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.

Latest durian prices at CitySuper

As you descend the escalators from Lane Crawford down to CitySuper in Causeway Bay, a welcome whiff or durian greets you. If your nose is fairly sensitive, you’ll be guided between the various displays of Christmas goodies and snacks into the cavernous supermarket. These seasonal displays have taken over the front section and the usual fruit and fresh produce has been shifted inside.

I turned left towards the massive array of cheeses, nope the scent was off. So I turned back right and yep, picked up the scent again. Weaving in and out I finally found the durians round the back of the shelf near the drinks section towards the cashiers.

The aroma was very robust and with good sharp accents yet had a soft sweet touch to it. Musang king yes. But what else?

Ahhh the black thorn is here.

But so is the Musang king.

I was curious which one commanded a higher price. The black thorn became a popular hybrid a few years ago but I remember noting this durian in Penang almost a decade ago.

How much does each set you back?

Well, the black thorn durians are HKD 46 per 100 grams and the Musang Kings are a HKD 40 per 100 grams.

The Black thorn durians are also looking a little larger than the Musang Kings hence the higher price on the ticket per fruit.

Price wise, the Musang Kings at Sogo we’re a little cheaper but not by much.

I guess if you’re a CitySuper good card holder perhaps it works out the same post discount.

Latest durian prices at Sogo

Musang Kings or Mao Shan Wangs are back in season.

At Sogo they have the whole durians on sale but you can also buy them already in packets. Looks good.

You can see from the picture above, a packet with just one segment will set you back HKD 170-200. Worth it?

The whole durian is HKD 42 per 100 grams, that’s 420 per kg. So according to my exchange rate calculator that’s SGD 70 per kg. That’s RM 220 per kg. Aiyo ka gui bui sai jiak (translation from Teochew: ah too expensive cannot eat la).

Unless you’re not flying to Singapore or Malaysia for Christmas break then no choice if you’re desperate for a Musang king and at Sogo.

Mid-Autumn Festival: Durian Mooncake in Hong Kong

It was the mid-Autumn festival last weekend. Quite drizzly in parts but it did clear up to a full moon on the day itself.

The day before, that is on the 8th of September, I was in Tsing Yi and in the Maritime mall waiting to meet up with a friend. In the concourse area was a typical exhibition booth space where many bakeries, restaurants and candy shops were hawking their wares. Of course, most of it was festival related and moon cakes were the main feature.

As I strolled around the booths, I was hunting for something very specific. Guess what…? It wasn’t durian moon cakes. I really like the piggy in the basket moon cake biscuit. It’s essentially the dough skin of the baked moon cakes which is crafted into the shape of a piglet. Most of the time, it’s the dough all the way through but sometimes they include the lotus seed filling which is super delicious. Anyway, it’s getting harder and harder to find a good one. I used to love the ones that the Shangri La in Singapore made, shaped in lions or goldfish (they no longer do this).

Would I have more luck in Hong Kong, I wondered….

Well, quite suddenly, I halted in my tracks. I spotted a stall selling moon cakes with durian. It was the only stall I had seen in the entire exhibition. Just to make sure that this was the case, I walked around twice more and confirmed that this was indeed the only stall.

Durian mooncake pricelist

Durian moon cake price list

This was certainly the most attractively designed price list among all the stalls (to me anyway). You can see how the price escalates to almost double between the D24 and the Mao Shan Wang fillings. All these are snow skin chilled durian moon cakes only, no baked ones. The price on the left indicates the per box cost, while the price on the right indicates how much it costs per cake, if you wish to buy them individually. Interesting that the most expensive one is a durian which I think is called the golden phoenix (last on the list).

Only 2 boxes of D24 mooncakes left

Only 2 boxes of D24 mooncakes left

Now, a peep into the fridge to see the goods. The fridge looked empty except for 2 boxes of D24. These boxes came in a yellowy green hue. Not looking that festive to me, but I guess business was brisk.

See before you buy

See before you buy

A check on the other side of the booth revealed similarly good business for the more expensive varieties. A lady had just purchased a box, which you can see the sales person closing the box. I think it’s great that you need to see and check that you’re getting the right ones, and that they let you. It appeared that some of these boxes had been booked and bagged already, awaiting collection.

Durian mooncakes in Hong Kong

Durian mooncakes in Hong Kong

Clearly these durians are from Malaysia. It says 100% Malaysian Durians on the of the brochure. But WAIT. On the bottom of this brochure, it says “Product of Singapore”. Quite creative, sneaky and probably at a good profit… but that’s food globalization for you.

Did anyone have durian moon cakes this year? Please share your experience.

Ps. If you’re wondering if I managed to buy that piglet, I did, but it was the very last one, retailed at 22 HKD. It was from another booth but I wasn’t that impressed with the flavor. Sigh.

