Durian: The Stinky Polarizing Fruit

Durian is either loved or rejected at the first bite owing to its eccentric smell and flavor. Read on to learn more about durian, and why it’s banned from public places in Southeast Asia.

What is Durian?

Durian, a tropical fruit from Southeast Asia, is popular for its pungent smell, which also makes it controversial. While some admire the strong, ever-expanding aroma of durian, others simply abhor it. Durian belongs to the genus Durio, which consists of around 30 different Durio species and hundreds of varieties. Durio zibethinus is the most commonly exported durian species in the United States. Durian is often called the “king of fruits” in the Malay peninsula owing to its huge size (up to 30 cm in length) and weight (2 to 6 lbs). 

The durian fruit is securely packed inside a spiky rind, resembling a sea urchin. Durian flesh is bright yellow in color and creamy in texture. Intriguingly, durian is banned from most public places in Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and other regions of Southeast Asia due to its divisive smell. Trains, taxis, and other public transports in Singapore carry signs that read: “No Durian” to let passengers know they can’t carry the smelly fruit with them.

Image Credit: Dave Weatherall from Unsplash

What Does Durian Taste Like?

To many people, durian tastes like a sweet-savory custard offering a strong taste and smell that’s somewhat similar to onions, garlic, and chives coupled with caramel, and vanilla flavors. However, others describe the durian flavor as stinky socks, manure, and rotten eggs, melded with a bitter-sweet taste. The texture of durian is creamy and much similar to a cheesecake. People either like durian with the first bite or simply hate it altogether. However, the eccentric flavor of durian is best described as an acquired taste that one might begin to like over time.

Uses of Durian

Durian can be savored, unripe, ripe, or overripe depending upon the taste preferences. While the unripe durian is crisp and offers a mild smell, the ripe durian is packed with a pungent smell that spreads all around. Overripe durian fruit is often employed in cooking, mostly in curries

Southeast Asian cuisine uses durian in a variety of dishes, ranging from sweet to savory. Pureed durian is used to prepare cakes, cupcakes, crepes, and candies, while fresh or frozen durian is often used in milkshakes, smoothies, cappuccinos, ice cream, and other desserts. Durian ice cream is quite popular with a huge fan following, especially in Indonesia, where it’s sold as street food.

Image Credit: Flicker user llee_wu  ( CC BY-ND 2.0 )

You can savor fresh durian fruit on top of steamed glutinous rice prepared with coconut milk, which is a popular Thai dish known as Pulut durian. Durian can also be cooked into savory curries incorporating onions, garlic, spices, and herbs. In Indonesia, durian chips are a popular snack prepared from under-ripe durian that’s thinly sliced and deep-fried in vegetable oil. Durian chips are available in sweet and savory seasonings.  

Durian seeds are also leveraged into many dishes in the Malay peninsula. Durian seeds can be boiled, roasted, fried, or thinly sliced, and cooked with sugar to prepare desserts. Not only that, the leaves and stems of the durian plant are also cooked as greens, while the petals of the durian flower are also eaten by many Indonesians and Malaysians. Durian is surely a versatile fruit, packed with nutrition, but its unique flavor makes it one of the most divisive fruits on the planet.

Feature Image: Flicker user Hafiz Issadeen ( CC BY 2.0 ) 

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