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 ็Œซๅฑฑๆ—บ 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 ๐Ÿค” (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 ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘! 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰.

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 ้‡‘ๅŒ…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 ้‡‘ๅŒ…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 ้‡‘ๅŒ…, 1็Œซๅฑฑ็Ž‹ and 1D101. Shared with PB who was a very happy chick.

Here’s the cute assistant courier.

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For Carl, Durian Plant Lover

Dear Carl,

As promised, here are the photos of the seed husk of the durian plant when it falls off.

Durian Seed Husk (post germination)

And here is what the plant should look like after the seed husk falls off….

Stinky Spikes with Fallen Seed Husk

Durian Despair – Optimizing Plant Growth Conditions in the UK

DavidDurian1I’m really happy and grateful that several other readers out there share their durian growing experiences with me and hope that by meticulously recording the details, it will serve to inspire many more to start their own little durianarium (new term! you saw it here first!).

David just wrote to me from the UK in some despair over his durian plantlet (see the comments) and he was most enthusiastic and methodical of us all. I have to give it to him, he had the idea, the equipment and the implementation. What on earth does it require to nurture a durian seed? I hear you ask….

Plastic bag at week 2 to prevent evaporation

Plastic bag at week 2 to prevent evaporation

Well, David’s durian seeds were imported from Singapore (which probably means that the durians are from Malaysia) and he had managed to successfully germinate them in some soil and in a very presentable plastic box. At 2 weeks, his seed looks like it had shedded its shell and the stem was starting to push up to stand. To counter the humidity, he wrapped a plastic bag around the outer tray (retains moisture) and watered his seed diligently every 3 days. After 2 weeks, he put it into a nice box by the window to keep it warm. I thought it was a marvellous idea and in fact inspired us to employ a similar method of cling filming my pot to prevent loss of water by evaporation and drying out the soil. All credit due to him for thinking up solutions for tropical plant germination in the UK.

David's Durian Plant Propagator

David's Durian Plant Propagator

I was therefore surprised when he wrote to me today stating that the tip of his durian plantlet was turning brown and he was most alarmed that it might be a sign of dehydration and premature death. My advice was limited to my own experience and I have asked him to keep his plant well watered, out of direct light, give it a little bit of organic plant food and hope for the best.

In a previous posting, Linda’s seed also had a similar issue, although she also did her utmost to look after it. I’m not sure what the issue is, whether it is prolonged shipping, insufficient water or perhaps inappropriate soil conditions that lead to this most disturbing result. An important step which I took prior to placing the seedling into soil was to immerse it into a box of water first to encourage a good headstart

The durian seedling with its initial stem and a bit of a green tip

The durian seedling with its initial stem and a bit of a green tip

simulating the monsoon rains. David and Linda, if you do decide to try planting another durian seed, maybe take this step as well and let me know if it works out better. My plantlet is absolutely flooded with water and I think it isn’t complaining…. (yet).

By the way David, where’s the seed husk? Did it fall off by itself or did you give your durian plant some help?

Linda shares her Durian growing experience

A big thank you to Linda for sharing her durian growing experience with me. Since I am also new to this entire process, its helpful to have other fellow novice durian germinators sharing what they did (whether it succeeds or not).

In a durian nutshell, Linda brought the seeds home from her trip to Thailand where she first sampled this delectable delicacy. Her husband, now addicted to the heavenly aromas and textures, requested his beautiful wife to keep the seeds and cultivate these gems into living souvenirs of their journey and maybe provide stinky annual reminders of their experiences from the Kingdom of Smiles.

She dutifully washed them and soaked them but a week passed and there was no sign of life. Then she planted them in soil and voila! after a few weeks, a wriggly stem appeared.

Linda sent me 3 photos, I’ve put it into a composition so that you can clearly see how its grown.

Linda's Baby Durian Plantlet

Linda's Baby Durian Plantlet

Durian Seed Husk Finally Falls Off

This blog entry is dedicated to Linda, who wrote in and asked how the baby durian seed is doing. It is finally a little plantlet but I think it isn’t completely out of the danger zone yet. SW resisted assisting it by taking off the husk thinking that there might be big leaves waiting to unfurl inside but to our surprise, no big leaves appeared, only the small ones which we saw peeking out before.

The leaves themselves seem a bit pale and we’re wondering whether these leaves might just dry up and die due to the shock of the soil transplant and pot transfer. I mentioned this to AC who advised me that the Durian is in fact a very large tree and thus all energy will be diverted to root construction first, followed by the upper dimensions of the plant. I hope she’s right.

Durian Seed Husk Finally Falls Off

Durian Seed Husk Finally Falls Off

Here’s a photo aerial view of the durian plantlet. You can see that the stem hasn’t grown much since the last photo. The seed husk has now fallen off and dropped directly down onto the soil surface.

The leaves seem to curl off the crooked stem because of the initial weight of the husk which it had to be strong enough to lift off the surface.

We’re not sure if the leaves are going to make it but there are some small shoots that are appearing off the side of the stem between the junction of the “bark” like area and the green shoot.

Durian seed husk finally expelled

Durian seed husk finally expelled

In this next photo, you can see the artistic bend in the shoot with its beautiful leaves curled round like the delicate fingers of a Thai classical dancer.

There are a few green nodes appearing along the side of the stem but we’ll have to see if they develop into new stem and leaves. Judging by how slow it has been to get this far, I suspect that we’re going to have to be very, very patient.

Had durian cravings this week, but I’m heading to Penang to make sure I catch the last wave of the Balik Pulau durian crop and will let you know how it goes. ๐Ÿ™‚

Updates on baby Durian seed

Baby Durian Seed gets more space

Baby Durian Seed gets more space

The baby durian seed was finally getting too big for its pot, the leaves haven’t fully manifested yet but the roots were already penetrating the surface of the soil. We went out to the mall today and acquired a bag of potting soil so now the durian seed is in its own big pot and we shall see how long the space lasts for.

Durian shoot standing tall

Durian shoot standing tall

Almost a new leaf peeking out there...

Almost a new leaf peeking out there...

If you take a good look at the seedling, you can see the difference in texture of the stem, it is interesting that the bottom part of the stem is almost furry while the upper part of the stem looks green, thin and sleek. I’m waiting to see when the seed husk will fall off and reveal the leaves. It has been a long wait, but I suppose the durian seed is setting itself up so that it can try to become a tree.

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 theย  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!