The tallest durian tree in the world

I really enjoyed this article about the hunt for more elusive Durians. The red and orange Durians, as this article confirms are dead disappointing in taste and it’s just not worth the hassle apart from the novelty of bring instagrammed with it in your hand. Wild Durians probably are relatively “gamey” and appeal only to a narrow palate or if there’s nothing else around to eat.

What was interesting in the article was the mention of the tallest durian tree at 57.5m. The century old tree is located in the deep interior of Sabah in Kampung Kenang-Kenangan supposedly produces 2000 fruit per season. Wow… that’s a real durian bonanza.

The tallest durian tree is located in Tongod

He’s on the hunt for the tortoise durian .. I’m keen to know what that’s like.

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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 ηŒ«ε±±ζ—Ί 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 πŸ€” (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 πŸ‘πŸ‘! 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 πŸ˜‰.

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 ι‡‘εŒ…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 ι‡‘εŒ…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 ι‡‘εŒ…, 1ηŒ«ε±±ηŽ‹ and 1D101. Shared with PB who was a very happy chick.

Here’s the cute assistant courier.

Fresh Malaysian durian in Wan Chai Today!

I happened to walk by my usual fruit shop along Wan Chai Road (next to Serge) and spied this…

photo (5)

Ooh don’t those lychees look good. But I tell you what, the durian is better!

I stopped and remarked “wow you’re pregnant and love eating durians?” (reminds me of someone I know)

She said ” I just ate one or two, its just freshly arrived”

So I said “is it good”

She said “you want some? here try one” and handed me the not-too-big husk.

“Sure, ok thank you I’ll try one.” I said.

It was DELICIOUS. pungent. yellow. not too moist. not too dry. fibers that just melt on your tongue.

I was so happy she let me try that one durian seed that I couldn’t tell her off for giving me lousy mangosteens last week. She also let me try a lychee (she’s not a fan of lychees) but after the durian, the lychee was bland in the way that a bad watermelon is bland.

July is almost here and I hope we will be inundated with Malaysian mao shan wangs in Hong Kong.

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……Β 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.

A taste of Durians from Medan

After all this time that I’ve been visiting Jakarta, I’ve seen local Indonesian durians for sale (usually from Medan) but never bought any to try. Well, that all changed last week when I decided to take the plunge for the first time.

I was out to buy some peaches for a friend at the Total Fruit Store in Jalan Wolter Monginsidi and of course the display caught my eye.

Monthong and Medan Durians for Sale at the Total Buah Segar

Monthong and Medan Durians for Sale at the Total Buah Segar

We are definitely already in the midst of durian season and I’ve been eyeing the Monthong durians for sale at the GrandLucky but succeeded in holding off my purchase as it just doesn’t smell or look as good as the ones we get in KL.

But durian deprivation finally got a hold of me and I thought a good way to get rid of the craving would be to try something new. I had to take a closer look.

Small Medan Durian Fruits

Small Medan Durian Fruits

OK, not too unfriendly pricing. The one on the left is equivalent to 5.6 uSD and the one on the right is 6.3 USD. Not too bad I guess. I contemplated for a short while and picked up the one on the left because the fruit didn’t look quite as “squashed” from handling and packaging. It’s a pity that it’s just labelled as “Durian Medan”. It’s as if there is just one type… which would seem very unusual to me. Perhaps there just isn’t the breeding and cultivation industry as there is in Malaysia.

We attended a dinner that evening so we didn’t end up consuming it on the same day. I stuck it in the freezer for another evening. We didn’t wait too long.

Here’s a picture of the durian post thaw:

Nice Color

Nice Color

Color looked great but what was disappointing was the lack of the usual durian aromas which are so important to kick the saliva glands and neural connections into overdrive. Oh well, we’ll give it a try anyway.

Saving the Durian for last

Saving the Durian for last

Durians should always be eaten last or solo among fruits. The taste is usually overwhelming and even the best ripe Californian peaches and grapes will be bland compared to it.

So the taste test.

MMMmmmmm Durian....

MMMmmmmm Durian….

Verdict

Aroma: C

Flavor: C

Color (vs expectation): B-

Texture: B

Size of seed: Large (compared to pellicle)

Overall rating: C

I thought it was generally lousy compared to Malaysian durians but am open to re-rating if I get a better sample. No wonder Indonesians fly in to KL to eat durians.

