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!

Durian on Airasia

So I was flying back from BKK to Singapore in the late afternoon on Airasia. The flight was completely full, (which is great for them, bad for us) and I had my usual aisle seat. A big chinese guy (BCG) sat next to me and occupied both the arm rests, leaving me to shrink myself as much as possible so that I wouldn’t be injured by the trollies whizzing by.

Most of the flight was uneventful until it was approaching landing time. As the pilot put on the “fasten seat belt sign” and the plane did big circles in the sky, BCG suddenly whipped out a packet from somewhere (not sure which pocket because he didn’t have a bag) and popped some crisps into his mouth. After a few audible crunches, a waft or durian spread around the plane. I don’t think he had any idea of general decorum or that the durian smell could be offensive to others.

After a few crunches, I tried to get his attention: “excuse me” I said politely, no response. Again, but this time a bit more firmly. This time he stopped crunching and turned to look at me and said “she me”

That’s when I realized he was from mainland China, which explained his behaviour and put everything back in focus for me.

Well then, my next aim was to find out why he was eating the durian and what he thought about it.

He told me he bought it while on vacation in Bangkok, the tour guide brought him and his friends (15 of them at the back of the plane) to a shop selling all sorts of snacks including these durian crisps (dehydrated fruit pieces). He bought 3 big packs, which consisted of 6 little packs inside. Altogther it cost him 1000 Baht, which translates to about RM 5-6 per little packet.

Asked about the flavor, he said it was his first time trying durian and he thought it was delicious. He said that it was clear that people have a love-hate on first taste which would make for stimulating discussion back home in Shanghai.

Yes, Shanghai has durian too (usually Thai export) but its usually frozen and he never felt the urge or had the company to try it. Now he wants to try the fresh one, which I told him would have to wait until June-July to get the good ones.

Finally I asked him if I could take a photo of the packet he had. After he popped the last crisp into his mouth, he handed it to me saying that I could have it “for my research”.

I told him that I had also bought some but not of the same brand and he thought that was hilarious…

As you know, most flights including Airasia prohibit durians, but this is certainly one durian snack that you can enjoy on board.

Durians in a healthy freeze dried packet

When I was walking around a shopping mall in Singapore a few weekends ago, I came across a shop that was small but very brightly lit. It had an attractive interior with lots of different colored packages and a very eye-catching advertisement out in the front of the shop with a shelf full of tidbits for tasting. Usually, I’m not one to stop for tasting but my mother was curious and we ended up pausing momentarily at the shelf while she inspected their merchandise.

Durian crisps? Baked and Healthy?

That was certainly enough time for the bubbly sales executive to bounce over to us and proceed to start opening the jars for us to try the samples, each piece about the size of a small fingernail. The samples turned out to be freeze dried fruit and a mixture of vegetables. Mangosteen, Lychee, Longan, Apple, Banana (usual flavors) and Durian. The vegetables included potatoes, tapioca, yam, bittergourd and broccoli (?!). So mum had to ask about each different flavor in turn.

After she tried the mangosteen, “How does the Lychee taste? Is it as sweet as the mangosteen?”

“Yes madam, but it’s quite different, here try a piece… it isn’t the same level of sweetness but we don’t add any sugar” she said cheerfully.

Patiently, she opened up each jar as mother pointed to this one, then that one. I was standing there observing this rather skeptically when I decided to join in, since I wasn’t doing anything else anyway. “Ok, how about the durian? Does it taste good?”

Durian Nutritional Value

Bubbly sales executive couldn’t really tell me much about the product, except that it was known as a health food (well, it is all relative I suppose) and that the brand was local. She didn’t know exactly where the durians came from. Fortunately, it states its origin on the back of the packet. Not surprisingly it came from the enterprising agricultural nation of Thailand, but that in itself disappointed me slightly as I’ve never thought Thai Durian particularly inspiring for its aroma, textures or flavors.

Having sampled the sample, I have to tell you that my verdict was “not bad”. It certainly isn’t greasy like some other ones and if you have a craving, this might satisfy you for a while.

Mother ended up purchasing 3 packets, broccoli, taro and durian.

