What is durian?
The durian is a fruit found commonly in the Southeast Asian region. The fruit is known for its large, spiky, and hard outer shell. However, it is more famous for having an incredibly indescribable stench. Its flesh contains large seeds which are also edible if cooked. This flesh can vary in color with the most common being yellow or white. However, other variants of the fruit are known to have a red or green color to it. With this, there are a lot of varieties to the fruit (over 30 recognized varieties) and the most common one is Durio zibethinus.
A durian fruit can grow up to 30 cm or 1 foot long and 15 centimetres or 6 inches in diameter. A typical durian fruit can weigh 1 to 3 kilograms or 2 to 7 pounds. This heavy fruit usually contains about 500 grams or two cups of edible meat or pulp.
The durian fruit is also infamous for its punitively strong stench. It is no exaggeration that cracking open one fruit will let the whole neighborhood get a whiff of its stink.
What makes durian reek?
The smell of an opened up durian fruit can be sensed from yards away. Many describe its miasma of a combination of rotten onions, old gym socks, sulfur, sewer gunk, and a little bit of honey. Having said that, the durian fruit holds a difficult reputation in people’s hearts. Some find themselves falling in love with the complex smell of the fruit that attacks with every breath. However, others are more inclined to be disgusted by the thought of a fruit smelling like rotten onions.
Because of its strong and potent smell, the fruit is banned in many public transports and hotels across Southeast Asia, Japan, and also Hong Kong. Some taxi cabs even have signs that tell people that durian is banned inside the car and that they refuse to let in anyone carrying the smelly fruit.
We know that durian has a very strong and pungent smell. But why exactly does this fruit smell like a combination of rotten onions, old gym socks, sulfur, sewer gunk, and honey?
To answer this, a study was done to figure out the main odor-active compounds found in durian. The study focused on the variety of durian known as Monthong. The study showed results that there are 44 odor-active compounds found in durian. Furthermore, 24 out of the 44 compounds had not been reported in durian before.
With the 44 odor-active compounds, some of these are known to contribute to the scents of honey, caramel, soup seasoning, skunks, sulfur, and rotten cabbages, eggs, and onion. To be more factual in describing the scent of a durian, it is more appropriate to say that the smell is a combination of honey, caramel, soup seasoning, skunks, sulfur, and rotten cabbages, eggs, and onion.
Is it true that it’s tasty despite the smell?
Yes! The great thing about the durian is that after smelling its strong stench that punches your nose, you get to taste its citrus-filled sweetness. But how exactly is the fruit eaten?
Most of the time, people enjoy the fruit’s meat and flesh raw, as long as it is ripe to overripe. If it’s harvested early, durian can be cooked and added as flavor to a lot of Southeast Asian dishes.
There are more innovative and creative ways of eating durian, and one of these is the durian candy. This is great especially for foreigners who wish to have their friends and families have a taste of the fruit since it is allowed in transport and airlines.
One thing to note before eating the durian fruit is that it has a hard and spiky shell. This means that opening the fruit can be very tricky, as such, you will need to wear gloves or mitts so you can protect your hands. Once you have secured gloves for your safety, you will need a knife to cut the shell, which you will then have to pry open with your hands. After doing so, you can start gently removing the durian meat or flesh.
There are a number of ways to eat durian, may it be paired with sticky rice or as an added ingredient in different dishes. However, for those new to the durian experience, the best way to go about eating one is to just eat it bare. By doing this, you can fully enjoy the authenticity and audacity each bite of the fruit contains.
Some things you need to know about durian
If reading this has stirred you up into wanting a taste of the smelly fruit, you will have to know the following facts before venturing on your durian adventure.
1. Durian and alcohol do not mix well.
A 2009 study from Japan says that extracts of durian strongly holds back ALDH or aldehyde dehydrogenase. This is the enzyme used by the liver to break down alcohol. This just means that eating durian and drinking alcohol is a bad combination. This is because durian comprises compounds that prevent alcohol to be fully metabolized. If you eat durian while having a drink, it may induce nausea and vomiting.
Funny enough, a traditional Asian folklore exclaims that eating durian while intoxicated can lead a person to death.
2. Some public transport don’t allow you to carry durian.
This one is obviously attributed to the powerful stench of the durian fruit. The fruit reeks so much that public transport in places like Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Singapore ban passengers carrying it.
3. There are a plethora of durian variants for you to try out.
There’s more than one type of durian you can try, Traveling across the regions of Asia and especially Southeast Asia will offer you a glimpse of the many varieties of durian. In fact, there are around 30 varieties of this fruit that you can try out.
Even though the fruit is native to countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Borneo, there are durian farms available in other countries now. These places include Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and even the island of Hainan.
If you don’t know where to get your durian, Thailand is a good place to start. The country boasts being the biggest exporter of durian and being home to a lot of durian farms.
4. Durian is known to be the king of fruits.
People call the durian the king of fruit. This can be due to its gigantic size or its exciting taste. Or maybe it got its title from being a very expensive fruit. In fact a single durian amounted to RM199,000 at a Thai auction. That’s over 45,000 USD!
Aside from its unusual smell (to say the least), durian packs so much more charm to it. From its deliciously soft and chewy meat and flesh, to its many different variants, there are so many reasons to be intrigued by the fruit. This is if you’re not already in love with durian!