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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The 3 dollar stall is now a 350 dollar durian stall

Since the day that TH told me that a durian shop had opened right on her street (Wan Chai Road), it’s been drawing me over like a moth to a flame.

The durian stall replaced a casual pop up selling everything for 3 Hong Kong dollars. We still use the words “Sam-mun” to affectionately refer to that specific location despite that pop up having left a some months ago.

The durian stall in Wan Chai road only has a chinese name猫山旺, which is “Mao Shan Wang” currently the unequivocal top breed of durian. It’s consistent, it’s full of flavour and really once you’ve had this, you may as well forget Thai durians and other non-descript hybrids and pay full attention (and money) to eat this one.

Eating durians in Hong Kong is always a splurge for me, and it was on a wet drizzly day that I suddenly decided that I was desperate for durian.

There I was across the street at the stoplight, huddled under an umbrella, my shoes soaked in murky sidewalk rain water and what do I see?

….Nothing. The wooden shelves and palettes were completely empty.

Whaaaat was going on? Obviously I wasn’t the only one pondering a durian stall with no durians in the middle of the afternoon.

This called for an investigation. I zoomed in for a closer look and a chat with the lady at the stall.

Durians on flight, haven’t arrived yet.” She said. “If you want, consider these packs at 180” she waved her hand toward the table, “or come back tomorrow“.

The three packs of durian were quite small, I’d say they were half of a smallish durian in each pack. Upon smelling them, I decided to go for the pack with an assortment of small seeds.

Reliable Mao Shan Wang. Need I say more? They were barely chilled then polished off.

oh yes. When I was at the shop, I saw a leaflet pasted on the wall advertising a durian buffet in Wan Chai. Sounded interesting, it went into my calendar.

This stall is located on Wan Chai Road near the Comix Home Base.

It usually looks like this.

A Durian Hunter’s Bonanza at the Food Fair in HKCEC

I was very happy to discover that PB is as much of a durian fanatic as I am. Except that I believe I have a pinch more self control than she does. Or maybe I just have more exposure to durians than she does. 

Anyway, the impromptu trip to the Food Fair in Wan Chai was revealing about our fondness for the stinky spikey fruit (she was willing to leave her 5 month old infant at home just for some private Durian time, a sign of true dedication to durians :)).

This Food Fair 2017 is the first I’ve attended since I’ve lived in Hong Kong. The crowds on a Friday mid afternoon was staggering… just as busy or maybe busier than the book expo. Ushers were stationed along the overhead walkway guiding people, they had also shut off the main walkway to the convention Center forcing people to exit and re-enter to the makeshift ticketing booths. The taxi queue was at least 30-45mins deep and cars weren’t being allowed to approach the main hall drop-off area. I had the baby in the carrier so I was accorded the privilege of going ahead in the queue. 

PB was late. Her taxi turned into the Hyatt hotel entrance but she didn’t realise that there wasn’t a connecting door to the convention Center. I got the twenty-five dollar tickets and waited for her by the entrance. 

When she arrived (all flustered) we headed straight up to the main exhibition hall area. Just like Art Basel, the organisers force you to head all the way down the corridor and enter from the fifth or sixth door. We went in and were amazed by the narrow corridor layout and the height of the booths, some of which towered two stories high full of LED lights. Promoters were standing on every corner handing out leaflets or just trying to get passers by to look at the products and gifts with purchase. 

There were lots of booths advertising durian but we soon discovered that most of these were selling durian pastries, snacks and moon cakes. There were only 2 booths selling fresh durian and a few booths selling frozen durian. I tried to take some photos but these really aren’t my best as we were trying to keep within 90 minutes and to cover the entire ground floor zone. It was a bit of a rush. We headed in and walked down to the end of the hall first, to work our way backwards.

The first booth we found selling the fresh stuff was Mr Durian.

Mao Shan wang on display at the Mr Durian booth


 The durians were priced at HKD 230 per kilo and their Mao Shang Wang durians were smallish, just over a kilo each. The booth next door was selling durian ice cream in a cup for HKD 100 each and some snacks and dried fruit. 

Dried durian for sale at Mr Durian booth

Fresh Mao Shan Wang for durian ice cream!!

Mao Shan Wang ice cream with fresh durian $100

Durian mochis and moon cakes at Mr Durian


We thought this was a pretty good booth and the durians looked fresh. Noted. Next. 

