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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Musk Melon Jelly - Will You Pay $200 For a Musk Melon?

Musk Melon 7
Musk Melon 5

The Japanese are a strange group of people. Their obsession with perfection can be so infuriatingly intense that very often it creates a whole new set of market values for seemingly simple things - the worst case of which spoils the market and makes it difficult for simple mortals like most of us to partake in some of the most wonderful experiences available.

Musk Melon6

When I was in Tokyo for a business trip in April, my Japanese colleague had introduced me to the most expensive fruit shop in Japan when we were switching trains at Nihonbashi. Having been established for 120 years, Senbikiya is not your ordinary fruit shop. It prides itself in offering the most popular, the highest quality, the most exotic and last but not least, the most expensive fruits in Japan (and possibly in the world !). Fueled by the unique Japanese fruit gifting culture, Senbikiya continues to thrive and has become the emblematic brand in luxury fruit gifting for the wealthy and powerful. The musk melon pointed out to me by my colleague was perched on a pedestal. A perfect round Melon with the price tag resting boldly at the foot of the pedestal that read 21,000Yen - which was roughly equivalent to US$200. My eyes widened in disbelief and I remembered I had immediately snapped a photo with my Black Berry and messaged it to L.
I have never really liked honey dews,  or similar melons. I would normally give them a miss at breakfast buffet tables for I feel that these fruits are tasteless and has a sickly funny smell. L, however seems to appreciate it more. He had told me he used to make it a point to lug a couple of musk melons home from Tokyo whenever he was there for business meetings - whatever for? I could never understand. He had urged me to try the fruit at least once, suggesting that I look for the US$50 varieties which are already very good. Then, at least I would have earned the right to brag about it - he continued to cajole. Of course I didn't listen to him!  So silly to lug a big melon home - I prefer to use that luggage weight allowance to get a couple more baking trays!

Musk Melon 1

Anyway, that was in April. Then, recently, as I was shopping at the local Japanese supermarket, Isetan here, I spotted some imported musk melons, normally priced at S$79 (about USD50) on 30% discount. I supposed these had already ripened hence the supermarket was in a hurry to sell them off... I hesitated just a little, before I decided that this would be a good opportunity to try it and find out what all the fuss was about.

The symmetrically round melon with a lovely mesh-like pattern and a singular horizontal stalk was a picture of perfection. L had told me that the denser and the more defined the mesh-like pattern is, the more costly the fruit would be. I cut the fruit in half to expose a tender green colour in the flesh. As I had suspected, this was getting ripe hence some part of the flesh was already showing some transparency. However, what caught my attention first was the sweet elegant fragrance of the fruit. The flesh was so juicy that I had to hover over the sink when I bite into it. (the Japanese would faint if they knew  that I had dug into the prized fruit in such an uncivilised manner!) The sweet flavour was totally unlike the honeydew and rock melon that we usually get here! The copious amount of juice makes this an extremely cooling fruit to eat - as cooling as a watermelon. In addition, the sweet floral perfume of the fruit indicates that it has been preferentially nourished by mother nature. I had read somewhere that one of the reasons why this was so expensive is because each tree would only produce one fruit. During cultivation, the farmers, apparently would trim the vines of the tree to only allow 3 fruits to blossom. When these baby melons grow to about fist size, the farmers would select the most promising melon and cut off the other 2 in order to channel and lavish all the nutrients on the one singular melon that would be nurtured to eventually become the $200 Prized Musk Melon. Such is the Japanese's fixation on perfection!

It wouldn't be right if I don't blog about this rare possession. However, it is after all, to the Japanese, the King of the Fruits - hence as much as I would like to work with it, I couldn't bear to detract the carefully cultivated taste with excesses such as cream or milk. I found a simple Japanese dessert recipe that requires the fruit puree to be mixed with gelatine and a little sugar and a dash of lemon juice and whipped to a foamy jelly. I used about 1/8 of the melon for 2 little cups of this dessert and saved the rest for pure enjoyment.... and yes, I can now brag that I have eaten the prized Japanese Musk Melon and I would even dare to go to the extent to say that the Japanese Musk Melon would be the only type of honeydew melon I would eat from now onwards! (no, I am not being snooty - remember I don't touch honeydew or rock melons to start with.) If you have the opportunity, indulge at least once and, as L had said, you would then have earned the rights to brag about it!

