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…

Direct from Pahang: where to find Musang King all year round in Hong Kong

I was at the “Wan Chai- Shibuya style” crossing, waiting to get to the other side of Hennessy Road. My eagle eyes and super sharp durian radar are always on “search mode” (sort of like the Terminator or Robocop, maybe like the spaceship scanners in the Matrix). What was that on the other side of the six lane road??


You can’t go wrong with a name like that. No mincing of words, no mystery, no guessing. A shop called Musang King must be all about the King, only the King and nothing else. Right?

I popped in for a look. 

It was a small shop (replaced the Ice.licious whimsical popsicle store), just wide enough to fit the freezers and fridges, leaving enough room for clients to get in there, buy and leave. It’s not a cafe and there’s no reason to hang around. On the day I went, there were three female staff on duty. It seemed a little excessive given that XTC makes do with one given a similar space and set up. Perhaps it’s just temporary staff for the opening sales… they may be expecting hoards of people.


Everything was in the fridge. It was Glass panelled so that you can see what’s for sale and how much for. There was an interesting array of durian derived sweet and savouries, ranging from durian filled baos (buns), durian pizza (uh huh) and durian crepes and assorted tarts.


The Durian Musang king ice cream sticks were particularly appealing to me.. it was a sweltering hot day and I salivated at the thought of a cold Musang king. 


There was also packaged frozen D24 durian for sale and frozen whole durians, both D24 and Musang Kings.

On the counter next to the fridges sat a heated display unit with some puff pastries. 

I asked the staff where the products were made, in malaysia or here?



All in Malaysia
, came the reply (according to their FB page, they’re located in Raub, Pahang). Except for these in the heated display unit. These, she gestured, were made by us here.

I made up my mind to try a durian popsicle. Attempting to help myself, I tugged at the freezer door handle. 


To my surprise, I couldn’t open the door. That’s when I realised it was locked! Hmm. Was it to prevent thieves from running off with a few boxes of delicious, expensive biomaterial or just to prevent the temperature fluctuations from repeated door opening and closing? 

One of the ladies saw what I was trying to do and sprung into action.

“What are you trying to get?” She asked

Durian ice cream” was my reply.

“You want one or one box?” 

Just one please, if it’s good I’ll come back for more.” 

She went behind the little counter and pulled my requested popsicle out of another freezer. 

Eating it now or later?

Now I said.

She tore the box open for me and cut the top of the plastic packaging so that I could hold on to the stick.


I slipped it out of the packaging and walked out into the street with it. What great free advertising for the shop.


The ice cream was smooth and well emulsified. It had a nice bite to it and melted smoothly in the mouth. Texture 8/10. Taste wise, it was very sweet with no hint of bitter. 6/10.. 


It was all done by the time I reached Johnston road. The burp that made itself known came about 20 minutes later with the very distinct digested durian aroma. 7.5/10. 

I guess these durian popsicles are made in big batches but how much more interesting would it be if you could select a bitter popsicle?

This shop that started in the autumn of last year only does frozen stuff, most practical cold chain from Malaysia I suppose. They are now actively distributing to China. Its ok for a popsicle but if you prefer fresh fruit, you’ll just have to wait until durian season (starting soon).

Find Pahang Musang King at 263 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai. About 7 minute walk from the MTR station or 4 minutes walk from the Fleming/Burrows Tram stop.

Pahang Musang King, Hennessy Road, Wan Chai


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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)

Invitation to visit Fruit 🐒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? 🙋🏻

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 😉


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

Seriously good durian musang king pudding

Maybe I’m just feeling deprived. We went for brunch on Sunday to Cafe Malacca at Hotel Jen and ate a bit of every goodie we could find on the menu. I think I’ve pretty much had everything sans prawns (allergy). 

When my friend DW handed the menu around again for dessert, I just had to open my mouth and say… “I heard the durian pudding is good but I’ve never tried it…”

Picking up the cue, he immediately offered “want to share?” 

No need to ask twice. 

There are two durian puddings on the menu. There’s the regular durian pudding, then there is the durian musang king pudding. No brainer which one to choose right? 


I realised as soon as I helped myself that I’d forgotten to take a picture. So the perfect trapezoid is a little ruined. 


Ok this is the side view to give you a depth perspective. 

The dessert cup isn’t very big. But as the spoon is small, you do get approximately 15 mouthfuls of the smooth stuff. The durian has been blended and not a fibre remains. It is sweet but not cloyingly so. It is fragrant but not in a manner that you can smell it before you can taste it. 

Durian burps are guaranteed, though it’s not too embarrassingly strong. 

For HKD 68, not bad. Especially since we don’t have any of the real stuff to compare it to right now.

Looking forward to my durianic Christmas….it’s only a month away!

Penang Men’s Kitchen Cafe

I used to travel to Penang for work related meetings, usually planning them to coincide with the possibility of eating good food, and when in season,the best durian.

Now it seems that durian is available all year round in various desserts. I suspect that the durian fruit pulp industry is a getting larger than the fresh fruit distribution network. Certainly that is what is being reported (Durian exports to China Fruitful).

Mens Kitchen in Penang is one of the cafes making their own durian derived desserts.

I’ve not tried it yet but it all looks pretty good. 

Here are some other bloggers who’ve written up about it.

Steven Goh – nice review on the durian derivatives and other food served in the cafe. He also explains the meaning behind the name.

And 

Gibson – nice photos of all the food, and nice photos on the interesting drinks.. I’m keen to try the Doraemon.. how creative! 

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 🙂


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!