A fruit that smells like itself

“I like fruit that smells like itself and not like something else” declared SC while cutting into some deliciously decadent milk tea roll from Yoku Moku.

“What does that mean exactly?” I asked my friend who was butchering the roll because the steel knife was a little too small.

“I just prefer fruit that smell and taste the same as how they visually appear… and are less pungent, you know” SC said grimly, examining his handiwork before offering up a grin as he served me a piece.

“Ok, so you don’t like durian. What other fruits fall into that category?” I was finding this very interesting indeed… the smell of fruits is indeed usually a subtle affair, made more so that these days, fruits are often sold packed in plastic, picked before they are ripe, or are genetically selected for other traits, scent not being one of them.

“Well… like mango for example. It doesn’t smell good to me.”

Really?! Delicious creamy mango, a fruit that has been marketed to represent the tropics and used almost as ubiquitously in equatorial cocktail drinks as the coconut?

“Err… what do you think mango smells like?” Probing… probing…

“Durian to me smells like cheesy feet, mango to me smells like raw sewage” he spat out. This description opened my eyes. Literally. I’ve never heard of mango described as smelling like raw sewage. Durian has been described by many using lots of nasty adjectives but mango to most South East Asians is sweet and fragrant(for example Thai and Philippino cuisine would be far drearier without it). How can our perceptions be so astoundingly different?

SC is a wine connoisseur, he has a sensitive nose and palate, able to distinguish the very flavours and “hint” components that make up the aroma of each wine. I’m assuming he’s very sensitive to sulphur and esters that are natural components in fruit, but perhaps are in greater concentrations in mango (and durian).

What does he like?

Grapes, strawberries, melon, peach, cherries, apples, pears, all citrus fruits. Not hot on banana, mango, jackfruit, durian. Got it.

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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.

The 3 dollar stall is now a 350 dollar durian stall

Since the day that TH told me that a durian shop had opened right on her street (Wan Chai Road), it’s been drawing me over like a moth to a flame.

The durian stall replaced a casual pop up selling everything for 3 Hong Kong dollars. We still use the words “Sam-mun” to affectionately refer to that specific location despite that pop up having left a some months ago.

The durian stall in Wan Chai road only has a chinese name猫山旺, which is “Mao Shan Wang” currently the unequivocal top breed of durian. It’s consistent, it’s full of flavour and really once you’ve had this, you may as well forget Thai durians and other non-descript hybrids and pay full attention (and money) to eat this one.

Eating durians in Hong Kong is always a splurge for me, and it was on a wet drizzly day that I suddenly decided that I was desperate for durian.

There I was across the street at the stoplight, huddled under an umbrella, my shoes soaked in murky sidewalk rain water and what do I see?

….Nothing. The wooden shelves and palettes were completely empty.

Whaaaat was going on? Obviously I wasn’t the only one pondering a durian stall with no durians in the middle of the afternoon.

This called for an investigation. I zoomed in for a closer look and a chat with the lady at the stall.

Durians on flight, haven’t arrived yet.” She said. “If you want, consider these packs at 180” she waved her hand toward the table, “or come back tomorrow“.

The three packs of durian were quite small, I’d say they were half of a smallish durian in each pack. Upon smelling them, I decided to go for the pack with an assortment of small seeds.

Reliable Mao Shan Wang. Need I say more? They were barely chilled then polished off.

oh yes. When I was at the shop, I saw a leaflet pasted on the wall advertising a durian buffet in Wan Chai. Sounded interesting, it went into my calendar.

This stall is located on Wan Chai Road near the Comix Home Base.

It usually looks like this.

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.

Discover Durians and Peruvian Food at the same time

If you are in Hong Kong today, tonight is your last chance to check out the Discover Peru buffet at Hotel Icon. Sorry for the late notice but we only went to lunch yesterday.

The Peruvian food was delicious, if you go, I highly recommend that you try the ceviche (Peruvian style sashimi) and the Peruvian Shrimp soup which was a highlight. As I went with the Peruvian group here, the dishes were especially authentic and the chef made up a little bit of extra ceviche for our table. Those corn pops (equivalent of beer nuts I’m told) were simply yummy.

Anyway, the Icon Hotel’s restaurant called the Market, has an extensive buffet selection with great presentation. The dessert counter was especially impressive with its nice decor, and of course a fascinating range of durian desserts which I have rarely come across in any hotel buffet.

Here are pictures of what’s available.

Deep Fried Durian Puffs

Deep Fried Durian Puffs

 

First up, durian puffs. I sent SW off to get some dessert and he came back all bright eyed as though he’d dug up some secret treasure. Inside, whole pieces of durian that would fit in the palm of your hand were wrapped in a rice flour and deep fried. Nice flavor but I couldn’t tell if it was MSW or really ripe Monthong.

Probably not the healthiest, but if you’re after healthy, you shouldn’t be anywhere near this counter.

 

 

Durian Cheesecake Squares

Durian Cheesecake Square

 

 

Next up, the durian cheese cake. Lightly baked, this was a nice size to leave you with two bites.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a baked durian cheese morsel. I’m not a big fan of tarts so I didn’t try this but guess it;s a crunchy rendition of the cheesecake.

Baked Durian Cheese Morsels

Baked Durian Cheese Morsels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Durian Pannacotta

Durian Pannacotta

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the durian panna cotta, nicely presented.

Mao Shan Wang Ice Cream

Mao Shan Wang Ice Cream

 

 

And finally the durian ice cream.

 

 

 

 

The ice cream was quite delicious. Full on cold MSW which was cold, creamy and pure durian. Even ZI loved it.

Mao Shan Wang Ice Cream Close up

Mao Shan Wang Ice Cream Close up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So if you have nothing on for dinner, maybe check out the restaurant at the ICON in East TST tonight.

The Market Restaurant @ ICON Hotel

The Market Restaurant @ ICON Hotel

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.

Can you find durian at Hong Kong International Airport?

Well, this is probably the closest thing I found to it.

Durian drink anyone?

Durian drink anyone?

On a refrigerated shelf opposite the payment counter.

Drinks to go

Drinks to go

All of this at the 7-11 (Seven Eleven) in the open arrival hall when you exit customs. This 7-11 is perpetually crowded with queues snaking all the way round the back of the shop. But if you need a quick liquid durian fix….. pick up a bottle and get in line!

Seven Eleven at HK Airport

Seven Eleven at HK Airport