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.

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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!

A Singapore Souvenir: Durian Merlion Cookies

I was buying some green tea for a friend at the supermarket in Takashimaya, Singapore when I spied this very strange confectionary.

Durian Merlions

 

A box of about ten inches by ten inches of Durian flavored merlion* cookies cost SGD 5.50.

 

And if you prefer mangosteen cookies, they have that flavor too (see bottom half of the photo).

 

I have no idea how they taste, maybe I’ll buy them for a friend and then ask to share it ao that I can try a piece… ha ha.

 

What other flavors might become available? Imagine, a soursop or chiku cookie? I think durian cookies are already quite a strange thing. Why would you prefer to have a cookie over the real deal!

 

* For the uninitiated, the Merlion is a Singapore icon. There’s a big statue of it on Marina Bay, spitting water out for good luck. You can read more about Merlion history. Also, opposite the Merlion in Singapore, there is Singapore’s famous performing theatre, the Esplanade, which is also fondly known as the “Durians” because of the metallic spiky external exterior.

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.

 

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 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!