The tallest durian tree in the world

I really enjoyed this article about the hunt for more elusive Durians. The red and orange Durians, as this article confirms are dead disappointing in taste and it’s just not worth the hassle apart from the novelty of bring instagrammed with it in your hand. Wild Durians probably are relatively “gamey” and appeal only to a narrow palate or if there’s nothing else around to eat.

What was interesting in the article was the mention of the tallest durian tree at 57.5m. The century old tree is located in the deep interior of Sabah in Kampung Kenang-Kenangan supposedly produces 2000 fruit per season. Wow… that’s a real durian bonanza.

The tallest durian tree is located in Tongod

He’s on the hunt for the tortoise durian .. I’m keen to know what that’s like.

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 Mobilization 2013

10th August 2013

Dr. Leslie Tay of ieat.ishoot.ipost couldn’t have chosen a better weekend. The Muslim celebration of Hari Raya Eidulfitri coincided with Singapore’s National Day weekend and gave everyone within 2 hours flight a nice 4-day vacation. So the 10th of August 2013 was the day that was chosen for the Durian Degustation XII, which became a more ambitious project and evolved into a “Durian Mobilization” (borrowing terms from the national service here!). At 35 SGD per person, a donation towards a charitable cause and a promise to appreciate different cultivars, we couldn’t think of a better way to spend an evening.

Durian Mobilization Activity Board

Durian Mobilization Activity Board

Under the large canopy of the Telok Ayer Community Center, everyone began to take their places by 6.30pm (even though the event was due to start only at 7.30pm). Since it was a free seating event with everyone bringing their own picnic mats and other paraphernalia, it was a good idea to get there reasonably early. The event was well organized and controlled, numbers marked out assigned “spaces” where groups of 6-12 people would sit together. I was to meet up with Jessica and sit with her group. “Meet me at the back of the community center at 7” she said, “that’s where they’ll be unloading the durians”.

PRE-EVENT

We parked the car a block away and took a nice stroll via the park at the back of the community center. As we approached the car park for the community center, we saw lots of people milling around…. the durians!

Baby checking out the durians

Baby checking out the durians

All the durians were looking fresh and prickly with long stems on (a very good indication of freshness) and neatly stacked in baskets. Each basket was labelled clearly with the cultivar.

The Durians are a-waiting

The Durians are a-waiting

Was there any intention in the order of the baskets?

Eating from left to right

Eating from left to right

Well, I think if you read chinese script, the direction is always top to bottom and left to right. If you look at the photo above, I think you can deduce which durians were thought to be popular with the crowd. The small stacks are for “appreciation” while the larger stacks are for “consumption”. The higher the stack, the more to go around. I’d say the D13’s and the MSW’s win hands down. There were some tables parallel to the baskets and the supplier had left his name card out for anyone who still maintains a rolodex.

Ah Seng's Durian Contact Card

Ah Seng’s Durian Contact Card

“Come come” motioned Jessica ” we need to get you guys registered. The registration is over at the end here and we’ll be sitting at placemat number 9.”

We left our various mats and bags with Jessica’s family and the friendly group and headed over to the registration table.

Pay your money and get your tag here

Pay your money and get your tag here

Everyone came casually dressed, prepared for warm weather and a rather breezeless evening. Despite the lack of any fans, I am pleased to report that there were no mosquitoes in sight and it was quite cool due to the overcast day. The registration counter took our details and issued us wrist tags (ala disco clubs or F1).

Maybe the only participant who didn't get tagged...

Am I the only one without a tag here?

Walking past the event billboards, we noticed a table strategically placed in the middle by the stage. This was the real advertisement and menu for the event and the press. Each fruit was placed in eating sequence with a little descriptive notecard.

The table of ANTICIPATION: durians on display

The table of ANTICIPATION: durians on display

THE EVENT

Durians at dusk under the Hong Lim Telok Ayer CC Canopy

Durians at dusk under the Hong Lim Telok Ayer CC Canopy

After rounds of introductions and getting comfortable on our little picnic mat, we realized that after a while, none of us could really hear each other that well anymore. The loud pumping music in the background (yes, there was a live DJ and loudspeakers) matched the din of everyone trying to have a conversation. It was getting dark and if it had been quiet, we would have probably heard some stomachs growling. The seating area probably reached almost full capacity. In his opening speech, Dr. Leslie Tay welcomed all 300+ participants and shared the program for the evening. He mentioned that some participants had probably starved themselves all day for this durian buffet, but it was in fact not a buffet but more of a tasting session. he said that Ah Seng -the durian supplier partner he worked with- had imported 900Kg of durian for the event. So that would be approximately less than 3Kg of durian per person. (Well, durians are weighed with the husks which effectively make it heavier. One durian can weigh between 2-3 Kg, so effectively each person would be consuming one durian each :)).

