Durian’s spikey husk photos

I know that there are many fans of durian photos, it’s just one of those fruits that happens to be extremely photogenic. The contrast and different shades of green, stems and geometric spikes, the various curves of the fruit from top to bottom. There’s so much to admire even before you open it.

As I was waiting for the fruit man to open my fresh coconut, I decided to take a few close up photos of the durians on display ( 5 new cases in fridge he said).

So here are some durian husk close ups for your enjoyment.

Mao shan wang durian husk closeup

  

different shades of durian

  

a very fresh stem

 

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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….

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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.

Durian D96: Details on another species

It is generally true in my experience that a deeper richer color and tone of the durian is an indicator of its flavor and taste personality. I blogged in a previous entry about the color of durians and its appeal to our visual cortex. Having said that, color does not always indicate a better flavor but may be used to compensate for poor flavor in order to attract the same amount of gastric interest.

Here’s a photo of the D96, how do you think the color rates on a scale of 1-10?

Depth of color: maybe a 7 or an 8

Appearance of texture: probably 7 or 8

Attractiveness of size: maybe an 8 or 9 (its not too big nor small)

Shape: Yes very shapely, maybe an 8

Flesh to fruit ratio: 5 (too much of the white bit)

Overall: a very decent 8 I’d say just looking at it.

BUT I’m sorry to tell you that tastewise the D96 fell short. It tasted more like a 4-5 disappointing the appearance of the fruit. Mediocre taste means that you could eat it and it is not intolerable but it isn’t incredibly special either, ie no, you wouldn’t order a second fruit.

If you don’t know what I mean by the description above and the comparisons of color, here’s a photo that will help with some perspective.

The D96 and the MSW Color Comparison

Durian D96 husk

The yellow-gold husk of the D96 Durian

On the left, the D96, and on the right, the incredibly reliable MSW which usually is already considered a deeper colored fruit as compared with the other species. The exterior does somewhat reflect the color inside (but I would never use this as a benchmark, merely as a singular observation) and note that the spikes are quite uniformly spikey and quite close together.

Have you had a D96? I wonder if there is great variation in the species where one D96 can be markedly different to another. If you’ve had one and it doesn’t sound like how I’ve described it, please do let me know…

Weird Durian Food Combinations

Jogoya's Dessert at Starhill Gallery

Jogoya restaurant's Deep Fried Durian Dessert

It was M’s birthday halfway through November and H decided to invite a group of friends out to Jogoya, the Japanese Buffet restaurant in Starhill. There was a great spread of food and I especially liked the fact that this was the first Japanese restaurant to have round tables for ten people, chinese style (usually Japanese restaurants have long square tables which aren’t great for socializing in a group). The food and layout of the buffet could have been better but then again, it was impressive all the same. They had a dish which wasn’t in the dessert section called Deep Fried Durian Puffs, I think it was part of the dim sum selection which was meant to add novelty to the buffet.

By the time that SW and I saw it, we had already gorged ourselves on the copious quantities of raw fish (sashimi) and grilled fish and tofu and beef nabeyaki. H decided to give it a go and was surprisingly supportive of the dish and said that it was “rather good actually”. I didn’t know that H was that keen on durian given our last outing which didn’t see him fighting with us for the last fruit. SW and I aren’t really into durian derivatives as we rather enjoy the real thing but we take H’s word for it.

Durian treats in Airasia Magazine

Durian Desserts in the Airasia Magazine

After M’s birthday, we’ve been doing quite a bit of travelling. First Bangkok then recently I’ve just returned from a conference in Monaco. On my trip to Bangkok on Airasia, there was an article featuring Durian and how it has been specially prepared by various chefs.

Durian Chicken from Nikko Hotel

Durian Chicken Dish at the Nikko KL

At the Nikko Hotel, the Chinese restaurant is promoting durian cooked with chicken (picture on the right)… no idea whether its any good so if anyone has been to try it, please let me know.

Heavenly Delicious Tauwa Durian – A Prize Find in PJ

Chinese and Malay Durian Names

Chinese and Malay Durian Names

Before we left on our short trip overseas (1 week in the UK Summertime!), SW and I went on a late night search for durian to satisfy a durian craving. This expedition started at 10pm (about the time I left work) and our first stop was to our fave stall in Imbi. Unfortunately (or perhaps not so unfortunately as you’ll see why in a short while), the Jalan Imbi stall was closed for the night. It was probably either a really quiet evening or an extraordinarily busy one as he’s usually open til pretty late.

