Those of you who have heard of durian have probably also heard of its rep. Its bad rep. Well, bad in some ways, good in others. The flesh of a durian fruit is prized in other parts of the world, particularly Southeast Asia, where it is native and people pick and eat them fresh off the plant. Its custardy, yellow flesh is plucked right out of the shell and eaten in hand.
The problem with durian is that it stinks. I mean really stinks. Hotels in Asia post signs forbidding guests from bringing in durian. I read a story once about a traveler who had gone to Malaysia and attempted to bring a durian aboard a plane to take it home with him. He and his durian were kicked off the plane and he was reprimanded. And it wasn’t even in the main passenger cabin—he had packed it and it was stored in the fuselage. That’s how strong the odor of a durian is.
What does it smell like? The best way I can describe the smell is dirty baby diapers that have been sitting in the pail too long. Seriously. The stuff stinks.
I’d always been curious about durian but was afraid to buy it because of its purported strong smell. I didn’t want to stink up my house. And because they are an imported tropical fruit, they’re also expensive and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on something that I might dislike.
Then, one day, my friend Elaine at work, who is from Malaysia, brought in a durian. It had been her mission for some time to introduce me to it and she finally got the chance. After work, we went outside and sat on a bench on the property of my job. As soon as she opened the bag, I smelled the baby poop. I was not deterred. Using a pair of scissors, she prodded open the hard, bumpy shell to reveal the kidney-shaped flesh. It looks firm, but when you touch it, it is soft and viscous, like thick yogurt that is separating. I scooped some with my finger and tasted it. I let it linger in my mouth so that I could get a good sense of its flavor. The first thing I tasted was banana with a faint pineapple undertone. After swallowing, the lingering flavor was garlicky/oniony. And the more I tasted, the more I began picking up notes of coffee and mocha. I don’t know why a stinky fruit that is banned from hotels and airplanes should taste like coffee and mocha, but there it was.
(Unfortunately, Elaine also brought vacuum-sealed durian fruit into the office and it strangely gave off an odor that resembled petroleum gas. More than one person came running through the area asking if there was a gas leak.)
So, that was my first durian experience. I don’t know that I will ever seek it out, but I love trying new foods, especially fruits and vegetables, and so I was happy to give it a go. If you’re brave or adventurous and would like to give durian a try, you will generally find it whole in the freezer case in Asian markets, and it’s often wrapped in a mesh bag. You can also find the flesh frozen. If you can get past the smell, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I suggest, though, that if you’re going to be around people afterward, chew on some parsley or pop a few Tic Tacs. The recipe below is courtesy of IncredibleSmoothies.com. Let me know what you think.
Lemon-Ginger Durian Smoothie
- 1 cup durian
- 1 whole banana, peeled
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- 4-6 ounces of water
Add all ingredients and then blend on high until creamy and thoroughly mixed. Add additional lemon and/or ginger to taste, if desired.