Eagerly awaiting the announcement

Eagerly awaiting the announcement

Dr. Leslie organized this event with the Singapore Kindness Movement, so the Chairman got to tell everyone to be nice to one another. Everyone was nice there but I think it would have been an interesting test to put all the durians out and see what happens in a free-for-all. The durians were served to each group, to prevent fights and general chaos I suppose (note that the Genting event was also supposed to be organized like this).

Dr. Leslie Tay and the Singapore Kindness Movement Chairman

Dr. Leslie Tay and the Singapore Kindness Movement Chairman

Then Dr. Leslie introduced the star of the show, Ah Seng the durian man. Everyone was much more interested in him!

Ah Seng and his brother at the opening speech

Ah Seng and his brother at the opening speech

Once all the introductions were done, it was time to get on with the show. Dr. Leslie gave the nod and Ah Seng went on stage to tell everyone about the first durian we were about to experience…. the Black Pearl (not from the Pirates of the Caribbean, that’s a different Black Pearl). So drumroll….. dum dum dum dee dum…… and like the start of a chinese wedding dinner, out marched the volunteers carrying a basket with a fruit to be delivered to each group of durian fanatics. Now for the durian photos…..

The first 2 durians on the menu

The first 2 durians on the menu

Everyone in my group was very courteous, no snatching, no hoarding and no fingering (excuse the lingo) of the fruit. The fruit laden husks were proffered around and each person picked their piece. Next up the Ang Hae…

Here you go... this is is a nice looking ang hae durian...

Here you go… this is is a nice looking ang hae durian…

Then the XO….

IMG_0162

And then everything in between and then the Mao Shan Wang

Delicious Mau Shan Wang

Delicious Mau Shan Wang

What was that about the durian shell enzymes again?

What was that about the durian shell enzymes again?

Photogenic durians all of them. Check out this tiny seed.

Seeds so small you have to pick it out of your mouth

Seeds so small you have to pick it out of your mouth

IMG_0150

Mao Shan Wang Durian

The thing about eating durian slowly in courses is that it fills you up. People wonder why the mediterranean and french people are slim, that’s because it’s not just what they eat but how they eat it. A french lunch is typically taken seriously and slowly, savoring every bite. So you eat less over a longer period of time. All of us could definitely have eaten more if the durian was placed in front of us all at once in boxes (hands up those who can easily finish a box of durians from the fridge). Being served just ensures that the timing was well spaced out (I guess also to let your palate recharge) and that you eat at a slower pace. Hence eating less but feeling full by the time we got to the end. I have mixed feelings about whether there should have been quite as many durian types served. When we got to the MSW, everyone was pretty full and some already had quite enough of durian. So the appreciation was less in a way.

While all the durian lovers were chowing down and listening to the interesting narratives by Dr. Leslie (quips like “Durian husks contain enzymes so wash your hands in it after eating”; “i should invent a durian detergent”; “Is it a myth that you shouldn’t eat durian and drink” etc), there was a lot going on behind the scenes. Check it out in my next post.

Durian – Advertisement, Craving, Frozen Dissatisfaction

I had to make a trip via a budget airline to Singapore at the end of last month (okay, it was Jetstar) and that was on route onto a long haul flight to Europe. The only entertainment the airline provides is its magazine, which has a slew of curious advertisements and editorials on where to go and what to eat. I spied 2 pages in the magazine that is relevant to this blog: 1) a durian advert 2) a mention of a durian derivative.

So for number 1):

Visit Penang durian advertisement

And number 2)

Recommendation for durian ice cream in Vietnam Capital

Here – under “must eats”, durian ice cream is recommended at Fanny which sells home-made ice cream. But I have to tell you, I’ve tried Vietnamese durian before and I’m not sure if the ice cream will really taste.

But maybe durians in Hanoi could be different.

As a result of this, I got rather hungry on the plane and an unreasonable craving for durians by the time I landed. I expressed this to my mother who surprised me by telling me that she had a secret stash in the freezer.

“What! A secret stash? When did you get it?”

“I got it from Ah Di, he said that he had very good durian so I bought some and kept it in the freezer… if you like, I’ll defrost it and we can eat some”

Yes, my mother is as game to eat durians anytime as I am.

