Durian buffet: Eat until you pengsan

Translation. Pengsan= Drop.

Eat until you drop. Buuurrrp.

What’s not to love about durian buffets? Imagine, getting to eat variations of the same thing… what if it were a cheese buffet or a pork cutlet buffet. Do you think it would inspire the same fervor and enthusiasm? I’ve been to cheese and wine tastings before, it’s usually limited to a small amount of cheese and just one glass of wine per bottle. Yawn. Boring.

So I’ve been to a few durian buffets but this one was different.

The durian buffet organized by the Wanchai road shop 猫山旺 was held at The Hub just off the main pedestrian bridge linking the MTR station to the Immigration building. I was a little late to the party.

Wow. Everyone was already seated and there wasn’t a seat to spare. Hmm 🤔 (wondering whether I could get a seat).

I spied a nice lady in white wandering around the entrance with a tag and proceeded to ask if she was Carol.

Oh no no I’m not Carol, (she’s Carmen) Carol is somewhere in the back getting the durians ready, you can go have a look.”

Okay… off I go to the back. There was no shortage of things to see.

Firstly, you see what hybrids they’re serving. Here you can admire the different shapes, spikes and forms of the durian husk.

Then, a table full of gift suggestions. Want to send a fresh fruit hamper with a fresh durian? They’ve got you covered. (Let me know if you need special gloves for opening them, I can sort you out.)

And if you’re not into fresh and prefer durian in its other forms… well you won’t be disappointed either.

Durian chocolate, crisps, coffee.. I think those possibilities are endless.. but that’s if you’re just into the flavor. Which I think is sort of missing the point… there’s just so much more to the fruit.

What’s really nice is that they bothered with mangosteens. Very thoughtful to include the queen of fruits. It’s the yang to the durian’s ying.. helps to balance out the heatiness of durians.. or so the chinese saying goes. Mangosteen is an equally difficult fruit. It spoils easily, the juices stain everything it contacts with and the worst part? It’s often full of large black ants. They hide under those beguiling green sepals and spill out once you’ve disturbed their hiding place. I hope the Hub fumigated after the event or some residents are going to massively complain.

After the Queen here come the Kings!

All these are for sale of course. What about the buffet?

Nice. I liked that they used black serving plates. Good contrast.

I finally found Carol who was really busy getting the servers to do the serving. I decided to introduce myself to the boss dressed in white, Jessie. After some discussion with her, I was ushered over to a seat and assigned with my tray.

How exciting! I couldn’t wait to catch up. Everyone else had already demolished their tray and were onto their second round.

Note the banana leaf underneath the durian. Great idea to make it authentic Malaysian style 👍👍! The organizers also strung up Malaysian flags and had coconut water and bottled water on the tables. This was well thought through.

While people were eating, on stage there was a running commentary about different types of durian, what they look like, their flavors etc.

Mark, the durian supplier from Malaysia was up there to provide his expertise on durian cultivars in Cantonese. (Note, I did speed the video up 2x to save some time. Mark doesn’t really sound like a cartoon character! :))

Was anyone actually listening? Yes and No. I think most people there were durian enthusiasts and they knew what they were there to eat. They were just tucking into every serving. But it was good to have running commentary, definitely makes it more lively.

In the paper cup provided for each person was a plastic glove. Almost everyone I saw on the room had used one. That’s how I know they are from Hong Kong. Everyone here has been conditioned to be hygiene obsessed. So they’ll wash their hands, then put on the glove to eat.

As my faithful blog readers know, that is just not the way I like it. I want to feel the durian flesh on my fingertips. I want to hold it with my pincer-like grip and know the size of the seed. Most importantly, when you use your bare hands, the chances of it slipping and popping onto your shirt or lap is much reduced. Well, that’s just my opinion. Use your gloves if you want 😉.

I was quite impressed with the graphics, -nicely done- explaining the various states in peninsular Malaysia and where durians are grown (yes, virtually all have durian).