Various dehydrated snacks from Xndo

At around $5 SGD, this little packet of 50grams of chips doesn’t come cheap (mangosteen goes for even more at $10 SGD). Try strolling by the XNDO store (I don’t know how to pronounce it either) in the basement of Centerpoint Shopping Center next to the supermarket and get the bubbly sales executive to let you sample some freeze dried Durian, Broccoli, Taro, Mangosteen and Lychee too.

 

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.

Gourmet Emporium Supermarket

Durian derivatives on the shelves and they wouldn’t let me take a picture…

Processed Durian Snacks

“And don’t say I didn’t give you a choice” her mother said. “You’ll have to decide whether you want the green packet or the pink one, the green one is the dried bitter gourd and the pink one is the dried durian….”

Would you prefer dried durian or dried bitter gourd?

Durians are AVAILABLE in Hong Kong!

When I was in Hong Kong a few weekends ago, S2 and I met up with YV, JH and CW at IFC and we walked via overhead bridge over to Landmark building. There we decided to go to the supermarket to acquire a few items for dinner at their home that evening.

 

Durians at the Supermarket in Landmark

 

Imagine our collective surprise when YV revealed that the supermarket at Landmark named “ThreeSixty” stocked fresh durian for sale. I wasted no time hunting around for it, thinking that my nose would lead me to the source. Alas, the supermarket was very well organized, extremely well ventilated and exceedingly well chilled… all which masked the usual intense aroma of the durian.

We eventually found that durian was stocked in 2 places. The first place you would find it is already packed in neat styrofoam backing with clingfilm in the fruit chiller fridge, first on the left as you enter the supermarket. The second place is right towards the end of the fruit/vegetable section (near the onions and potatoes) where they kept the whole fruits still in their husky glory.

 

D24 Durian at the Landmark Supermarket (HK)

 

Why NO SMELL? This was Malaysian durian you see and by right it should have been stinking out the whole place. Well, the reason is because it was D24 (one of the milder breeds now) and it was also not harvested at the height of the season which would have made the whole experience much more stinky. Nonetheless, we were delighted to discover this and be able to share it with our international durian eating audience, that indeed, Malaysian durian is available in Hong Kong…. not just the blander Thai version (which is what most end up with).

 

Stacked up D24 Fruit

 

After some consideration, we bought the durian that was already pre-packed in plastic. For the following reasons:

1. We could see what we were getting

2. We conducted the press-test to check ripening

3. We were able to choose seeds of different coloration (probably from different fruits)

4. It was slightly cheaper

5. We didn’t have to worry about throwing away the husks

Mind you, if you wanted them to pack the durian into the boxes, I’m sure the helpful ladies at the supermarket would have been happy to assist.

Verdict? YV, JH thought it was pretty good (they haven’t been to Malaysia in 2 years though…) S2 and I thought it was mediocre but not the worst.

So, if you are in Hong Kong and desperate for durian, now you know where you can try to find them.

 

Durian Derivatives at Landmark Supermarket (HK)

 

And if its off season, take heart as they also sell the durian dried derivatives, which should last you till you buy your CX or Airasia ticket down to KL for feast.

Amazing Thailand: Durian Chips and Snacks for Tourists

Durian Fruit Derivative Variety

Lots of Different Types of Durian Snacks

Apart from the Gourmet Supermarket in Siam Paragon (which Dan loved too- nice to know), I would also highly recommend a visit to the equally impressive 7th Floor Supermarket of Central World (check out this supermarket on this youtube video). On the same floor as the Central World Cinema (also a very nice cinema), the supermarket boasts a reasonable Thai food selection (food court found deep inside the supermarket) while the outside hosts some small eating joints of various cuisines. I didn’t know this at the time and chose to have a pasta and a salad at one of the exterior italian cafes, and when I decided on buying some fruits for dessert, chanced upon a whole eaterie within which I would have patronized instead had I known about its existence. The display in this supermarket is not as beautifully laid out as Gourmet and it also didn’t have the same volume of customers, but the location (almost at the top of the mall) and its organization probably were the main reasons why customers may find it tricky to navigate.

