The nangka tree off Sau Wa Fong

The other name for nangka is jackfruit. Perhaps you know it by that name? 

I was walking by Sau Wa Fong near Star street one recent weekend and spotted the jackfruit hanging off the very productive tree. Boy, did it look good. No, I’m not going to steal any. I don’t know who the tree belongs to and how it’s looked after. What I did do, was march down to the supermarket and buy myself a pack of Malaysian jackfruit. Yum yum, it was sweet, chewy and aromatic. 

What I did reflect on was that it would’ve been incredible to have a durian tree next to it. I don’t see why the durian tree can’t thrive here, especially with global warming… the winters have been getting shorter and milder. 

Anyone got a space for a durian tree on their doorstep? 

The Jackfruit hanging off the jackfruit tree

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Malaysian Stamp features the durian 

Among other local fruits, the durian stands out in size and colour. There are two durians on the stamp, at the front and back. The durian-like fruit in the middle is a jackfruit, known locally as the “nangka“. Nestled at the back is the hairy rambutan and in the front is the purple husked mangosteen.


Thanks to Meredith DPS for sending it to me!

“Agrotainment”, KenDurian: Durian fiesta in Dataran Merdeka

Malaysians are generally very good at coining new terms, and the ministers of state transmit these through mainstream media. So now, apart from “sportstainment”, “edutainment”, we now have “agrotainment“.

 Pretty silly as my toddler would say. 

Anyway, this article reports that the durian fest held at Dataran Merdeka was such a huge success that it might be held every last weekend of July. From the video, it looked like a very civilised affair, with a tent, tables with table cloths, chairs and plates. People are seen selecting their durians and packing them into plastic containers. I’m not sure whether it was mostly kampung durians and those of less popular breeds… Most of the best durians are often exported to the highest bidders around the region.

Of course, this could also be the situation in the VIP tent where the minister was given the tasting tour… Perhaps everyone else was shunted outside.

If you were there, please let me know what you thought of it since this is now thought of and promoted as a national event…!

Durian makes for black, thorny politics

News from Malaysia has been diabolical recently and so it shouldn’t have surprised me to see this latest news from the Penang assembly.

Essentially, these backbenchers (perhaps the same everywhere) are lobbying any idea around to raise extra funding for their district or constituency without considering if it really would bring extra income over a longer term. The initial spend from the government would line the pockets of local contractors to construct ostentatious structures and allow the parcelling off of land for purposes dubious at best. Thereafter, projects are often abandoned or poorly maintained, becoming a national embarrassment. 

The backbencher identified a rice museum (an independent review of it here) and a pineapple museum (see a review of it here) as a justification for launching a durian museum. They would be best advised to conduct their research on the number of annual visitors and what their feedback is. Better yet, put the vote online and see what people think public funds should be spent on. The rice museum’s main attraction is a painting panorama by North Korean artists (what?!) and the pineapple cultivation equipment looks like something any gardening amateur could have at home.

If a durian museum was indeed needed and profitable (pineapple museum charge is RM 2, the rice museum is RM 3), Balik Pulau’s private durian industry would’ve gathered together to launch one. That clearly is not what durian lovers are looking for. 

Balik Pulau organizes durian carnivals and exports durian all over the world. They provide farm tours and have websites that feature all the hybrids. 

We don’t need a building full of fake fruit. We just want the real thing, grown well, less expensively if possible, and a decent place to eat it. Anything else and especially if government run is just a stupid idea. 

Durian Daifuku

I was walking towards home today when I decided to check out a frozen meat shop. Ah Wong Fine Food Company. Despite its name, it isn’t a gourmet shop as much as a gourmet stall… An impressive number of freezers packed into a very tight corner. The last time I walked by, there were some impressive listings of imported meat and seafood, at cheaper prices then what you can get at the supermarket.

  
These shops paste sheets of A4 paper- often hand written- of what the item is and the price by weight. 

I bought some imported beef slices and as I was leaving, spotted this:

  
What on earth was that? I wondered. Since I was already a client, I was less shy about asking. 