 

 

 

 

And the taste of Durian Lingers on… in Singapore

Hello Hello well Durian shops and stalls are getting a little more upmarket and creative in Singapore now. I was on my way to a petrol station up Bukit Timah when we rolled by a row of shoplots and I spied a new shop there that I hadn’t seen before. It was 9am in the morning and the shop didn’t look open yet, but there was no mistaking the signboard that advertised its products. I had no idea of course, whether it was a durian shop selling the actual fruit, or perhaps a shop which sells products made from durian (like the Durian Durian store in KL).

All the more reason to visit.

It was a week later after I spied the shop that I managed to check it out. TW was back from Chicago and on the food hit list, Durian ranked right after Bak Kut Teh. As there wasn’t much time (TW was only in town for about 6 days), there was a sense of urgency about the acquisition of our tasty experiences. First we went to Yu Hua Bak Kut Teh for our peppery consomme and various equally delicious side accompaniments and then it was a 20 minute drive to search out this durian place that none of us had tried before.

Driving up Bukit Timah looking for a shop lot at night is trickier than you might think, given that it is Singapore and that everything is usually well organized. At the moment, there’s a fair amount of construction going on for the new MRT train line and also the expansion of the canal. So between the two on-going projects, there’s a lot to look out for while driving as it is. Anyway, this shop is after 6th Avenue but before King Albert Park (if that helps) and you’ll see the shop lit up at night before you need to turn in (that’s a well thought out system).

Durian Lingers, Singapore

So we arrived at around 10pm and found the place to be quite active. There were tables and stools set up outside the shop and 2 tables tucked away inside the shop. Since the tables outside were all occupied, we headed inside where there was also the comfort of mild air-conditioning. There are large durian posters on the wall and the whole fruits displayed on a well lit rack. There is an assortment of fruit for those who aren’t durian lovers too which is a good idea.

I left the group at the table and went to peruse the shop and goods. I noticed a chilled counter with the durian already removed from its husk and displayed in polystyrene containers wrapped in cling film.

Now in a new joint, I do enjoy being able to peruse and try before being pressed to purchase the most expensive item in the house (which is the way it usually is with many durian vendors). Being able to see the fruit to get a sense of texture and color is far better than trying to guess what it is like inside by examining the husk.

The browsing continued uninterrupted for a while until the nice cheerful storekeeper came round and asked me what I wanted.

Durians pre-packed in the chiller

Well, what I wanted was to be able to look at the durian close up so that I could decide which I wanted to try. The light in the cooler can be deceiving, it’s already a golden yellow which makes the fruit look luscious no matter what condition it probably is in. So I tentatively asked him what species and what he recommends. With a wide grin, a punk hair style and a chubby sort of shape, he puts you at ease and is one of the least intimidating durian sellers I’ve met. Not that other durian sellers come across particularly scary, but hey, it is a tough business and the guys that run the stalls are usually seasoned with a large dose of sweat and sunshine.

“Which is the best?” I asked.

“Oh all have different taste, but of course Mau Sang Wang is the best” Cherub said. “Which one do you want?”

Prices for various durians

“Well maybe we can get one pack of each to start with first and see what we like” I started pointing “how about this one, and this one…”

Ok” he said picking out the packet I pointed at through the glass panel.

“The Mau Sang Wang I can’t tell , do you think you can take out a few to show me?” I asked trying my luck.

Cherub volunteered “Why don’t I pick one for you? What type you like? Sweet or bitter?”

“ooooh, the more bitter the better” I emphasized, “how do you know which one, did you try it before packing?”

He gave me the widest grin and said “I know because I am the one who opens and packs them, but I haven’t eaten durian in 2 years already”

There was nothing else to do but trust him, and I have heard all durian sellers tell me that before, maybe because they shouldn’t be consuming their own products (conflict of interest?) or maybe because they’re genuinely avoiding the ‘heatiness’ of consuming durian on a daily basis (durian is also highly addictive and fattening if you eat lots of it every day).

Well the prices seemed reasonable and the durians looked well packed without any mess or destruction to the shape or skin of the fruit. And it looked like pretty much everyone sitting at the tables outside had ordered the fruit in these boxes.