The Rich and Good Cake Shop: Durian Swiss Roll

Durian Swiss Roll anyone?

If you’re craving some fresh durian dessert during a durian drought (or happen to be in the Arab Street ‘hood), you can buy a nice durian swiss roll from the Rich and Good Cake Shop. I bought one for my TW who was visiting from Chicago and he was very excited about it.

Overheard while in the queue.

Rrring RRiiing RRRrriinnggg…. (telephone call)

“hello, ya ya I am here”

other person speaks

“yes they sell swiss roll, what flavor you want”

other person speaks

“yes they sell swiss roll, got all kinds of flavor, carrot, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, durian what flavor you want?”

other person speaks

“no no carrot and strawberry not ready yet, another hour plus, you want durian or vanilla?”

other person speaks

“so you want or noooottt”

“ok ok I order a few now.”

This cake shop clearly has their slew of loyal customers. Judging by those in the queue, this was neither their first time here nor the first time they were queuing. At first I wasn’t sure how long it would take, every process in the shop seemed to still be non-automated and seriously pre-IBM. They don’t even have a POS, so you get a rather scrappy looking receipt. From the orders taken either at the door or by phone, everything was scribbled down by hand. It definitely retained the old-school feel and pumped out free delicious smells while you wait your turn to order. During this waiting time in the queue, there was plenty of time to browse the swiss rolls all neatly stacked in the fridge and to examine the flat cake that was exiting the oven on their trays in the tray trolleys. These were cooling and awaiting their turn to be “rolled” into a swiss roll with the requisite filling. They were definitely made on site.

Please note that this shop is a shop. Not a cafe, not a restaurant, nowhere to perch or sip an espresso. You get there (if you drive, put on a coupon for at least half an hour, park on Kandahar Street), get in the queue, wait your turn and get out. If you want the frills, check out the Japanese inspired cafe down the block, but beware the prices. If you’re price sensitive, there’s a little local modern kopitiam type of joint down the Southern end of the block.

As for my experience, I left after about half an hour with the swiss rolls for TW but unfortunately didn’t get to try them myself. That’ll be for my next trip.

Here’s their facebook page with very mixed reviews (although if you take into account what I mentioned above about the working conditions, you might sympathize with the staff), the various experiences posted should prepare you for yours. Notwithstanding, it feels nice to support an old Singapore business, there are so few of these cottage industries left: https://www.facebook.com/richandgoodcakeshop

 

The size of Malaysian durians vs Japanese watermelons

We went in to Sogo Causeway Bay on the weekend (yeah, crazy idea right), to look for some outdoor gear. Well, that was what I intended anyway. SW led me into the basement.

“Err… Shouldn’t we be heading upstairs?”

“No,” he said “it’s all downstairs”.

Not wanting to argue on the escalator, we proceeded down two floors.

“Surely the sports attire isn’t in the supermarket?” I inquired.

“Oh, oh I thought we were going to look for noodles.”

Different planets? Definitely.

Anyway, a meander around the fruit section yielded some useful information on where Japanese people go for their durian fix.

Here’s one guy getting the assistant to open it for him. I noticed that he bought two. Does it seem a lot?

Not if you consider the size of each fruit. Positively teeny weeny from a Malaysian perspective. It was a kilo or less I reckon. At 150 HKD a fruit that probably yields no more than 5 seeds, it’s pricey but knowing Sogo, they probably select the better quality stuff.

They also sell it pre-packed if you’re risk averse. At least those clear windows let you see what you’re buying but those plastic shells prevent the compulsive “finger-pressing” that afflicts all fruit wrapped in simple pliable “Glad” wrap.

So, the price of the ones in the pack are pretty similar to each whole fruit. I would hesitate a guess that each whole fruit yields one and a half of these boxes.

The stems look good and the fruit looks fresh and fungus free. If you are in Causeway Bay and urgently need to bring a Malaysian/Singaporean durian fanatic friend a fruity gift, this might be the one to get.

Beside the durians, they had this fantastically huge watermelon. It could be a prize winner in fruit competitions. I remember at Ocean Park they sold King Watermelons, perfectly round, they are cut in half and sold as a cooling treat. I didn’t note where they are from.

Durian mystery at Taste

I was shocked. How could ALL of those packets have disappeared off the shelves in such a short space of time?

I saw a lady stacking the cool shelves nearby and thought I’d ask.

“No more, no more durians” she said in cantonese. Then gesturing, she said “it’s all there, whatever you see is all there.”

Hmm. Unconvinced, I did another sweep.

Aha there they were, discreetly placed with the chilled packed fruit.

Excited and gleefully, I left with one packet. It was marked down half price as it was very ripe.

Looks pretty good right.

ZI couldn’t resist trying to stick her finger in it.

The durian was quite satisfactory, rich, smooth and slightly fermented taste.What a bargain at the supermarket.