From this failed attempt, we decided to swing out to PJ via the Federal highway (just down the road) and visit our next favorite durian stall, Greenview durians*. It must have been a fairly quiet evening as far as durians go, there was ample parking by the stall, one table occupied by 3 guys and the owner with several polystyrene packets of durians open (for airing) who were merely sitting there having a bit of a chat and a cigarette. We were warmly welcomed by the owner and the owner’s son and the son “Da Wei” (probably David in English, but it translates as “Big Tail” in Chinese) waved us over to an empty rickety bench – like the ones you sit  at barbeques but a lot less sophisticated. We took our places opposite each other and swung our heads towards the hanging durians which looked as though they were queuing up to be eaten by us.

Big Tail being a cheerful and smiley young man came over and asked us in a very polite but casual maitre’d style what we would like to have that evening. (Translation in progress from here on) “What’s your best?” We asked. “Well,” he said, “the premium is certainly the Mau Sang Wang which we a few good ones, would you like to try?”

Having journeyed such a distance for durian, we couldn’t wait a moment longer and said yes, the Mau Sang Wang please. The durian was selected, opened and the intense yellow colour was greeted by us with delight, we just couldn’t wait to sink our fingers into the luscious durian flesh. When we were about three quarters of the way through, SW – who was then in the mood for novelty and more durian– proceed to ask Big Tail what other types of durian we should have now. Big Tail did not hesitate in responding that there are groups of durian species and flavours that can be combined and others which shouldn’t be mixed. “The Mau Sang Wang, Tauwa and Ang Hae are in the same class” he said, adding ” its the strong and good afternotes in these durians which are equally powerful. Other durians if eaten after that will be much poorer in taste and will seem flat and unsatisfying.”

“Fine,” SW replied, “What is this Tauwa and can we try it?”

The Tauwa - My new found favorite

The Tauwa - My new found favorite

The Tauwa was placed in front of us with a great flourish and opened with great gusto. “It’s milky”, Big Tail said adding “and a bit bitter but definitely milky and a very special taste”. We couldn’t agree more with him, the flesh was almost iridescent and milky but the taste of it was par excellence and did not disappoint. Typically, one sees a pale coloration of the flesh and gets the feeling that the taste of the durian will be somewhat suspect and lightweight. However, the Tauwa is truly in a class of its own and distinguishes itself far from other palers. Not much else to say here apart from the fact that we devoured it in its entirety (it wasn’t terribly big) and kept a few of the seeds to grow (more on this in another entry).

Colors belie the intense flavor and aromas

Colors belie the intense flavor and aromas

Well, I think it appropriate that you see the difference in color between the Mau Sang Wang durian and the Tauwa so here it is… look at the difference in intensity? Both flavors were markedly different but equally strong. In terms of texture, both were equally smooth, creamy and finger dripping. Note that the Tauwa is a slimmer, lomger shaped durian than the Mau Sang Wang which tends to have a rounder, fuller figure.

After the amazing Tauwa and the Mau Sang Wang, SW felt they were small and succint but certainly not sufficient. “What else?… How about let’s try the D24 that’s hanging over there.”

Big Tail responded “Do you want the sunshine D24 or the normal D24?”. “Eh? What’s the difference?” We asked. “There is a difference in the taste and colour”.

Durians with a serious tan

Durians with a serious tan

“Sunshine durians are the ones which hang on the outermost of the tree and are exposed to the sunlight most of the time and the exposure to the sun turns their skin brown, like a tan”. “These sunshine durians usually have a sweetened sun-ripened flavour, quite different to the shaded durian fruits, which typically remain green all around.” I thought this was interesting and had never thought about it before. It made sense that the durians that are green must indeed be shaded by the leaves or the tree trunks itself. What’s interesting is that the durian itself is like the Michael Jackson song “Black or White” (sorry, had to pay a little tribute here) as the sunshine D24 is burned a bautiful brown on one side but completely a verdant green on the other side. Flavour wise, the durians with a tan did taste a little sweeter than their lowland cousins but it just might be due to the slight dehydration and good soil drainage that concentrates the flavours.

After devouring 4 durians, SW and I decided that we had to call it quits. We would have liked to have another Tauwa but there wasn’t any left. We also gave Big Tail the credit that you shouldn’t really eat D24s after you’ve had the premium grade durians but all the same, it is nice to have variety.

The conclusion? The ideal number of people to enjoy durians with is 3 or 4, but if you’re a connoisseur who only wants the best, then I recommend that you only share the Tauwa with 1 person (and make that a special person).

*Greenview durians is a name we have given this stall as its right by the famous Greenview Chinese restaurant in Section 17.

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!