Musk Melon 100
Gelatine Powder              8g
Water                              50cc

Sugar                               30g
Water                              100cc
Lemon Juice                     1 tbsp
Melon                              300g

1. Blend the melon in a blender to form a puree.
2. Heat puree to warm to break down enzyme and cool down.
3. Mix gelatine with 50cc of water. Set aside.
4. In a heavy pot, add water and sugar and heat to dissolve. Remove from heat and add (3) and ensure gelatine is completely dissolved. Add lemon juice.
5. Add (4) to (2) , mix well and refrigerate for 1 hour. Whip the refrigerated mixture with an electric mixer over a bowl of ice water until fine foam is formed.
6. Spoon into cups and refrigerate till set.


Quinn said...

Isn't it amazing??? I have also only tried it once in my whole life. We bought it from Senbikiya and sliced it so small that the whole melon was shared by 10 people!!! It's really different truly unique and perfect. But unlike you, I love all sorts of melon!

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Quinn, I am so glad you've tried it and could support me on my views! :)

wendyywy @ Table for 2 or more..... said...

It's hard to find a nice melon over here, but it's not to say it's impossible.

If you ever buy honey dew melons here, smell the butt of the fruit, if it smells good, then it's good.

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Wendy, I don't want to build up your expectations but these are really quite different...:)

zurin said...

Oh! the movie was called gattaca. :)

zurin said...

Yes leave it to the Japanese to bring teh ordinary to a whole new level. When you described how the melons were selected it reminded me of a science fiction movie I once watched.It starred Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and Jude Law. Im sure youve seen it too.Genetic discrimination! LOL ~ but in this case on fruits.

Have you also seen how the Japanese colour dogs? I mean genetically breed and colour in rainbow colours? I watched it on tv some time ago. I have to say it was shocking.

So I am not surprised fruits 'suffer' the same fate. But it must have tasted awesome.

3 hungry tummies said...

I used to walk past those melons and grapes at Takashimaya almost daily when I was living in Singapore. As I am not a big fan of both despite attracted to their beauties I still don't think I would spend such amount of money on them. I am glad you have told me what I have always wanted to know though ;) Thank you!

Angie's Recipes said...

Well...the melon does look very pretty and unique..but not worth 50 dollars...not to mention 200 dollars...

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Zurin, I was thinking exactly that too when I was writing it. Uma Thurman is one my favourite actresses!

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

Shirley, another interesting write-up! I know Japanese are perfectionists. But, I didn't know that their kind of perfectionism reaches that far, as to in search of a perfect cantaloupe! And I don't think I'd spend USD200 on a cantaloupe! I could have purchased more stuff/service with that much money! Haha!

To be honest, I too think that the honeydew here is inferior. A few months ago, I bought one from the pasar pagi close by. Man, was I disappointed or what! My heart ached to see my money wasted this way! In my whole life, as of now, the best cantaloupes -- NOT honeydew as I know these two are different but related creatures -- were the ones I had in the States. Those bore light orange-colored flesh, not light green. The smell would be what you've described here, SWEET! JUICY too! Man, of course, those were relatively more affordable than the Japanese ones. I miss them so much! Devouring cantaloupe, watermelon, berries and stone fruit is one of my summer rituals back then! Thanks for sharing and bringing me along to Japan!

mr. pineapple man said...

I wouldn't pay for it, but I would definitely eat it ;)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Shirley I loved this post! I remember when I lived in Japan I used to walk past these $200 melons all the time and wonder what they were like. And from your vivid description I now know! :D

Bo said...

You can buy then here in the US for about $2.50 to $4.00 USD...I can not imagine paying anywhere near $200!

Bo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
edith said...

