Losca Kwok considers herself a durian fan – especially as she is able to finish an entire fruit in one sitting. Of late, the 30-year-old credit officer has been indulging in the pungent, custard-like texture of durian more than once a week as Hong Kong is awash in imports from Thailand and Malaysia . “My favourite durian variety is Golden Pillow from Thailand,” Kwok said. “It has a sweet and creamy taste, and more importantly, I can enjoy some premium quality durian for less than HK$200 in supermarkets!” Chinese appetite grows for Malaysia’s ‘designer durians’ Durians, which can be found all year round but are largely harvested during the drier and hotter months between May and August, have legions of fans across Asia. Ranking high on that list are Chinese consumers, who bought US$2.2 billion worth of durians from Thailand last year, up 78 per cent from the previous year, according to United Nations data. Malaysian durians have also grown in popularity in China since 2019, when the Southeast Asian nation began exporting the frozen fruit there. While Thai growers are known to pluck unripe durians so the fruit can be kept for longer, Malaysian durians are usually harvested only when they ripen and drop to the ground, which local growers claim gives the flesh a better aroma and taste. In Hong Kong, hardcore fans are taking to social media to share tips on selecting the best durians and to highlight places offering the fruit at a good price – especially as some restaurants in the city have launched durian buffets. Pier 1929 in Wan Chai is one such eatery. For HK$680, diners have 90 minutes to enjoy a free flow of premium durian varieties. These include Musang King or Mao shan Wang, which it describes as having a complex flavour profile; D163 Red Prawn, with its “thick, buttery mouthfeel”; and D175 Holu, which “has a firmer texture and notes of chocolate”. Thailand’s durian dealers fear for China exports after coronavirus surge Hongkongers, like mainland Chinese consumers, have traditionally been more familiar with Thai durians, given that the Southeast Asian country is the world’s No 1 exporter of the fruit. According to official statistics based on import declarations, Hong Kong took in more than HK$2.5 billion worth of Thai durians in May, while imports of the fruit from Vietnam and Malaysia came to HK$36 million and HK$1.6 million respectively. In past years, imports of Thai durians have increased between late December and March, a period known as the minor durian season. Meanwhile, in Malaysia – which used to welcome tourists from Hong Kong on durian-eating tours before the Covid-19 pandemic – Fallina Bakar from Kuala Lumpur has seen an uptick in orders from Hongkongers through her WhatsApp ordering service. “We deliver at least 80 boxes to different places per day, and Hong Kong takes the majority of them,” said Fallina, whose prices for 6kg of durians range from HK$800 for the Golden Bun variety to HK$1300 for the popular Musang King. For Golden Phoenix durians from the state of Johor, which are in high demand, customers can only order a maximum of 6kg for HK$1,250. “The prices of Malaysian durians in Hong Kong are much more expensive than here. For instance, Musang King is HK$100 to HK$130 per kilogram in Malaysia, but in Hong Kong shops it can sometimes cost up to three times more,” she said. Lam Yan Sang, the owner of a durian store in North Point, Hong Kong, agreed that residents of the city were now consuming more Malaysian durians than before. “Some customers came here and bought boxes of durians to share with friends and family,” he said. Lam – who once lived in Malaysia and says he knows many durian farmers there – said Hongkongers tended to purchase durians with rich, aromatic flavours as well as smooth and creamy textures. “Mao Shan Wang, Black Thorn, D13, Red Prawn and Red Sukang all belong to that category, although Mao Shan Wang can have a bittersweet taste,” he said, adding that premium durians are delivered to his store every day, although there can be pandemic-related delays. Hongkonger Andy Wang said he had eaten five durians in the past couple of months. “You just can’t resist the aroma of fresh durians,” the 49-year-old salesman said, adding that he had spent around HKD$1,000 on the fruits. Chinese buy US$15 million worth of Malaysian Musang King durian in one-hour online sale Durian mania has also swept Singapore, which relies on Malaysia for its supplies. Sellers said durian prices were cheaper this year due to its northern neighbour’s lockdown to stem the spread of Covid-19. Several shop owners recently told Singaporean broadcaster Channel News Asia that they were expecting higher demand this year as people would not be travelling overseas. Fallina, the durian seller from Malaysia, said locals were also ordering durians from her to eat at home. “Although we are currently under strict movement restrictions, the demand for durians isn’t low. In fact, the [durian] delivery service is a booming market in the country,” she said. In the Malaysian state of Penang, according to local media reports, four friends who were forced to shut down their own businesses due to the lockdown have banded together to sell durians. To woo buyers, they strung durian husks on their body and danced – with videos of them doing so going viral on social media. One of the men, Khoo Wei-Hong, who runs an excavator services business, said the idea of dancing in front of the stall came about on Father’s Day last month. “We sold all our durians on that day, but there was a large pile of durian skins left. Since we had nothing to do, we thought it would be fun to don the skins and to dance for a bit,” said Khoo, 29. “With the dance, we have been getting more customers and sales. To sell between 200kg and 300kg of durians every day isn’t impossible.” However, he knows that the durian business can only last until August, when the season ends. “We’ll have to restart our previous businesses [then, but] hopefully, the Covid-19 situation in Malaysia will have improved,” he said.