As I had time before my night time movie commenced (if you must know, I bought myself a ticket for the “Ugly Truth”- Katherine Heigl and co-stars were superb), I wandered around looking for something I could take into the cinema with me. I walked all the way in and found an excellent selection of organic foods, packaged foods and even foods for tourists…and of course packaged Durian, something all Thais think that tourists could not leave without.

Rows and rows and shelf after shelf of packaged Durian, freeze dried, fried, sliced thin, chunks. And in all sorts of wrapping, see through, foil, vacuum wrapped, tinned and some beautifully cardboard packaging with ultra nice designs too.

Dan, it really made the selection at the Malaysian airport look miserable in comparison. This is the place you go to shop, to bring back some durian snacks for your friends and family who may have never been to Asia.

Here are some close-ups:

Monthong Durian Chips

Monthong Durian Chips

These on the left are the Durian Monthong Chips, Monthong being the primary variety of Durian species found in Thailand. See through, so that you can see that the chips are all nicely formed (not broken) and you can see that rich golden color.

Crispy Durian FruitsOn the right, you’ll see some box packaging of the “King and Queen” Combination, mangosteen and durians, but done in a “crispy” style. I’m not sure how that’s really different from a chip… it’s probably the same but they just thought it might be a unique selling point to give it a different name.

Each of these packets cost between 200-500 Baht, which is approximately 20-50 Ringgit or about 5-15 US Dollars.

Is this considered expensive for a snack? Well, it is certainly more expensive than a pack of potato chips of approximately the same weight.

I thought this package really took the award for most creative packaging and word play. Their brand by the name of “Tasty” makes 2 kinds of Durian derivatives; “DRIED DURIAN” and “DRIED FRIED DURIAN”. And not just dried fried durian, but with the words “EXTRA LARGE” too. I can’t help but wonder if this is some sort of sexual innuendo or perhaps that they are trying to promote it as some sort of aphrodisiac. The words that are prominent beneath it are in chinese which reads “liu lian gan”, which indicates to me that the product targets the mainland Chinese tourist market (a fair number visit Thailand for golfing vacations these days) but they also have the words promoting the health aspects in English. “Product of Nature” and “low cholesterol”. Hilarious. Extra large dried fried for a hundred and forty baht anyone?

Thai Durian Extra Large

Dried and Fried Durian Anyone?

After examining all the packaging available on the shelves, I concluded that the prizewinner for packaging (which by the way is also reflected in the premium pricing) should go to… (drumroll)….

A beautiful photograph depicting the ideal presentation of the contents, coupled with the deep royal blue hues and attractive words which illustrate what the consumer should be tasting and appreciating about the durian product rather than telling it as a method of cooking or trying to extol its health benefits. “CRISPY and DELICIOUS” under the words “Royal Thai Cuisine” truly makes you feel that you’re buying into something with class and refinement.

Blue Elephant Thai Brand

Stylo Durian Chip Packaging by Blue Elephant

I saved this photo for last because I loved the perspective with the tourist signage behind it proclaiming that these were the “tourist favorites”. I also liked the fact that they dressed up the packaging to look like the boxes of panattone which we get at Christmas time, almost pretty enough to hang up on the tree.

More on this on my next trip to Bangkok which is next week!

Durian is the King and Mangosteen is the Queen

Mangosteens sold by the Kilo

Mangosteens sold by the Kilo

In the last episode of high octane durian consumption, I neglected to mention that apart from the lovely “King of fruits”, we also indulged in the very delicate and lovely “Queen of fruits”. Despite its name, the mangosteen is nothing like a mango and certain doesn’t taste like one either. Usually in simultaneous season as the durian, the mangosteen is thought to be the “yang” factor (while the durian is the “yin”) and is supposed to balance out the “heatiness” of the durian. Whether this eastern medical prescription is true in the western scientific sense, isn’t really important when you consider that the mangosteen is able to complement the flavor of the durian by its own intensity of sweetness.

I’ve heard and seen many a health food store now touting the  benefits of mangosteen juice, sold in bottles and cans which have the appearance of ribena. Just this evening in the office, we broke open a packet of dehydrated mangosteen (courtesy of Thailand) which kind of tasted like rubbery barbeque chips [ more on this in another entry].

Basically, preserving the mangosteen doesn’t really do it any justice and please – never eat any derivative and think that it provides you a true reflection of the flavor of the fruit.

