Durian is one of those legendarily bad items in the world. Every “extreme” food show on the planet has talked about. It was hard to go into this without having my mind made up to not like this fruit. It’s outer shell seems to say “leave me the hell alone, I’m gross and painful”

Whoever the first person to pick this spiny monstrosity up, give it a whiff and decide “that is what I need to eat today” was a far braver man than me. My favorite local Asian market pretty regularly carries the whole fruit, sadly this week they did not have it, but they had the next best thing, frozen, seedless, durian flesh.

All of the funk with none of the effort. To test its potency I lifted up the box and took a good sniff, I could not smell anything yet, so far so good. I opened the box and found two indivdually wrapped wads of durian flesh.

The smell test here was failed immediately.  It had a pungent oniony aroma right through the cellophane. I kept trying to come up with different descriptors for the smell, much has been written about it, and oniony comes up frequently. Try as I might it was very accurate and I can’t find a better one. I unwrapped the smaller of the two bundles and carved off a couple of chunks to let it thaw.

I didn’t think I was going to need very much based the distasteful smell already. I wandered off for an hour to let it thaw completely and came back to find this

This was not looking good. The loose pulpy texture was not at all appealing, I swirled it around with a fork to get a true feel for its consistency, all the while trying to find a way to describe the stink. Oniony is still pretty accurate but it had an almost chemical scent along with it.  I can tell you for sure that when I am looking for a way to describe a fruit, “drippy” is not an adjective that makes me want to dive in.

 Tasting time had arrived. I put the first forkful into my mouth and the smell was an accurate predictor of the taste. Those senses are tied together pretty strongly and it was tough to get past. The texture was that of a very soft custard, it was more dense than it looked but still quite runny. If you have ever had a flan or a creme brulee that didn’t set, that is very much what it was like. Loose but with a very thick mouth feel. As I tasted it, the texture and flavor were slightly reminiscent of canned peaches, albeit canned peaches that had been soaking in gasoline and onion juice. It was not at all pleasant. It reads more savory than sweet which is part of the issue I think. It looks like it should be a sweet tropical fruit and it is not. If you decide to try for yourself go into it thinking savory, not sweet.

This is where it gets weird though. As bad as it was, I tried 5 bites of it. I kept going back because I wanted to find some way to quantify what it was I was tasting. I won’t say I liked it, but I’m fascinated by it. I want to try more just so I can see if I can figure out what it is people like about this stinky, nasty, drippy thing. Perhaps that is why self proclaimed durian lovers keep coming back for more.  I know I am intrigued enough to try again, and perhaps again.

All in all I would not say you should run out and try durian, however if you have an adventurous spirit, and like to test your palates ability to identify odd flavors I’d say give durian a try, I have plenty to spare if you want to join me for the next round.

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3 Responses

  1. Kok-Yong Tan

    I’m from Singapore and I’m an afficionado of the fruit. The texture you describe is due to the freezing and thawing process. Fresh durian doesn’t have that texture and the flesh is a bit more firm. And the smell is a lot stronger (the freezing process seems to destroy some of the smell as well as the flavor, not to mention liquefy the flesh to the point you describe). Be warned if you’re going to try the fresh version (what’s found in Asian markets in the West has been frozen to some degree)!


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