The durian is a fruit that is native to Southeast Asian countries such as Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Here in Malaysia, the durian season is just ending, which means there are tons of durian vendors eager to get rid of their goods at very low prices. Best part is, the fruit is still edible! My parents and I had a sudden craving for this fruit, so at 10PM, we drove out to find a street vendor. We found one who was selling his goods at ridiculously low prices; there were three different kinds of durian, selling for ranges from RM2.50 each (approximately $0.82) to RM10 each ($3.30). Unfortunately the vendor didn’t have the Musang King variety, which in my opinion is the best type of durian available, but he did suggest we have the more expensively priced RM10 durian.
And as a side note, NEVER haggle when buying durians from a street vendor. Feel free to haggle with any other fruits or goods, just not the King of Fruits. Asking to cheapen the Fruit King is insulting to the culture, and even if you don’t haggle for it, odds are that the vendor will give you much more than you paid for.
The exterior of the durian is covered in a hard shell of thorns, and a machete is required to hack open the fruit to reveal the custard-like flesh inside. The vendor used only his calloused hands to pry apart the husk after cutting it open; I imagine that would hurt a lot for any other persons!
Although I like durians now, it wasn’t always like this. The durian is definitely an acquired taste; when I was younger, I remember how my parents bribed me with RM10 bills to get me to try one. The smell of the fruit itself is a difficult hurdle to overcome; people describe it in a lot of different ways, but the most popular phrases seem to be “rotting onions” and “gym socks”. Even with its revered title of “King of Fruits”, the durian, because of its strong odour, is banned from most hotels and public transportation vehicles in Malaysia.
But the flavour of the fruit itself is to die for! As many people put it, the durian “smells like hell, but tastes like heaven”. In the words of British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace – “The five cells are silky-white within, and are filled with a mass of firm, cream-coloured pulp, containing about three seeds each. This pulp is the edible part, and its consistence and flavour are indescribable. A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy. It is neither acid nor sweet nor juicy; yet it wants neither of these qualities, for it is in itself perfect. It produces no nausea or other bad effect, and the more you eat of it the less you feel inclined to stop. In fact, to eat Durians is a new sensation worth a voyage to the East to experience…as producing a food of the most exquisite flavour it is unsurpassed.”
Wow, that’s some compliment.
Of course, there are some people who can’t stand the smell nor the taste of the fruit. Take for instance, the Bizarre Foods Crew. I couldn’t find the actual clip of Andrew retching in disgust from eating it but here is a video of one of the crew members trying it;
Haha, suckers! 😛