Durian: our pungent picnic


It is feared and reviled among some; sought after and savored by others.  With an odor so strong it has been banned on airlines throughout Southeast Asia. Durian is nothing less than a divisive fruit.

We were both quite excited by the fact that Grand Asian Market carried Durian but we were way too nervous by its reported overwhelming smell to bring it home to try.   It took many more trips to GAM before we decided that we need to come up with a plan to find a way to try this pungent treat.  It still took us two more trips to the Asian Market (we wussed out the first time) before we finally buckled down went on a Durian picnic.

So we both jumped in the Civic and jetted to GAM and picked out a durian that was split down the center indicating ripeness.   Unfortunately we immediately realized that we had not planned for fact that the Asian Market keeps its durians frozen.  So, rather than go home and pop it in the microwave and smell up our apartment, we left it in my trunk to thaw and went to have coffee at the nearby Borders for about 45 minutes.   Of course, the danger in doing this was that it could very easily smell up my poor little car, but fortunately for us only the smell of ripe mangoes was present when we returned to the car.  We found that it had thawed substantially so we took off for the park to enjoy the cloudy day with some strange fruit.

At last we arrived at the park and found a spot on a bench which we thought was far enough away from people to avoid any odd looks for other park patrons.  In order to ensure further protection against the wrinkled noses of park lovers we had also brought several bags to dispose of the durian once we had completed our little adventure.  Anyways,  I picked up the durian and took preliminary chop at the it, but I found to still be a bit on the frozen side.  So, the sawing began, and the smells went straight from overripe mangoes to a combination of rotting garbage and smelly socks.  Yah, and just as we were cutting through it, a group of parkgoers walked through and made the “what’s that smell?” comment.

Carefully and with much hesitation, we both took a small piece of durian, and the fun began.  Julia had the immediate gag reflex “oh my god i have to get this out my mouth” reaction to our pungent friend.  I willed my way through the first bite and found it fascinating, but quite off putting.  The taste was like a strange combination of really sweet blackened bananas with a garlic and onion taste mixed in.  I can honestly say it must be the strangest thing I have ever tasted.  I continued to nibble, but really I couldn’t get through more than a few bites.  The consistency of the durian is kind of a pudding-like mush that only increases the problems that those of the western palate have with its taste.  After a few more bites, we decided we had better leave before the other park goers figured out where the smell was really coming from.  We wrapped the remains of the durian in about four or five bags and threw it in the nearest garbage can and we were gone.

I don’t know if I would buy a whole durian again, but I would definitely have some if it were offered to me.   What’s more, I would love to try a dish that used durian as a component.  I can only imagine its unique taste profile could cause for some very interesting dishes.  I recommend anybody who gets a chance to sample the fascinating taste of this odd fruit do so, as it really is like nothing else.   This whole experiment was  lot of fun and I would really like to find some other exotic foods to try.  Drop us a comment if you can think of something else that we absolutely need to try.

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