If you’ve never heard of durian before, it’s the oddly-shaped, spiky fruit, known to trigger disgust in the faces of many foreigners. Words used to describe the smell have included gym socks, vomit, and onions. But to many South East Asian locals, it’s a prized delicacy, used in many dishes and even traditional medicine. But what exactly does it taste like?
Even with the whole fruit intact, it can still be smelled from quite a distance away. In fact, if you were thinking of bringing your newly-bought fruit with you on the transit in Singapore, think again. The smell is so strong, the fruits are banned on public transport and hotels, to avoid offending your fellow citizens.
If you intend to try the durian fruit for the first time, make absolutely sure it’s perfectly ripe. If not, you will get all the stink, but without the deliciousness. And go into your first taste without any expectations. First-timers often have an idea of what it would taste like, but the durian is so unique, there is simply no other fruit like it. It’s sometimes sweet, sometimes a bit savory. That’s what makes the durian so special. It’s a unique combination of flavors in one bite. Because the durian has such a reputation, you should also make sure to get your fruit from a reputable seller. Otherwise, you might end up with a vendor that gives you his worst durian while being amused by how grossed out you are.
Many other foods have a strong smell and can be off-putting to others: garlic, fish sauce, blue cheese, and eggs. But when you grow up with these foods as a part of your childhood, they seem normal to you. And what smells like ‘stinky feet’ to others, might just be one of your favorite foods. Those that love the fruit say you have to separate the smell from the fruit, which is obviously quite difficult to do for most. But think of ripe cheese, even though it smells like stinky feet, you are likely to still put parmesan on your pasta, and even enjoy it. The same with durian. Even though it smells like a drain, you need to separate the image of a drain from your mind before trying it.
When picking out a durian fruit to buy, locals will first smell it, the stronger it smells, the better it will taste! And what does it really taste like? Durian lovers say it has a sweet, custardy taste, with the texture of creamy cheesecake. Flavors often attributed to the durian fruits are caramel and vanilla. Some fruits have a slightly bitter note, together with some sweetness. The flesh of the durian can be eaten raw or cooked and locals often use it to flavor their dishes. The fruit is also used in traditional Asian medicine, to treat high blood pressure, fever, and even as an aphrodisiac!
If you can get over the smell, it seems pretty cool to get a dessert-like snack from a tree. Plants are healthy, right? Well, sort of. The durian is high in vitamins and minerals, but due to its high carbohydrate content, it contributes significantly to your daily calorie intake. In fact, one small fruit accounts for 50% of your required daily calories. It’s also high in fats, but fortunately, it’s the good-for-you monounsaturated fats. However, doctors do recommend if you’re a diabetic or want to lose weight, to rather stay away from the fruit.
If you had the chance, would you take a bite of the durian?