So, out of the freezer they came…

Straight from the freezer

I have to say they were frozen but what disturbed me was the formation of icicles which is usually not a good sign as it will decrease the quality and texture of the flesh.

(although the aroma persists, despite the freezing process)

“Hey mum, what type of durian is this?”

“It’s the best of course, Mau Sang Wang…”

Hmm. OK.

The frozen one before I ate it

There was another small box that she took out and I asked what this durian was and why it was packed separately.

“Oh, this is one that Uncle gave me, he says this is the one that the Thai King eats”

Hmm… interesting, I’ve never heard of the durian that the Thai King eats, but I suppose it must be Thai then. (if anyone knows what type of durian this is, please send me a message)

Ate one, check out the small seed

Anyway, it tasted pretty good, I couldn’t wait until it thawed completely so I waited about ten minutes and ate it still cold like ice-cream just out of the freezer. Quite delicious. You can see the seeds are quite small.

I let my mother have the other piece so that she could try it too.

Then I tried some of the other Mau Sang Wang but the flavor was not to my taste and the icicles made it too difficult to eat frozen. Anyway, this aspect of it was dissatisfying but my initial craving was already somewhat satiated. 🙂


Ps. If you want to buy from Ah Di, his fruit stall is at the Farrer Road market and has a wide variety of fruit. My mum has bought from him for the last 3 decades.

First proper Durian Feast for 2011 (Chinese New Year)

I’ve been waiting for quite a while for a proper durian feast since last year. S2 and I had friends  (L&P) visiting from Egypt 3 weeks ago (just before the protests started) and we took them on an ambitious but rainy tour of KL. After dragging them to various lookout points (in heavy rain) and subjecting them to kaya toast (plug here for Yut Kee), S2 and I thought we’d end the night with a fantastic chinese dinner of siew ju at Imbi Palace and round the corner to our usual stall. I have to tell you that the Imbi stall has been “renovated” and now has an impressive zinc roof shelter that spans twice as large as the original umbrellas did, providing more dry seating areas than before. The owner has also installed more fluorescent lights and everything was much brighter than before. We ordered 2 smallish durians which were MSWs which our friends thought smelled revolting and the taste revile. But, they were very game and actually ate a few seeds just to confirm that they neither liked the taste nor texture. S2 and I generally had a good time until it came to the bill which amounted to over RM 150 for both. We thought that this was way overcharging us and thus with a heavy heart, I must admit that we have decided to boycott that stall (we hypothesize that perhaps the stall owners wish to recoup their investment asap, even from their regulars). So, no more eating durians at Jalan Imbi for the time being.

Valentine’s Day fell on the 14th which was a Monday this year and so happened that: 1) this is still during the CNY period and 2) it was the eve of the Prophet’s birthday (national holiday here!). While most people were probably out celebrating their couply love, we hung out with my usual “medical makan kaki” comprising of 5 doctors and our crew of 4. This time we went to Unique Seafood in Section 13 (fresh as you can get, but forget conversation as it’s way too noisy) and then made our way over to Donald’s Durian in SS2, another usual haunt of ours. I rang Donald before going just to make sure that he had the good spikey stuff- durians (it’s still kind of early in the season) and that he had a table for our large group.

Donald – The man himself

No problem,” he said, “Just come over, I will get a table ready for you

Fantastic. We got there at 10.30pm, still full of fish and other swimmers, but ready for mouthwatering durian (for all you newbies, we always have room for durian).

What will you have tonight?” Donald asked casually. I asked him what he had which was good. “Well, we can start off with some D13, progress onto D101 and D24…”

AC the durian snob made a wrinkled face at the mention of the common D24. “How about Mau Sang Wang?” AC asked, she could barely contain herself and it seemed to be all she wanted.

Yes, we have that too but I would recommend that the Mau Sang Wang will be last…” Donald wandered back over to his wall of durians to start the selections.

Make sure all good one ah..” AC quipped after him. Donald assured her with a money back guarantee.

The Tasty, Creamy, Caramely D13

I have to confess that I was too busy eating and only remembered to take the photos only towards the end of the

session… but there’s enough there to share what the colors, textures and aromas were.

First up, the D13 which was richly unfamiliar but was caramelly, velvety and sweet all at once. You can see that the ripeness was perfection, I say this because the outer skin separates smoothly and cleanly, almost like a translucent wrapper from the rest of the flesh. And it is this surprising resistance when you first bit into it that eventually gives way to the soft yielding flesh below which made all of us say that overall, we rated this fruit a 4.5/5.

