. But the point is that the fruit itself is a huge source of energy to power a night of passion… I’m just not sure the scent or flavour of it is enough to do the same. 

    “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…!

    How not to eat durians

    This crazy lady was not permitted to bring her durians on board the train after officials caught a “whiff” of what was happening. So she gobbled it all down before the train left…

    Too heaty? Most definitely. Next time, pack it well!

    I recommend plastic packaging with a vacuum seal if possible. Otherwise use cling film liberally!