We cruised the aisles avidly searching out the next booth. Lots of booths selling durian biscuits and pastries… we just glanced at them and as this wasn’t our target, we moved on. 

Booth selling durian sandwich biscuit

Booth selling durian pastries and desserts

The Durian pastries that are so popular in Hong Kong

This booth specialised in Durian ice cream

Sampled the ice cream, a little too sweet

Durian biscuits, which ironically are artificially flavoured



Finally, towards the initial third of the hall, we came upon a booth decorated with lots of little durian stuffed toys. Well, it’s certainly one way to get attention.

Shared booth – sparkling juice and fresh durian!


 

Tree ripened Musang King Mao Shan Wang

HKD 488 per fruit and you can pay by EPS!

You can see the stuffed toy durians in this photo


They had a stack of fresh durian in husks piled high on the table. The price was marked as HKD 500 each. I approached and asked how many kilos each durian was. About 2 kilos was the answer. Not bad, but that would also be 2 kilos of uncertainty and disappointment if it didn’t turn out good. 

I made a memory mark of it and we moved on. PB spotted a booth with a massive Hello Kitty on it. 

Snow skin durian moon cake in a Hello Kitty Bag anyone?


Interestingly, they were selling durian mooncakes in a Hello Kitty cooler bag. She waved me over and had already started negotiations for two durian mochis. “Here,” she said, “try this.”

Negotiations taking place

Not too expensive

Thanks PB for my durian mochi 🙂

Nice cold durian mochi


Not bad,” I replied, trying to balance the second half of my mochi on the tiny stick of a toothpick. “Flavour is good and it had texture, but still nothing like the real thing.

We consumed the rest of it rapidly and threw the sticks in the bin. 

Durian powder ice cream packets


Then we encountered this booth selling durian powder which you can reconstitute and make your own ice cream. Hmm. Well I guess if you don’t have fresh or pulp to work with, this may have to do. It makes me wonder how many durian ice cream makers are using this powdered formula.

Finally in the A section of the hall, I found the durianBB booth. The organisers had spent a lot on branding and you can just tell they are begging for an Instagram shot for your social media profile. 


Loaded with bags, boxes with their logos and staff all t-shirted up in the same, their booth felt cramped and there was a staff ratio of 5 per client visitor so it felt a bit much. 

The durianBB booth

Ice cream samples for tasting

Packaged frozen durian. But you can’t see what’s inside


They were plugging the durian ice creams, durian moon cakes, frozen durian, durian mochis… but no fresh durians. And it didn’t seem inexpensive.. there wasn’t an apparent discount or promo for buyers at the fair. So, we looked and reflected and they offered us some durian ice cream to try but it just wasn’t what we were into. 

So it was back to Mr. Durian

Pretty funny logo. Imagine eating durian in a suit?


We were contemplating which durian to pick up and share when a chinese guy sporting sunglasses and a durian ice cream cone appeared beside us and gestured for ten. Immediately the staff sprang into action, swiftly picking ten durians off our table (well technically not our table but it was where we were in our mid selection reverie). 

Hey!” PB exclaimed,”we were just trying to pick one!

Well“, I told PB,”good durians wait for no man… if we want to get it, better hurry and choose or the table will be swept clean!” This was, after all, the first day of the fair and the best would still be on sale. The guy produced $1500 and still managed to get some change for the ten durians. The staff were busy opening the husks to show the client then packed the durians in newspaper and into a plastic bag each. 

Wrapping the whole durian in newspaper for the chinese buyer


We wasted no more time. Once the staff had settled his purchase we got them to recommend one and open it for us, splitting it into two boxes. It looked and smelled good. 

Splitting the durian


PB looked and looked. She ended up buying a box of mixed durians to try. “What do you think?” She asked. It was a box of Jin feng, 101, red prawn and something else. I told her that those were all good breeds and worth a try. Those boxes cost only $100 each so she happily added it to her bag. 

The mixed box of durian


After the small splurge, we walked casually toward the exit and parted ways. She by taxi and me on foot. 

=============

PB messaged me that evening saying that she had devoured her entire lot to the ire of her husband. She couldn’t keep any in the fridge as he can’t stand the smell.. hence she ate it all in pretty much one sitting. 