Boss, I said in my crappy Cantonese, what is durian daifuku?

The boss replied in Cantonese, it’s something you eat and drink.

???

I persisted: Is it frozen? 
Yes he said. 

Well can I see it? I want to know what it is. Where is it from?
It’s from Malaysia he replied. 

Then scrabbling around a freezer in front of me, yanked out this box.

  
Ah. Durian mochi. Made from pure durian pulp. Apparently haven for durian lovers.. Do they mean heaven? 

I thanked him and told him to put it back. The meat I had bought would thaw nicely on the way home in time for lunch. The durian mochis will be for another time. 

It’s just hilarious that they made it sound Japanese… In chinese characters it says Da Fu or Dai Fu in Cantonese (meaning big wealth) but they added a ku on the end of it.

45 Hkd per box isn’t much, less than 7USD. For 8pcs, that works out to be less than 1USD per piece (or bite). It doesn’t state what type of durian it’s made of. I’ve paid more for an ice cream stick so maybe this might be worth a go.

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.

Sydney Durian Alert Update

Okay I did a bit more reading and here are the supermarkets that will be distributing the durian. No prices mentioned but I reckon it might be pricey.

V Plus Supermarkets in Campsie and Liverpool.

Kingsford Oriental and Asian stores in Cabramatta

They will be stocking D24s and the Raja Musang (Mao San Wang).

So if you’re walking by and expecting the wafting smell of durians… I doubt you’ll be smelling any as it’ll likely be well packed!

 

From Bernama News:

MELBOURNE, Oct 30 (Bernama) — Southeast Asian customers waited with eager anticipation as the latest shipment of “Raja Musang”, the “King of Durian”, hit some Asian stores in Sydney this week.

Leading importer of this product to Australia, Weng Sam, director of Rockman Pty Ltd, one of Australia’s largest Asian importers and wholesalers, said he was expecting “great things from this deliciously succulent product”.

He has already started distributing it to his Asian grocery suppliers around Australia.

This is his second container load of durians valued at about A$70,000.

His first shipment comprised D24 and Raja Musang but the more expensive Raja Musang proved to be well-received and sold out within a couple of weeks.

“I initially brought in more D24 than Raja Musang, because it was cheaper and there was a demand for it in the market. But once buyers tasted Raja Musang, they said forget about it! No more D24,” Weng Sam said.

“There is no other durian that can beat the taste of Raja Musang!” he said. “But the only problem, of course, is the price. It fluctuates.”

But that does not seem to concern Australian customers.

“One excited lady said her husband did not care how costly durian was. He was just anxious to buy it as soon as it was available in stores and would even pay A$100 for one durian,” Weng San said.

“Another lady Elizabeth Chan remarked when she heard about the Malaysian durians in Sydney, it ‘light up my life’,” he said.

Johnny Wan, a Malaysian in Sydney sent his sister to get two cartons of the fruit. He said: “I don’t care how much it cost… I don’t want to miss it this time.”

Malaysians and Singaporeans have been contacting the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) Sydney office to find out which stores stocked the delicious Raja Musang.

For Sydney Matrade commissioner Ong Yew Chee, it was one fine afternoon where a phone call from Weng Sam started the Raja Musang entry into Sydney.

Weng San was looking for a supplier and Ong arranged a meeting with Hernan Corporation in Kuala Lumpur.

Rockman is grateful to Ong for the connection which has been working closely with Sydney Matrade to get more Malaysian products into Australia, including Dewina’s products, London Biscuits and Yik Khang Frozen Foodstuffs.

Raja Musang durian is being sold in several Asian supermarkets in Sydney such as V Plus Supermarkets in Campsie and Liverpool, Kingsford Oriental and Asian stores in Cabramatta where it has met with enormous success even among the Vietnamese community.

Although it has been under a week since this King of Durian been unloaded in Sydney, already a third of the container has a been sold, with new retailers in negotiations with Weng Sam, to get their orders in.

— BERNAMA