I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get more of the Musang king or the 金包which I was rather taken with. Instead it was the much less flavorful D24 that made the rounds and I noticed that many of these were left wasted on plates. Perhaps the organizers should note this and ask what their audience would like more of… we could hold up a sign saying “more 金包over here please”

Soon after, the packaged samples came out… first the durian ice cream. It came out already in balls with a serving spoon. Not bad but not everyone could be bothered.

Then the durian mochis. These were straight out of the freezer but had a bit of condensation at the side. I found these to be too chewy. Not my thing.

But Z was into the durian cheesecake. Not that it had a strong durian flavor to it, that’s probably why she could stay to pick at it until it was mostly gone.

I had been persuading her to try some durians with me but to no avail. Basic rule of parenting, pick your battles. I figured this wasn’t one I needed to win. She could see how much fun I was having, so I’ll just stay optimistic.

To amp up the fun, the organizers had a lucky draw to win durians and a little contest to test the knowledge of the participants. The winners got to take home a whole durian each.

Everyone was encouraged to buy some durian on the way out to take home and autograph their big durian wall.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Jessie and Benny’s team and commend them on the expert organization of the event. Jessie and Benny run a successful seafood export business and started this business due to their own passion for durian. A tip for the owners….I asked several participants how they came to know of it… were they clients of the durian shop like I was?

No… they all knew about it through Facebook groups and love going to durian buffets! These were the serial durian buffet goers (SDBFG).

More on the SDBFGs in another blogpost.

If you’re in the city and craving some durian, these guys will sort you out. The service is a little gruff but I think the quality may be more reliable than other stalls as they fly the durians in fresh daily. And if you’re too tired to head out… call them they deliver!

Open 10am to 10pm. Call to pre-order at +852 9171 3882.

Ps. At the conclusion of the event, they announced a buy 3 get 1 free promotion. I bought 2 金包, 1猫山王 and 1D101. Shared with PB who was a very happy chick.

Here’s the cute assistant courier.

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Latest durian prices at Sogo

Musang Kings or Mao Shan Wangs are back in season.

At Sogo they have the whole durians on sale but you can also buy them already in packets. Looks good.

You can see from the picture above, a packet with just one segment will set you back HKD 170-200. Worth it?

The whole durian is HKD 42 per 100 grams, that’s 420 per kg. So according to my exchange rate calculator that’s SGD 70 per kg. That’s RM 220 per kg. Aiyo ka gui bui sai jiak (translation from Teochew: ah too expensive cannot eat la).

Unless you’re not flying to Singapore or Malaysia for Christmas break then no choice if you’re desperate for a Musang king and at Sogo.

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 size of Malaysian durians vs Japanese watermelons

We went in to Sogo Causeway Bay on the weekend (yeah, crazy idea right), to look for some outdoor gear. Well, that was what I intended anyway. SW led me into the basement.

“Err… Shouldn’t we be heading upstairs?”

“No,” he said “it’s all downstairs”.

Not wanting to argue on the escalator, we proceeded down two floors.

“Surely the sports attire isn’t in the supermarket?” I inquired.

“Oh, oh I thought we were going to look for noodles.”

Different planets? Definitely.

Anyway, a meander around the fruit section yielded some useful information on where Japanese people go for their durian fix.

Here’s one guy getting the assistant to open it for him. I noticed that he bought two. Does it seem a lot?

Not if you consider the size of each fruit. Positively teeny weeny from a Malaysian perspective. It was a kilo or less I reckon. At 150 HKD a fruit that probably yields no more than 5 seeds, it’s pricey but knowing Sogo, they probably select the better quality stuff.

They also sell it pre-packed if you’re risk averse. At least those clear windows let you see what you’re buying but those plastic shells prevent the compulsive “finger-pressing” that afflicts all fruit wrapped in simple pliable “Glad” wrap.

So, the price of the ones in the pack are pretty similar to each whole fruit. I would hesitate a guess that each whole fruit yields one and a half of these boxes.