The durian itself was small and rather cute, it was slightly larger than the palm of my hand, the seeds were small and kind of irregularly shaped which reminded me of the MSW which is almost always like that.

Each pellicle contained about 5 small seeds wrapped in this rich yellowy orange skin. We polished this one off pretty quickly.

Next up was the D101.

Large, slender, creamy, sweet D101

This D101 was one of the larger durians Donald recommended that night. It was at least 30cm from top to bottom and had several big seeds with nice sunny yellow flesh.

This was also pleasant but the taste was a little bit more watered down than the D13 and we didn’t want to eat all of it as we were anticipating what would come next.

The seeds were larger and more meaty. We were worried that it might fill us up all the way.

Donald sent over another Durian which I hadn’t had before, or maybe it just goes by a different name. The Phoenix.

Smaller, creamy, bitter, smooth, pale Phoenix

The Phoenix was delicious. I have to say now that it was my favorite for the whole night, with D13 coming in straight behind it. This Phoenix was pale to an almost anemic looking jaundiced kid and small like the D13 comparable to the size of a canteloupe melon. The seeds were small and the flesh was a little bitter, a little sweet, but very smooth, velvety and had a melt-in-your-mouth consistency. Not watery at all, it had the right surface tension and didn’t come across fibrous or sticky on the palate. Definitely try this if you are having some durian this week.

I really enjoyed this one but I suspect that like the Tauwa (see previous posts), we just can’t get it all year round.

Stinky, Stinky Mau Sang Wang

After the pale and seemingly sun deprived Phoenix, Donald sent over the Mau Sang Wang (aka, Raja Kunyit). This Mau Sang Wang was a little larger than I would have liked, it was almost as large as the D101 and had the classic vibrant canary yellow with even spacing and full flesh overlaying small seeds.

Generally, I am a big fan of the Mau Sang Wang, but this one was not as strong in flavour as I would have liked it and maybe I was already won over by the Phoenix and D13.

Large, meaty, creamy, mild D88

As you can imagine, we were already getting pretty full by this stage (Donald sent 2 or 3 of each kind mind you) and were were starting to push each other to take the last seeds left in the fruits.

At this juncture, Donald brought out a heavy hitter (wallet too). This was the D88, a large monster to end of the evening and complete the repertoire and spectrum. It was almost too big for us to stomach but it certainly made an impressive appearance. The brown almost leathery spikes split open to reveal large golden pillow style durian seeds. Each seed was about as big as my fist (which isn’t that big, about the size of an apple).

The flesh by comparison was weak in flavor compared to all the others and it was by far the most watery and least delectable among the lot. Perhaps our tastebuds were also already so overwhelmed by all the wonderful aromas and textures, it would be hard to take them to the next stimulatory level.

I thought that the D88 would have been a good candidate for the freezer, and it was a pity I forgot to take the seeds home as they were almost perfectly ovular in shape, except that you would definitely prefer to eat Phoenix rather than a D88….

The large D88, The medium 101, small Phoenix and MSW

Here’s my last photo for this post…wonderfully skin colored smooth durian seeds.

I’ll keep you updated soon on my next durian adventure. I intend to to visit a durian farm with some new friends who say they are also huge fans of the fruit one of these weekends when we have time, that will be an authentic and fresh feast.

Durians at Jalan Alor, last of 2009

We had a guest, JC, on the 30th of December who was from Switzerland and it was his first time visiting Malaysia. It was actually his first trip to Asia.We had a long day at work and then decided to take him out for dinner to one of my usual Italian haunts on CBB (Delucca, if you must know) where we had further business discussions. After concluding the dinner at approximately 10pm, we felt bad about leaving him back at his hotel so early and decided to show him around some night spots of KL.

First on our agenda was to introduce him to durians and we decided on heading over to our favorite durian seller on Imbi, but it was too late as our usual seller had already packed up and left for home probably a good hour ago. Mildly disappointed, we contemplated giving up the search but thought we’d give Jalan Alor a go since there was more to see there in terms of nightlife as well. The usual traffic chaos in Jalan Alor was an experience in itself but made the anticipation of the durian all the more exciting.

Durian Stall on Jalan Alor
Jalan Alor Durian Stall

The Alor Durian Stall has not yet been featured in this blog, although I’ve been there several times, its usually a last resort as the traffic madness/ parking chaos and rates per kilo of durians tend to be more expensive than other stalls. However, I’m happy to say that this stall is a good fallback option, you just never know when you need to satisfy a craving or feed a friend. Furthermore, Jalan Alor is quite a scene, which is only special late and night, and the later the better, especially when the skies are dry.