I am like you too, dislike honeydew. Used to like Cantaloupe till late I bought one and it too has this horrible after taste. I suspect these days, it is "artifically" grown.

The way you describe this sounded incredibily delicious. Now I need to summon courage to part with this kind of money for just one melon! I guess it is not big right? Maybe need to cut my kids' allowance for a week. hahahah..

Jess @ Bakericious said...

Shirley, it did cross my mind to buy this melon to try but I abort it since is so costly :P. Yes, you are right about how the japanese plant this melon. I watched from a variety show on introducing this melon. The stalk is the certification and signature of the melon, if is gone the price of the melon will drop a lot.

tigerfish said...

I have seen these prized fruits in Meidiya Supermarket in Sg....strawberries, melon....all super super super steep!

Jo said...

OMG .. you actually bought one! It is so, so expensive. I believe a few months back they had an auction because of the melon shortage and 1 particular fruit fetched the highest ever in history! I bet you must have savoured every itsy bitsy drop of it too.

M. said...

what a crazy price, especially that you can buy melons for about $2 to $4, here in US :)

Trissa said...

I always say something costs as much as someone is willing to pay for it! Obviously there are people so obsessed with their melons they are willing to spend the big bucks! I wouldn't try you recipe with the 200 dollar melon but next time I find a nice ripe one - for cheaper - I'll try it.

Passionate About Baking said...

Hi Shirley,
I was that one silly girl to lug a melon home from Tokyo some three years back. I've tried the fruits during that season (May period)-strawberries, watermelon and melons. Gosh, it's just so perfect I can't find any reason not fall in love with it.

So when a Japanese friend brought us to a neighbourhood supermarket, I just took the chance to buy one orange melon back. I know orange melon is not as pricey as the green ones. :p It cost me about S$6.50 from the supermarket. It would have cost so much more to buy here. Anyway, like what you describe, it was juicy that you can literally smell it when you cut. The juicy just flowed non-stop on chopping board and I had to use a spoon to quickly scoop up the juice before it went wasted. My children didn't have enough of the fruit.
I can understand why you want to brag about it. An original melon from Japan is already so good, let alone a prized Musk Melon!

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

hahaha..Jane, so you lugged back a melon too? I scoffed at the idea of lugging back the melon primarily because I am not a melon person. Despite everyone profusing about the ridiculous price(I still think it is crazy expensive), I still believe that when they get to taste it, they will be blown away.... I am not a melon lover and I was blown away.

Passionate About Baking said...

Hahaha... I understand why you just refused to bring one back. Tell you something more silly, I brought back lots of "hya-ku yen" instant noodles, and they were so good, I refused to share with my children! I was told by my sister that I should bring extra luggage, but I thought I should have more than enough space for a huge luggage all by myself. But I was so wrong! I had to get a box from Tsukiji market and checked it in! Isn't that really silly.
So I supposed you'll be buying them the next time you go there? ;)

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

I have the same problem. My luggage tends to get overloaded too when I go to Japan. Yes, I will look for cheaper Musk Melons next time I go to Japan!

Amelia PS said... interesting! I remember my friend Daniela (who's mother is Japanese and father is Italian) telling me that when she traveled to Japan the most exotic gift to bring her family was a watermelon :)

Julian Chan said...

I once bought a $100.00 musk melon at Yaohan, Orchard road many years ago. It is almost ripe because this was one of the 6 in the box. The rest were unsold. I took it bak to KL on a flight and hurriedly home to my house in Bangsar that night. I could not even wait to cool it in the fridge as I was very excited by the melon smell. Oh The greenish colour and the fragrance was so pervasive. I really enjoyed the melon with my wife then ( no children yet). It was simply marvellous! I have tried since then Kyoho grapes from japan and taste like vintage wine! Very sweet and a tinge of brandy!
I am now trying to grow these musk melons in my house here in Melbourne with the imported seeds. Hope I can get somewhere -- even half way I will be happy with it.

A humble Taiping kaki said...

Did you know that they use Kangen water to protect the plants? Must try to drink the Miracle kangen water also. Special invitation only.


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