For the benefit of readers who haven’t had the luxury of trying fresh mangosteens, I’d like to put a few tips and pointers up so that you can appreciate the details of the fruit when you do get a chance to eat one (or a whole bag, as it usually happens).

Mangosteen base sepal

Mangosteen base sepal

Firstly, the color. Mangosteens are a deep purple with a smooth,armoured and brittle exterior. (Apologies for this fuzzy photo, my camera didn’t shoot too well under low light so I might have to re-do this one in the future.)

Mangosteens vary in size and at smallest resemble a squash ball and can be as large as tennis balls or snooker balls. On the top of the fruit, you will usually see a green stem with the sepals of the fruit. On the bottom there is always a pretty design of the flower as pictured here on the left. By counting the number of “petals” of the flower, you can estimate the number of mangosteen fruit sacs it contains.

For example, this one has 6 and when you open it you can see that there are indeed 6 fruit sacs.

Pearly White Flesh of the Mangosteen

Pearly White Flesh of the Mangosteen

The flesh within is usually pearly white and sometimes almost translucent. If you examine the fruit sacs closely, the surface resembles threads which have been spun and interwoven into a fine silk. The seeds within each fruit sac can be approximated to the size of the fruit sac. The larger the fruit sac, the larger the seed. The small fruit sacs often have no seeds at all and are the best to eat.

The seeds are small enough to swallow, although some of us do and some of us don’t. It’s a matter of preference.

Crispy Mangosteen

Crispy Mangosteen

Sometimes, the flesh isn’t pearly white but a translucent grey. I personally am not a fan of these but some of my colleagues are completely in love with these and relish finding one as though they are gems among stones. The flesh is known as “crispy” or “crunchy” and not soft like the usual ones.

Here on the left, you can also clearly discern the outer husk/shell of the mangosteen, its inner pulpy protective layer (similar to the whitish peel of the orange) and the juicy interior.

For travellers to Malaysia and Singapore, please note that in hotels there are usually signs which tell you what is prohibited in the hotel. Most places now prohibit smoking, but they also prohibit 2 particular fruits, namely the durian and the mangosteen.

Why? Firstly durians for its pungent aroma, which once circulating in the aircon vent is notoriously difficult to eradicate. Secondly, mangosteens for their purple juice (from the interior shell) which stains all fabrics indiscriminately and permanently, making it a living nightmare for the laundrette. Even washing your hands after a dessert of mangosteens can be a challenge at times.

As I was lucky to have many expert mangosteen eater/openers with me on this particular outing, I asked SW for a demonstration on how to best open a mangosteen without injuring yourself (some people use sharp objects but this is a recipe for disaster) or staining yourself, evoking the ire of whoever is in charge of your laundry.

Mangosteen Opening Technique

Mangosteen Opening Technique

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Useful tips when eating Mangosteen:

1. Have a toothpick ready to pick at the fruit if you don’t want to use your fingers

3. Always have tissues handy

4. Preferably have drinking water ready

5. Avoid using tissues until the end of your feast as the juice is very sticky

6. Do not touch any other fabric with your hands

7. Have a wet tissue / towel at hand for wiping up

8. Give your hands a good wash with water

9. Try eating it together with Durians- it brings out the flavor better

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Hope this helps and enjoy the fruit!

Did the Freeze Dried Durian Satisfy Your Craving?

Freeze Dried Durian?

Freeze Dried Durian?

A Big thank you to Dan for contributing photos to this durian lover’s reference site.

Dan tells me that he bought this at the Malaysian airport before his flight to Bali. A few questions immediately come to mind:

a) Was the durian as tasty as a crisp?

b) Why is the Malaysian airport selling Thai freeze dried durian (i.e. why not Malaysian durian chips instead…?)

c) Would I pay RM 30 for 100g of freeze dried durian? (hey, for the same amount I can get the real thing)

d) Would this satisfy an astronaut’s durian craving? (although it might be a tad inconsiderate to eat it in the confines of the space station)

Dan, please let us know!

I love how the packaging promotes it as a 4 in 1, with no cholesterol and 100% natural.

The Thais have really got their act together in food packaging- they are amazing!