I kept mine til the next night in the fridge when SW and I could have it leisurely. It was reliable Musang king, very enjoyable. 

    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

    Durian Potong Sticks

    Perusing the frozen section at Taste

    I have been resisting an urge to eat cheesecake for the last few days. It’s an active resistance, where I seek it out and then tell myself I shouldn’t eat it and leave the shop. Yeah what is wrong with me?! 

    So there I was looking at the frozen cheesecakes…when eeeeek stop. Potong stick? Do they have durian flavour? Zoom in for close inspection. Yes!


    Wow I was beside myself with excitement. Thing is I just went for a dental appointment today to fix my filling. My left lower jaw and cheek was completely numb. I had absolutely no intention of dribbling my durian Potong stick all over the floor. 

    Oh why do they bring in the frozen stuff at winter time? It’s now sweater weather here in Hong Kong. Well, that doesn’t stop me. I will buy it tomorrow. 

    First proper Mao Shan Wang this August 2016

    Hooray!!! Oh how I’ve missed eating good durian.

    After what seemed to be an eternal time waiting for the right time to purchase a good Mao Shan Wang durian, we finally took the plunge last Sunday. 

    I’ve been scoping out the market daily and the supermarkets too. City Super sells the pricier stuff (labelled Cat Mountain King) for between 400-900 HKD per fruit (smaller cheaper ones weigh around 1.3Kg), that started about two weeks ago. 

    August 1st, Causeway Bay City Super. Durians on sale


    When Malaysian durians finally hit the shelves at the Taste supermarket, it was a clear indication that the season had really begun. 

    August 12th, durian on sale at Taste


    The packets in the supermarket are nothing great though, often slightly too ripe and already a little molested in the packaging stages. 

    In the Wan Chai indoor fresh fruit market, the stall blaring pop hits (on your left as you enter the doors from Queens Road East) had two on display in their refrigerated shelf. 

    “The smaller one is 390, the larger one 500” came the response to my inquiry. We decided to take the larger one hoping to satisfy the cravings of three people. Mind you, large isn’t very large, the durian weighed less than 2.3 Kg for sure. 

    Here we go….


    I asked the fruit sellers to cut the durian for me for easy opening, we wanted to take it with its shell on to avoid damage and keep the aromas in. 


    The durian flesh was a delightfully bright yet rich yellow, reminds me of the intense shade of sunflower petals. The whiff I had confirmed that it was worth paying for. 


    As we opened the entire durian fruit, I was pleased to see that there were no signs of dry edges or fruit that was also too wet. It was a durian in more or less perfect condition. 


    There were some stringy textures but that’s quite normal. Overall the flesh was smooth and silky though there were some interesting taste variations from pellicle to pellicle… One particular pellicle was a bit more bitter than the others… But not in a bad way.


    I was also pleased to see that the flesh was well filled out in the pellicle and that every segment was equally inviting. No disappointments on fruit opening. 


    The misshapened seeds characteristic of the Mao Shan Wang were larger than I had hoped  but that’s not something that I can complain about. 
    FYI, also in season at City Super are the insanely large and inordinately expensive watermelons… Which also come in cube shapes!

    Durian snacks and kaya available at Save More in Wan Chai Market

    On my recent trip to Save More to buy Nescafé 3 in 1 mix coffee, I had a bit of time to browse around. I was quite surprised to find a few packaged durian snacks for sale. Or maybe I shouldn’t be…as Philippinos do love durian and this is a shop that they frequent. 

    Well here goes…

    First up, durian white coffee from Ipoh, this is promoted as a 4 in 1!! 


    It’s cheap, but I’m just not sure whether you’d enjoy waking up to a durian coffee every morning… Hmm…

    Next up the same brand of durian kaya I saw in the coconut shop, Homei (which, in Cantonese means fragrant).


    The bottle is a more manageable size, it’s half the volume for over half the price. (Bigger bottles are $30). Note that it’s very high in sugar, eat sparingly 🙂

    Then this durian filled sandwich cookie called Durian Chaplet. $18 for a box. Also available in pineapple flavour.

    The competitor would be durian cream biscuits in a flexible packaging which is $15 per pack.


    If you need to pick any of these up, you can get them at Save More in Stone Nullah Lane in Wan Chai market.