The stems look good and the fruit looks fresh and fungus free. If you are in Causeway Bay and urgently need to bring a Malaysian/Singaporean durian fanatic friend a fruity gift, this might be the one to get.

Beside the durians, they had this fantastically huge watermelon. It could be a prize winner in fruit competitions. I remember at Ocean Park they sold King Watermelons, perfectly round, they are cut in half and sold as a cooling treat. I didn’t note where they are from.

Durian mystery at Taste

I was shocked. How could ALL of those packets have disappeared off the shelves in such a short space of time?

I saw a lady stacking the cool shelves nearby and thought I’d ask.

“No more, no more durians” she said in cantonese. Then gesturing, she said “it’s all there, whatever you see is all there.”

Hmm. Unconvinced, I did another sweep.

Aha there they were, discreetly placed with the chilled packed fruit.

Excited and gleefully, I left with one packet. It was marked down half price as it was very ripe.

Looks pretty good right.

ZI couldn’t resist trying to stick her finger in it.

The durian was quite satisfactory, rich, smooth and slightly fermented taste.What a bargain at the supermarket.

Spotted at Taste Supermarket, Hopewell Center

As I was perusing the aisles at the fancy Park’n’Shop in Hopewell Center, I happened across this durian product.

At first I thought it was freeze dried durian which is usually sold in this type of packaging. So I was a little surprised to find that it was actually a durian flavoured sandwich cookie.

Hmm. With a “recloseable” ziplock seal. Yes, I suppose that might be the attractive feature….. Can’t complain about the price though. It’s less than RM2.

After Dinner Durian in Kuala Lumpur

On a recent trip to KL, I invited AC over for dinner. It had rained in the afternoon and we wanted to stay home to avoid the traffic at rush hour. She said that she would love to come over for dinner and exclaimed “I haven’t eaten durian since the last time you were here! I will go buy some as dessert.”

I wasn’t sure if she would, as she would have had to brave the traffic all the way to Jalan Imbi and back. Well, as sure as my salmon was in the oven and baking for dinner, AC turned up with the durian dessert. Initially we left the trademark rose red plastic bag on the table and didn’t want to touch it until after we had our dinner (you will soon see why this plan worked).

Right after we ate our dinner, I was pretty excited to get started on the dessert.

Go on mum” I said, “let’s open the durians!

My mum was a bit surprised that I had space for durians after the big meal, but as I have maintained for years, dessert compartments do not overlap with main dinner compartments.

Air sealed durian packaging

Air sealed durian packaging

 

So here’s why I could have my durians post dinner instead of having it as an appetizer. It was air sealed and there was no smell! So one of my main senses was deprived and hence… less temptation. AC told me that the Jalan Imbi durian uncle was rather proud of his new packaging, specifically pointing it out to her when she bought it. He told her that this way, no smell gets into the car. I suspect that this also serves the hordes of chinese tourists who want to bring some back to their hotel room or their home country via their luggage. They usually descend on his stall by coach loads and like a swarm of locusts, consume all the durian in sight.

Mum got a pair of scissors and exposed the wonderful durian fragrance which permeated the entire room.

Mao Shan Wang in March

Mao Shan Wang in March

And here is the first packet. Looking pretty good and tasting rich, smooth and creamy like a brut champagne.

MSW box 2

MSW box 2

The next box was equally delicious but had a different taste (one box contains fruit from one durian). It was a little softer, more pliant and a little watery. It had stronger bitter undertones and less of the sweetness. The thing about durian is that you can’t ever find fruits to compare which have the same texture but different tastes or the same taste but different textures. That is one of the wonderful surprises that durian has to offer. This is true even of fruit from the same tree.

Here is the final evidence.

Seeds of the Mao Shan Wang

Seeds of the Mao Shan Wang

The seeds are classically mis-shapened and small, most of Mao Shan Wang is the satisfying taste of sunshine.