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.

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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! 

Durians at City Super, Causeway Bay

I was going up the escalator towards Lane Crawford from Toast box when the fragrance eau durian hit me. Initially I spent the few seconds of escalator time peering around me, wondering if it was second hand fumes from a recent consumer (sounds gross but this happens all the time), or a dessert stall from the food court manufacturing some durian pancake dessert. 

I just had to go down again to see the durians for myself. So back down the escalator it was.

There it was in the front seasonal fruit section. The “Malay Durian mountain cat“as labelled. Aka Musang king, Mao Shan Wang.

  
Nice long stems topped off with cotton to preserve freshness.

  

Are you salivating yet?

  Very evenly round, beautiful spikes.

  
Expensive though.

But it is City Super. Known in Hong Kong as a premium supermarket for all things good and high quality.

These durians were only for sale whole, no packaged fruit in sight. So I have no idea if it looks good on the inside. But that’s the gamble with durian.

Park n Shop Wan Chai has Mao Shan Wang Durian on sale!

Yesterday was my first purchase and taste of durian this winter. 

At the Park n Shop in Hopewell Center, I usually cast a glance over at the shelf where the pomelos and other seasonal fruit sit… always hopeful that durians will appear. And they did. Packets and packets of durian. It must not have been more than 3 or 4 small durians though. Just divided up into plastic cling film trays.

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Most of the durian packets were full price but a few packets were on sale half price. I picked the heaviest one with the plumpest looking flesh. It was clearly ripe but relatively untouched. They must have put it out just before I got there. Most of the packets looked quite soft and ripe already so more will go on sale soon… Unless a durian aficionado buys the lot before you get there.

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I went home with this packet which I put in the freezer until dinner just to chill it. 

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The color wasn’t as rich as the Mao Shan Wangs we usually have but the texture was creamy and the flesh falls easily away from the seed. A few small parts of the fruit tasted a bit sour and these were discarded. The smell was strong but as we only had two segments, wasn’t too overpowering. Generally pretty good.

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.

What’s selling at the supermarket in Tanglin Mall?

At the Marketplace in Tanglin Mall, the luscious D-D-D-Durian was spotted for sale:

Durian for sale at the Markerplace

Durian for sale at the Markerplace

The color looked good but there was absolutely no smell despite the basic looking packaging. Price wise, I guess it’s more or less the same as what you can find in most other supermarkets like Paragon for a Mao Shan Wang (unless they have a one for one offer). It looks like each box contains roughly half a durian fruit, it doesn’t look like they bothered weighing it, more like what they could pack into each box.

 

Durian Mooncake Madness

Mooncake Festival this year falls on September 19th (Thursday). If you’ve been anywhere near the hotels, malls and chinese restaurants, I have no doubt that you have been marketed to or fed mooncakes by that particular retailer. It’s almost impossible to avoid the mooncake craze in Singapore. The flavors used to be very “traditional”. Lotus seed paste with melon seed (now quite a rarity). Lotus seed paste with single/double/quadruple yolk(s). Assorted nuts and ham. Now, there are so many varieties that if we brought an ancient Chinese person from many dynasties ago back to life, he’d be surprised and spoilt for choice. Pastry chefs vying to outdo one another became more creative. Snowskin mooncakes became a raging success, these unbaked chilled mooncakes are closer to ice-cream in texture and are more delicate. This paved the way for increasingly dessert like creations, such as durian mooncake, cempadak mooncake, sesame, yam mooncake etc.

Mooncake Menu

Durian Mooncake Menu

At Goodwood Hotel, it wasn’t just durian mooncakes. It was Mao Shan Wang Mooncake, or D24 mooncake, Red Prawn, D88 or Butter mooncake. Perhaps this pastry chef is from Penang, or perhaps the Goodwood received many guests from Penang. They’ve been offering these for a few years and I guess it’s proved popular, most probably as gifts.

Snowskin Durian Mooncakes

Snowskin Durian Mooncakes

The coloring differentiates the flavors, I thought it was an interesting choice by the chef to make the Mao Shan Wang an almost ivory white, the D24 a golden yellow and the Red Prawn, well, Red. (If you’re a regular durian consumer, you would know that real MSW’s are always rich yellow in color, more so than the D24’s. Maybe a lighter color denotes a more delicate taste and price). Anyway, I reckon they attached a scarcity value to the mooncakes and made them great gifts. They were flying off the shelves into little cool packs when I was there on Saturday afternoon. People in the queue ahead of me were purchasing five or six boxes at a go. I didn’t observe anyone buying the giant versions though. At around SGD 90 per box (no discounts even if you hold a Citibank card), you’d better be sharing it with someone special. *Many other hotel/restaurants have also followed suit and are offering durian based mooncakes. I admit that I would prefer to eat the fruit unadulterated.