Durian – An Old Frien-Enemy

Where does one start with durian. The strange spiky fruit, which is native to Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, scares many, including myself, while being a favourite dish to many others. Much like my beloved uni, durian proves to be a hate it or love it dish. Having repeatedly tried to conquer the fruit on at least a dozen occasions now, without much success, I figured I’d introduce Sarah this past weekend and see how it goes.

Now, I’ve got to tell you, this isn’t for the faint of heart. Between internet forums and tv shows, I’ve heard this described in many ways; rotten feet, custard, a garbage dump, bleu cheese, dead dog, private parts, sour milk, gym shoes, and of all things, almonds. The list goes on, and will at some point make you laugh if you search the internet as people get quite elaborate when describing the odor. For me, I’ve never once thought it smelled like almonds (how could you hate such a thing). Nope, I’m clearly in the boat of rotten meat, dump, burning poo and so on. On a few occasions, I could barely stand the smell, let alone throw a hunk of this creamy custard-like fruit down my throat.

Needless to say, I don’t think I set a good stage for Sarah. I’m pretty sure I actually had her worried about making the homestead stink after we watched durian videos on YouTube. But there I was, walking in the door with the spiky fruit ripping through my bag. Could you imagine if one of these bad boys fell on you? I think it would deadly, especially with durian trees growing anywhere from 80-165ft depending on the species. That’s one stinky, heavy fruit on a mission to earth.

As I freed the fruit from its yellow mesh bag, I picked a visible line and pop in my thumbs. Giving the durian my entire foreman strength, I pried the thick shell apart like it was Hulk Hogan’s shirt. Well, maybe not that fast. Maybe like a geriatric Hulk Hogan. You know, pry/ouch/pry/adjust grip/pry/ouch. But I got it! And instead of a disgusting smell, there was nothing. Where’s the poo, the Ben Johnson running shoe? I even went elbow deep and threw my nose into the mess. Still, not a lot. Hmmmmm.

After freeing the first two sections of fruit from their protective layer, I gave Sarah the first sample. And really, much like the smell, this was not what I was accustomed too. In fact, it was almost bland with a faint sweetness. This had me worried, so I went back to the interwebs. Low and behold, I discovered that there are 30 species of durian, with 9 producing edible fruit. On top of that, there are tons of cultivators, each with their own unique attribute. From the taste, to the sweetness, to the colour, to the size of the fruits seed, the differences are all over the place. In the dozen or so attempts, I’m a bit at a loss of words for this one. There was no gagging, no ‘oh what died in here’ smell, no anything. Instead it was, *head scratch* hmm, this tastes a lot like, um, well ah, I guess it tastes like a rather uneventful durian.

For a fruit that is very nutritious and produces a relatively high yield of edible goodness, it’s almost a shame it can be so off-putting. It’s hard to say I beat it this time, but even if I call it a draw, I’m not sure when my next meeting with durian will be. Maybe ice cream….

11 thoughts on “Durian – An Old Frien-Enemy

  1. Durian! Perhaps this is an acquired taste? Most in my family LOVE durian (myself included). Maybe its because I’m from the Brunei/Malaysia area? My husband, however, thinks it smells like liver and onions (which I don’t get — I enjoy the smell), so I don’t get to have it too often. Glad you are willing to attempt it. A more mild form may be the ice cream/popsicle version of the fruit. The bubble tea is also decent. =)

  2. As you say, it’s an acquired taste… my mother was from Malaysia, and it almost never happened that you’d ever find durian here for a lot of years… unfortunately, she passed away before it became a common fruit to find around here. She loved the stuff intensely. I was an adult before I grew to love it, and my brother and sister just can’t get past the smell. As for my husband – well, let’s just put it this way… he tried… I’ll give him credit for that… 🙂

  3. First time I tried that fruit, I thought it was a jackfruit. It was a chinese friend in HK who introduced it to me. It is a love it or hate it fruit, no in between. My wife and her family came from the southern part of the Philippines and they love it, they have all sorts of stuff made out of it like jam, candy, cake, etc. It has a pungent smell, you can tell immediately once you enter the house if someone bought it. I saw some in the freezer section of T&T that’s prepackaged, those taste better, we sometimes make them into milkshake/bubble tea.

    • Elaina – Never thought about changing out my standard bubble tea (blueberries) for durian. Maybe worth a try one day…

      Cathy – Thanks Cathy.

      Grace – I’ll back up your credit, and give him more support. It’s a brave fruit to try.

      Andrew – Jams and cake eh, interesting. I’ve had some durian candy and it wasn’t anything special. I’ll have to try the frozen segments one day, as I’ve always bought it whole.

  4. When freshly picked in the old country, it sure is pungent. I personally prefer the more palatable durian roll, with flour and sugar added. See, there is a happy medium after all.

  5. Sounds like your durian wasn’t ripe enough. It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but it kinda looks like the flesh isn’t soft enough. It took me years and years to appreciate it’s taste, smell and texture! And unfortunately, it’s hard to get really delicious durian in Alberta. I’ve heard from friends that the individually packaged durian from T&T taste better than getting the whole fruit. And it saves you from trying to Bruce Banner your way into the spiky death ball. Haha 🙂

  6. I can’t believe you used the words “burning poo” as a descriptor!!

    I’ve never tried durian, and I’m definitely curious, but I think I’ll ease myself in with a durian ice cream or bubble tea.

    • Brulee – 🙂

      Bin – I can see how a roll might make it a bit more tasty. I’ll put it on the list.

      Bex – Thanks for the info! 🙂

      Shokutsu – 🙂 Silly or brave…so close some days.

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