Don’t cha wish your durian was Musang king (sing along to Pussycat Dolls)

It’s typhoon season in Hong Kong. These few days the passing typhoon brought pelting rain that lasted hours, drenching everything but giving all the streets a much needed wash. The rain brought the temperature down a bit but it’ll be muggy again before long. 

Just a few days before Typhoon Merbok rolled into town, I set off on a short expedition to see if anyone in Wanchai was selling Musang King durians yet. 
A survey of all the fruit stalls in the Wanchai market yielded only Thai durians. Hmm…..πŸ€”

Ok how about we play Where’s Wally with durian. 


This fruit stall on Stone Nullah Lane often gets a lot of foot traffic. The lady who runs it is a bit fussy and unfriendly if you’re looking for small quantities. I’ve seen her break out in huge smiles only when clients come in to buy a box of expensive fruit.

At this stall the Thai Monthong (aka Golden Pillow) goes for $20 per pound.

The durians are way in the back. Did you spot them? Reveal reveal….


This next stall about halfway down Stone Nullah Lane also only had Thai durians for sale.


This stall is crazily well lit. It literally has hanging lights and down lights spaced barely a foot apart. I suppose it’s nice that you can really see the fruit. No need to guess and easier to see the fruit’s imperfections. They had the durians a little more towards the front.

At this stall the durians go for $15 per pound.

Did you see them? Reveal reveal…!


The Kai Bo food supermarket which opened about a year ago also tries its best to cater as a one stop shop to its clientele. Thai durians found here too.


This supermarket gets pretty busy during the day. It’s cheap. 

Here, these durians go for $14.8 per pound.

Do you see the durians? Reveal reveal!


Let’s have a close up shot eh.


I could almost feel myself falling into that Teochew trap of “bo hae her ma hor” (no prawn fish also can)… it was tempting to buy a thai durian just to have some. But no. It just wouldn’t do. I knew it wouldn’t satisfy me. It would probably make it worse.

So I continued with my little visual tour and durian window shopping. 

At the corner intersection of Cross Street, Wan Chai Road and Tai Wo Street, I stopped to see what durian activity there was.


Several cases has arrived and I went over to see the cargo. The uncle in charge was gloved up and very nimbly hauling out the durian and tapping them with his chopper. He was performing individual inspection of the fruit in each box.


I went in for a closer look. It was sent from OP Fruits Co, as a package of 6 Monthongs, “expor to the People’s Republic of China“.


At this stall, it was hands down the cheapest at $13 per pound. While I stood there, two Thai ladies cane up and bought a durian to go. 

The Thais have a formula for their durian producers. Stick with the productive fruit, ensure constant abundant supply to all overseas markets, dependable and consistent quality at a huge discount so that buying one is a simple decision making process. You simply know what you’re getting. And at that price, you can’t complain. 

I was sorely tempted but just knew it wouldn’t satisfy. Yup, I’m the delayed gratification type most of the time, though sometimes the impulse demon just overwhelms me. Not today demon, not today.

I can almost hear the refrain by Pussy cat Dolls ….

(Substituting girlfriend for durian)

Don’t cha wish your durian was hot like me

Don’t cha wish your durian was a Musang king 

Don’t cha

Don’t cha

Don’t cha wish your durian was raw like me

Don’t cha wish your durian tastes like Musang king 

Don’t cha

Don’t cha

Invitation to visit Fruit πŸ’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? πŸ™‹πŸ»

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 πŸ˜‰


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

A special durian import from Singapore

I was so happy when JaQ contacted me informing me that she was coming to Hong Kong… and more importantly did I want any durian?

Well you all know the answer to that! I asked her to bring for me what she could reasonably carry without overburdening herself. We agreed on two boxes.

She told me that she’d obtain the durian from the stall in Dempsey which she had gone to a few nights before. She said the durian was delicious but that the season was ending. STOP. Let me interpret that for you. Season ending means price is on an upward trajectory. 

A few nights before, JaQ paid 23 SGD per kilo… by the time she got it for me, it had increased to 28 SGD per kilo. JaQ’s observation was that it was buying gold, with a daily spot price. She’s absolutely right! 

Anyway I asked her to take some photos for me so that I can share the experience. I have to say now that both the durian and the packaging was fantastic. A big thank you to JaQ for all the effort. Much appreciated.

Ok here we go:


Doesn’t look like much of a crowd that night. Three couples on a durian date… because it’s the ultimate test.


In the event you’d like to inquire and reserve your durians in advance.. the only way to secure the better quality fruit.


JaQ got me 3 durians, just about 4.5Kg.


Ooh look at the beautiful fruit… it got me salivating.., I could imagine the aroma…


As it was coming by air, it had to be properly sealed. The vendor uncle did a good job ensuring that the durian didn’t move within the container (individual wrapping in cling film takes care of that) and the paper absorbs moisture, prevents prying eyes and heat penetration.


Then everything slips into a vacuum bag for air-tight sealing. Not forgetting the label, of course. Nothing going in or out of that, not even a molecule of air. Yup.


The ringgit is really weak, good for Singaporeans who enjoy Malaysia imported food πŸ™‚


JaQ even threw in a gift for me! Thanks JaQ! Freeze dried durian. I’ve opened it and had a few pieces but am saving it… it has to last me til Christmas when I return for my next fill!

