Sunday, January 16, 2011
Adventures in Strange Fruit: The Durian
The durian is a large tree fruit native to tropical Asian countries but most well known for its pungent odor. How bad do durians smell? Well, in countries where they are popular, it is forbidden to eat them in many public places- Exhibit A: the "No Durian" sign. A travel writer reported the following: "its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock.
I've been wanting to try one for ages. What can I say? I'm a glutton for olfactory punishment. I saw them for sale at the local grocery store and picked one up. A few days later, I went to the beach with D and a couple of friends and we brought the durian along. A durian is approximately the size of a human head. They can be somewhat tricky to open, but luckily our group included one experience durian eater, my friend Sook-San from Malaysia. However, when we decided to cut open the durian...it was covered in ants!! I rinsed it off in the ocean to get rid of them, which probably looked quite strange to our fellow beach-goers. It had already been notched at the top so you basically peel down the skin into sections that contain large seeds covered in a mushy yellow flesh, akin to some sort of alien organs. Our durian didn't smell too badly- the beach wind helped and apparently durians sold in Australia come from Thailand, and Thai durians are not as stinky as Malaysian ones. I did give it a try and it wasn't horrible but it wasn't very pleasant, either (please refer to my "I just ate a durian" face).
Overall, the taste and smell reminded me of an overripe papaya. I must admit that I was a little disappointed that it wasn't more disgusting. We did get a whiff of the durian's true power a few hours later. I had dumped the durian remains in a garbage bin right after we ate it, and as we were leaving the beach, we lifted the lid of the bin to throw away some more trash and it absolutely stank like something rotten. It was the durian! I guess the smell built up as it sat in the bin (in the sunlight) for a few hours, with no breeze to disperse the smell.