And so our little feast arrived. Not very impressive looking is it. The durians look somewhat anemic and there doesn’t appear to be much difference in tone between the D24, the XO and the Mau Sang Wang.

“Don’t worry” Cherub had told me, “if you think its not nice, I can exchange for another one”. Fair enough.

I started by reminding everyone that we should commence our journey with the D24, then proceeding to the XO and finally the Mau Sang Wang. Durian is somewhat like wine, you should save the strongest flavors for last, but fortunately it is unlike wine as you’re not already half drowsy by the alcohol by the time you get to the richest flavors. The D24 was typical and nothing to shout about, good introduction for the un-inducted. The XO held its own but pales in comparison to others that I’ve had before. The Mau Sang Wang, however, was decently tasty and had a bitter edge to it which was pleasing to the palate. Not bad at all.

It was the Mau Sang Wang that led us into the ravine of desire… to think “hey, if the fruit in the packs taste this good, wouldn’t the fresh fruit out of the husk be even more delicious and impressive?”

Mau Sang Wang Whole Fruit

So SW put thought into words and suggested I attempt to bring the best Mau Sang Wang in the shop to our table.

As Cherub was busy serving other guests, a more senior version of Cherub came to assist. He wore glasses and looked a more studious version of the two. I told him what I wanted and he said no problem, he’d find me a really good one. And here it is, a small-ish cutesy Mau Sang Wang with the soft exterior and almost negligible seeds. SW couldn’t wait to tuck into it and I took this photo just in the nick of time before it was rapidly consumed.

When we split the section to reveal more seeds, the inside fruit was like stiff paper to touch and the texture was like plastic, too dry to eat. We returned the fruit and got another. Unfortunately, though the second fruit had better texture, it was the first fruit that had the better flavor. All in all, getting the Mau Sang Wang in the packs was definitely the best value for money, and the fruit also has time to ripen a little more while being chilled gives it a velvety feel of ice-cream.

A beautiful piece of Mau sang wang

So we ended the evening very full and fairly satisfied having all stuffed ourselves silly.

And so, would we go back there? The alternatives being Geylang, Dempsey and other stalls further away? The answer is yes and it’s great to know where to go to satisfy a craving in a decent neighborhood where you don’t have to worry about parking or getting ripped off and pressured to buy the largest fruit on the shelf.

A bit more about Durian Lingers: Been in Bukit Timah for the last couple of years, another branch at Joo Chiat in South Eastern Singapore. Open from 11 am to 11pm but they do close when there are no durians to sell. So be aware that this can happen during certain periods although this is infrequent as it is largely possible to get durians all year round. Check with them by phone if you’re not sure.

Durian Lingers

833 Bukit Timah Road,#01-08, Royal Ville (S) 279887 (map)
Tel: 6763 8382

Durian Cakes and Pastries at Pavilion Mall, Kuala Lumpur

Durian Booth Stall at Pavilion Mall, KL

Pavilion Mall is one of the places that we go to regularly for food, whether its to the Crystal Jade Kitchen or the Republic food court, or to La Bodega for some tapas once in a while. If you check out the booth type shops opposite JCo Donuts, the shops have had some turnover, for example Polar Pastries (famous for Singapore Cream Puff) has left. Lavender Cake Shop from Johor Bahru does a fairly roaring trade, more so than BreadTalk just across the walkway. Behind Lavender, you will notice that there is a shop selling assorted pastries made of Durian.

Called “Durian Durian” (could this be related to the shop in Singapore..? I thought it would be useful to document the items that they sell since they were kind enough to let me examine their products and take my photos.

It’s a nice and clean booth and you can see them making the durian pancakes fresh on the hot plate.

I didn’t try any of the durian goodies so please don’t take this as a recommendation but it is a good reference to know where you can get some of these goodies if you have a craving to satisfy.

Durian Pancakes

Now for close ups!

Durian Pancakes freshly made upon order, but I have no idea about the mochi.

Durian Puff anyone?

Fresh Durian Cream Puff

Durian Traditional Kueh Kueh

Durian Swiss Rolls - Chocolate, Vanilla, Pandan etc

Note that they specifically tell the consumer “We use only original pure durian”.

I haven’t tried any of these yet as I prefer the fresh fruit any day, but if you beat me to the taste test, do let me know…

Durian Muffins

Assorted Drinks to Cool Down After Durian