Contributing Monkie Julie Morris
Published on May 21, 2008
I’m pretty sure the first human to try eating a durian was either clinically insane, starving to death, or my buddy from college (seriously — that guy would eat ANYTHING). After all, a durian is a massive fruit (weighing up to ten pounds) that has an outside shell completely covered in unfriendly spikes — spikes which kill several unlucky people a year…after a piece of the fruit falls on their head.
The inside of a durian isn’t much more inviting either, containing a collection of slimy pulpy pillows that look a lot like gelatinous scrambled eggs. And then, of course, there’s the durian smell that’s so outrageously in-your-face strong (resembling a mixture of tropical perfume and rotting garbage) that the fruit is banned — by law — from many indoor public spaces in the durian’s native Southeast Asia.
I wonder — is the durian trying to tell us something?
While I may not have personally been the OG-P (original guinea-pig) on this one, I’m sure glad someone else was. Though the durian is one seriously wacky food, it’s also too interesting to miss.
Hailed the “king of all fruits” by Durian Palace, the durian is indeed prized in many eastern cultures, where it is enjoyed raw, dried, fried and frozen. In its natural state, a durian can act as a complete meal, functioning as a nutritionally balanced fruit with a lovely ratio of carbohydrates, fat, and protein (which is rare for a fruit), as well as many minerals. In his book Eating For Beauty, David Wolfe includes the durian as one of his top beautifying foods, preaching “what gives durians their strongest beautifying characteristics is their high concentration of raw oleic fats (and vitamin E), sulfur compounds, and soft proteins.” Add that to the lore of the fruit being an aphrodisiac, and you’ve got yourself quite the potent piece of produce.
But believe it or not, the most unique part about a durian is, in fact, the taste. I vividly remember the phenomenon of my first durian trial (this was after it notoriously went to town smelling up my entire apartment like I hadn’t taken out the trash in weeks, which made me understand why it’s often banned). The first bite threw me completely off guard: with a soft and creamy texture, the durian flavors moved from that of sweet custard to maple syrup, then to almonds, then to vanilla, and then to… well, sulfur and garlic. If you really must know, I spit out my first bite of durian due to the garlic deal, along with exclaiming a few things that I won’t repeat here. But after a few minutes of collecting myself, I tried it again, choosing a softer, more buttery-like section. As if to redeem itself, this piece tasted like the most delicate, most sensual, tropical pudding imaginable. This is a FRUIT? Serious wow factor.
Every durian I’ve eaten has tasted different; some are super pungent, some exhilaratingly sweet and creamy. I’ve found my favorite way to enjoy them is to freeze the extracted pulp, as it reminds me of ice cream (minus all the bad stuff). Plus, the frozen durian seems to lose its smell, so you’re free to revel in the taste experience without any… er, distraction.
While it would be unfair to proclaim the old “try it, you’ll like it,” I do suggest trying a durian at least once. You may love it. You may hate it. But either way, there’s absolutely no forgetting the experience that is the durian. Just don’t let one fall on your head.