Updated post to the City Super milkshake

A friend, BY is a durian fan here in HK and after she saw the last post, she decided to give it a try. Twice.

Her opinion:

It was ok. I’m not sure what durian they used. It was frozen from a box that resembled durian ice cream. I asked but the guy didn’t know. Second time around, I asked him to add more of the durian which he did. The flavour was stronger and better.

Tip:

So if you’re going to make it worth your trip to get it, try asking for another scoop of durian in your milkshake ;).

Do you like Cendol and Durian? Feel like splurging on calories this Ramadan?

Cendol durian reigns supreme 

If anyone is visiting greater KL and feeling like they just need one bowl of a good durian dessert, this might be a place to hit. It’s far out and I’ve not been there myself so I can’t vouch for it, but the contributor of the article seems to be raving about it. 

According to the article, Durian Cendol is the star attraction here. They offer both durian tembaga (D118, see description here) from Thailand and, when in season, the Musang King. RM 15 per bowl gets a portion of Cendol with perhaps one or two seeds of durian flesh. Of course the sweetness of the Santan and the smoothness of Cendol can be absolutely addictive. (Quick mention for best Cendol in Penang, without durian but totally delicious on a hot sunny afternoon. Fantastic post lunch treat, as long as you don’t overstuff yourself with Kway teow!).

Worth it? If anybody tries, please let me know πŸ™‚

If you’re celebrating Ramadan, do check out the additional stalls they’ve added during this festive season.

Here are some maps to give you a perspective of where the stall is (I’ve done a gradual zoom in)… You’ll definitely need a car and I reckon it’ll take you at least 1.5 hours to get there from KLCC excluding peak hour traffic.

Thai Durian Sale at the Wellcome Supermarket in Causeway Bay

We had a crazy day at IKEA. But that’s usually how it is on a Saturday afternoon. The only comfort I had was that a good 30% of the shoppers were stuck at Sogo’s “Thankful Week” madhouse sale. 

I’d popped in to Wellcome (block between Sogo and IKEA) just before our trip to IKEA to buy a pack of chocolate milk for the small person. While in the queue to pay, I spotted an indoor  durian stall. The staff were busy ripping up the durian husks and re-packaging the flesh into plastic boxes. 

It didn’t smell at all…“you can only do this with Thai durian, I thought. 

Sure enough, it was Thai durian that looked pretty good. The flesh was a rich golden hue and the packaging looked robust. Those packers did a good job. 


The lack of any aroma or scent was a deal breaker for me. I’m a nose-y person and if it doesn’t smell good then I’m much less inclined to try it. 


It was the first time that I’ve seen a sign in the supermarket warning customers about the spikes.. Though it’s so small and below line of sight that I doubt anyone would really notice.

A splendid durian for San Francisco friends

SM & MM informed us about their visit to Hong Kong for a short trip of two days we were extremely excited. I inquired whether there was anything that they wanted me to purchase in advance.

MM said she wanted my help to get some creams for her (cheaper here than US) and some Si Chuan tofu which I introduced her to last time she was here. What else?

  
So it was an All Caps emphatic YES to durian

I’ve been walking past our durian seller daily and noticed a constant display of durian. Curious, I thought as it is now off peak for all durians, including our favourite Mao Shan Wang

The boss’s wife revealed to me that they have a special arrangement with two farms in Pahang who send them whatever falls from their trees, and now was the best time to eat it as it was at its most flavourful. I was a little suspicious but this fruit seller does get the best fruit in all of WanChai, durian included. 

Now MM’s visit presented the most wonderful opportunity to buy one to try. Due to its price, our little household will only buy it as a treat ;).

So on a Saturday evening, after we had spent much of the day walking and enjoying the rare, fine sunshine,  I returned to the fruit shop at 6.30pm to collect the durian I had asked them to reserve earlier. 

The boss pulled it out of the polystyrene box and presented it to me. 

“Lots of flesh this one” he said.

“You sure it’s good?” I asked.

“Definitely good. Guaranteed it’s good!” He confirmed very confidently. 

He popped it on the weighing machine. It was 3.1Kg. “400” he said. “Special price.”

So the deal was struck and he asked whether we wanted it opened and boxed, or we could take it in the shell which would be better.

  
After some deliberation, we decided in shell was probably fine. As long as he did the initial split for us. He left the rubber band on the end and wrapped it carefully in the spongy packaging material then popped it into a little bag. It seemed smaller once I had it in my hands, but well, good durian often feels that way.

I left it at home on the dining table and proceeded out to dinner. During dinner, we intentionally ate a little less to save room for durian.

Here are some photos of our delicious fruit when opened.

   
 You can see that it was a beautifully symmetrical fruit shell, all the better for good fruit contained within. The flesh was a lovely golden yellow and was the perfect texture, not wet and not too dry.

My first bite revealed a slightly fermented champagney sort of flavour which was interesting. The second seed I had from the other side of the shell was of a different taste altogether, more nutty, less of the fermented taste. Isn’t it interesting that the flavours in one fruit can vary so much. It’s nice to be able to discern these flavours, as opposed to eating items made with durian paste, which while tasty, are uniform and not tempting enough for the second dose.

  
We thoroughly enjoyed this durian, eating roughly 4-5 seeds between us before we declared that we could eat no more. 

Worth it? 

YES!

(And so much more pleasurable eating with friends)