The fascination will never end: A new durian cosmetic

Is Elianto’s durian-flavoured lipstick for real?

Here’s how the company described it:

Elianto said that the pesticide-free lipstick features a strong durian aroma that gives the wearer a “sense of satisfaction similar to gobbling a mouthful of Musang King at one go.”

And here’s the over-pitch:

“….this scientific marvel is even said to be able to cure hangover and prevent alcoholic blackout”

Hmm…..quite unlikely at lipstick dose.

The lipstick isn’t for sale yet, I can’t see how yellow lipstick would flatter anyone in or out of the office. So it’d be a great gag gift but not one that you might particularly enjoy receiving even if you like durian. That’s why we all wash our hands and rinse our mouths clean of the durian aromas afterwards.

Conceal as you may, the burps will always reveal the thorny truth. 🙂

Ps. Elianto, if you do launch it, please send me a Musang king lipstick to check out…..

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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. 

    Sometimes a durian biscuit will just have to do

    This durian season in Hong Kong has been meagre. July flew by with very few durians from Malaysia on display or sale. (Thai durians are omnipresent but what’s the fun in that.) I heard that durian is going for SGD 100 per kilo from my mother. Can it be true? 

    Tellingly, my friend DW on his trips to KL and Singapore has had few opportunities to indulge in his favourite fruit. 

    So how have we survived???!!!!

    DW brought back some durian biscuits from Durian Durian in KL. In chinese these are 香餅, which aren’t exactly biscuits in the English sense nor are they cakes. I guess the closest thing is maybe a flaky jam tart… but it’s filled with durian instead of berry based jam. Anyway for the purpose of this blog, they are biscuits.

    It really wasn’t bad. Here’s the tub.


    The biscuits  inside are individually wrapped. So they are protected from bumps and won’t flake all over.


    Here’s the advice on the back of the tub to warm it up if you have kept it for a while. I didn’t do this though and it tasted fine.


    It tasted good. There was a nice durian aroma and aftertaste, I think I burped durian for a few hours later. It tasted more of rich D24 blended with maybe D101 than Musang king though. You can see the nicely baked layers and the durian paste oozing out…


    It was all gone, flakes and all, in 2 minutes. 

    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.

    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…

    A Durian guide to the newly renovated Food Hall and Supermarket in Sogo Causeway Bay

    Sogo, one of the stalwarts in Hong Kong’s departmental store shopping scene has undertaken a massive stage-by-stage renovation. It’s about time. The layout was beginning to look tired under the old style fluorescent lighting and it was heading towards the style of Wing On rather than Hysan Place

    The internal renovation started at least a year ago with the children’s floor. Now, it’s reminiscent of Lane Crawford and Harvey Nichols (I bet they took a lot of ideas from there) and is rather upmarket ($$$).

    They recently completed the B2 food hall and supermarket, this is what I checked out. 


    I checked it out with a specific interest in durians of course. 

    I was very surprised that down the escalator, the first thing that caught my eye in the fresh food section was a small shelf of durian. It occupied the top shelf, above the jackfruit (nangka).

    Thai durian at Sogo


    Granted it was Thai durian but this was promising. Rough spend would be HKD 100+/- per pack.

    Hmm. Did they have any Malaysian produce for sale? 

    Sogo rarely lets you down.

    Malaysian Musang Kings


    On the adjacent opposite display shelf, the Musang Kings were in whole and packaged form and is on a shelf at roughly hip/waist level. There’s the already packaged durian going for about twice the price of Thai durian, and there’s the whole durian for those who want it super fresh.

    Durians packaged beautifully in sushi boxes at Sogo


    Each box contains between 4-5 seeds, all a rich golden yellow. How about the whole durians?

    Whole durians


    The whole durians were long stemmed and quite fresh looking, still unopened. Each about 2kg in weight and costing about HKD 600+ per fruit. 

    Here’s where to look for them in the supermarket.

    Where to find durians in sogo supermarket Causeway Bay


    Here are directions to Sogo if you’re new in town.


    Go by MTR, tram or bus.

    It’s on a major thoroughfare through Causeway Bay, you can’t miss it. Especially after they are done renovating in a year or two and will have a massive TV screen up for advertisements.

    What to bring your sister’s in laws? Durian as a gift

    I’ve been eyeing the durian in styrofoam boxes sitting out at Fu Wing for the last few weeks. At HKD 109 per pound, I’m waiting and looking to make up an excuse and occasion to have one.

    Musang Kings at Fu Wing, Wan Chai


    Well, the perfect reason came up about two weeks ago. We were invited out to Tuen Mun for a toddler’s birthday party and I thought we might as well maximise our trip by visiting my sister’s in laws who live by the Gold Coast (HK, not Aus). They kindly invited us to dine at home, and as he is a chef, would serve up the most delicious home made dishes. We knew we were in for a treat and gladly accepted. 

    We ran through our list of “what to bring to friend’s house for dinner” and found it somewhat limited and unappealing. I mean, we’re eating at a professional Singaporean chef’s home… bringing anything made by anyone else just wouldn’t cut it. It might even be construed as an insult. 

    How about durian…” SW suggested. 

    Marvellous idea, I think there’s a mini season happening” I replied. 

    I stopped by Fu Wing to ask if the durian was any good. 

    Very very delicious” replied the owner in Cantonese, “the flesh is fragrant and soft“.

    I like bitter, are you able to choose a bitter one for me?

    Can, can, the flavour is bittersweet“.

    On the day, I rang and confirmed my order. A medium-sized durian, bittersweet, wrapped as a whole fruit with husk.

    We paid HKD 450 for it and had him seal it up with newspaper and cling film as best he could (despite his protests that the durian would start to go bad due to humidity). It was only going to be a few hours, it’s been relatively cool and we didn’t want to stink up the toddler party or our taxi. Unfortunately here they haven’t caught on to the vacuum sealing packaging systems yet. 

    So here are the details.

    Musang King Durian: Eat me Eat me!


    The Mao Shan Wang durian was fresh, the flesh was delicate yet firm, the aromas wafting out once we opened it. The center portions were dry and the seeds were small, flat and pebble-like. 


    I would say that the only disappointment was that the flavour was distinctly sweet, we didn’t detect a hint of bitter at all. 

    Overall enjoyable for an off season but we wished that the flavour was more distinctive. Oh durian lovers are so hard to please… but at these crazy prices,  fruit vendors have to choose their suppliers well and wisely.