Jalan Alor Durian Stall Durian Varieties

Where is the stall? Right at the beginning of Jalan Alor, which is a one way street so its hard to miss unless cars are parked in front of the stall. It has a prime spot on the junction as you turn into Jalan Alor, occupying the first lot on the left of Jalan Alor and I wouldn’t be surprised if the stall has the number 1 on it.

The durian selection isn’t wide, but that’s because it isn’t the season. The 2 durian species available at this stall are the common and reliable favorites, the Bamboo and the Mau Sang Wang. We ordered one of each just to show JC the difference between the 2 species.

Initially, he was a bit uncertain as to whether he would like it once we got to the stall (and I suppose he came into contact with the famous aroma) but we had him so psyched up about it that he felt he just had to have some in order not to disappoint us since we had gone through all this effort to find a stall. Quite game, we got him to start off with a small bite before we then also took our seeds.

JC tried his first Durian

He picked the smallest one to try first and this was his initial bite and reaction…

JC’s first reaction to Durian

We had a good laugh because he thought the taste was nothing at all like what it smelled like and his initial comment was “interesting”, which we took as a substitute for “disgusting”. But, he was game and after that first seed, took a few more.

Mau San Wang Durian from the Jalan Alor Stall

After the Bamboo, we proceeded to taste the MSW which looked very good and smooth. A fine yellow flesh which looked like it would yield beautifully to light pressure.

We used all sorts of european analogies to describe the taste of the MSW which fortunately JC could thoroughly appreciate. A wine, champagney taste of the MSW, like a fragrant smooth fermenting jam with an interesting fibrous yet smooth texture… JC expressed that he really preferred the MSW to the Bamboo. So we told him that indeed he should because the MSW was twice the price, kilo for kilo.

We think that he truly enjoyed the durian but couldn’t finish the seeds, which we cheerily mopped up on his behalf and proceed to feast on a few other fruits that he wanted to try. Namely mangosteen and rambutan from the stall next door which he successfully learned to open on his own. JC was also very impressed that we could sit outside on the bustling street at 10.30 pm at night (which he said is impossible in Switzerland) and had hand washing facilities and a crew that cleaned up the tables after us in record timing of a blink of an eye.  After consuming all these calories, we walked him down Jalan Alor and round Tengkat Tung Shin to Changkat Bukit Bintang, showing him the transition the neighbourhood is making from old to new.

JC met up with us again in Bangkok last week and told us that he tried the Thai durian, but was most disappointed as it lacked the oomph and distinct flavors of the Malaysian Durian. He’ll be back to support the durian industry for sure. We’ve won over another convert!

Durian D96: Details on another species

It is generally true in my experience that a deeper richer color and tone of the durian is an indicator of its flavor and taste personality. I blogged in a previous entry about the color of durians and its appeal to our visual cortex. Having said that, color does not always indicate a better flavor but may be used to compensate for poor flavor in order to attract the same amount of gastric interest.

Here’s a photo of the D96, how do you think the color rates on a scale of 1-10?

Depth of color: maybe a 7 or an 8

Appearance of texture: probably 7 or 8

Attractiveness of size: maybe an 8 or 9 (its not too big nor small)

Shape: Yes very shapely, maybe an 8

Flesh to fruit ratio: 5 (too much of the white bit)

Overall: a very decent 8 I’d say just looking at it.

BUT I’m sorry to tell you that tastewise the D96 fell short. It tasted more like a 4-5 disappointing the appearance of the fruit. Mediocre taste means that you could eat it and it is not intolerable but it isn’t incredibly special either, ie no, you wouldn’t order a second fruit.

If you don’t know what I mean by the description above and the comparisons of color, here’s a photo that will help with some perspective.

The D96 and the MSW Color Comparison

Durian D96 husk

The yellow-gold husk of the D96 Durian

On the left, the D96, and on the right, the incredibly reliable MSW which usually is already considered a deeper colored fruit as compared with the other species. The exterior does somewhat reflect the color inside (but I would never use this as a benchmark, merely as a singular observation) and note that the spikes are quite uniformly spikey and quite close together.

Have you had a D96? I wonder if there is great variation in the species where one D96 can be markedly different to another. If you’ve had one and it doesn’t sound like how I’ve described it, please do let me know…