Durian, the (Stinky) King of Fruits

Memories fade over time, and that’s why I’m writing about durian while its scent still lingers on my fingertips.

Durian fruit in shell. Image from: https://i0.wp.com/www.thingsidigg.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Durian-Fruit-Thai.jpg
Durian fruit in husk. Image from: http://www.thingsidigg.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Durian-Fruit-Thai.jpg

Durian is a large fruit native to Southeast Asia. Unbeknownst to me before this trip to Malaysia, there are many different cultivars of durian, some commanding a higher price than others. All durian varieties have a hard husk that is covered by numerous short, hard, spikes. The colour of the shell ranges from green to brown. Inside, one finds yellow or red coloured segments with a distinct smell.

In my experience, most durian sellers will open the fruit and extract the edible segments for you. This makes eating durian a lot more accessible than trying to open the whole frozen durian sold in Asian supermarkets in Canada. The durian I tasted was was bought by my friend Reema. The segments came in a white styrofoam container. On the advice of a local, we refrigerated the durian before eating it.

Durian segment composed of 2 smaller pods
Durian segment composed of 2 smaller pods

Love it or hate it, durian has a very strong scent. Wikipedia has an excellent article describing the flavour and odour of durian. To me, it smells of sulphur, sweetness, and something rotting all rolled together.

The texture of a durian depends on its ripeness. The segment I had was ripe, hence soft. The edible portion was covered by a very thin membrane that held together the mushy flesh. The membrane was slightly rubbery in texture, but yielded easily to the tearing pressure of my teeth. The flesh was very soft and rich, the consistency of creamy mashed potatoes. Next to the seed, there was another layer of thin membrane similar to the outer membrane surrounding the segment.

Durian seed (L) and pod (R)
Durian seed (L) and pod (R)

The taste is harder to describe, and many factors influence how it tastes, including the variety of fruit and its ripeness. When I first tasted a segment, its flavour was very mild. Because of both the texture and the taste, I was reminded of eating an avocado. The aftertaste that lingered was similar to the smell of a durian, which is not entirely unpleasant. A few hours later, when I tried a different segment, the taste was completely different! I wasn’t sure what caused this. Maybe the second segment came from a different durian fruit? This time, I tasted the pungent punch of onions, garlic, and garlic scapes. As I tasted different parts of the fruit, I noticed areas that were particularly bitter or stinky. Strangely, I did not notice any aftertaste of the smell.

Unlike many who have tried the fruit before me, I have neither fallen in love with the fruit nor sworn it to be my natural enemy. I probably will not seek it out, but I wouldn’t mind eating durian candy or ice cream. And who knows, maybe I will change my mind about durian, just as I have about avocado and olives. If you are ever in Southeast Asia, the fruit is definitely worth a try, but split a container with a friend or two just in case!

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