Durian seller risk

What’s the risk of being a durian seller?

Well lots actually. In malaysia and singapore, there are lots of little one man stalls that sell durian whenever it’s in season. What sorts of risks could they possibly face? I thought I might take a stab at listing a few:

1) bad weather.

This affects the entire chain. From supply to demand. Bad weather, whether it’s too much sun or too much rain affects the fruiting of the trees and the numbers and qualities of the fruit. On the demand side, when it’s raining, less people are inclined to head out. Profits not guaranteed.

2) triads and corrupt cops.

Yes, most stalls in cities need to pay some sort of protection money, even if their stall is in a licensed area (which many are not, they are illegal hawkers). The problem here is that they are at the whim and fancy of all powers that be on the street. One of the durian sellers I had a chat with when I bought from him, told me that the triads come at least once a month to collect a certain sum of cash… he would just have to prepare it and pay up. Worse, he said, were the cops. They would come anytime and often different ones would also approach him. Either for free durian or petty cash. No choice in either situation. You gotta pay rent to someone.

3) it’s a cash business.

Well, it is mostly at these stalls… card facilities are just too expensive to maintain. Though with direct mobile payments, perhaps this might change. So you can imagine all the issues with cash dealing.., there’s lots of cash that needs to be kept safe every day (as a float, a day’s earnings or cash to buy durians off the middlemen) or you’re a target for thieves. Most durian sellers will try to have more than one person at the stall for exactly that reason and also try to place their stall in areas of high visibility (both for clients convenience and their own safety). Check out this latest article where a durian seller was robbed and stabbed.

4) the danger in the product itself.

Durians are heavy and full of thorns. Drop one on your foot and it is quite unforgiving unless you’re wearing mining boots. (Observe your sellers footwear in future :)) Durian sellers often have rough tough hands, coarse from handling fruit. Many durian are sprayed with pesticide to keep the bugs and other animals off, I can’t imagine what these chemicals do to the skin over time.

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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 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

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.