from the Fruitarian Network News, issue #40
submitted by Tatiana
Created on Sun 13 Sep 1997
Last Updated:14 Sep 97
Developing a Durian Addiction
The King of Fruit
The tropical environment of Southeast Asia offers a diverse banquet
of succulent fruits in all sizes and shapes. Those with a sweet-tooth
accustomed to apples or imported oranges are soon bewitched by the delicate
flavors of mangosteens and lychees. But it's the durian that pricks the
curiosity of most. Its ugly mace-like exterior and nasty odor seem
inappropriate for the revered status it enjoys as a delicacy among the
The title given to the fruit is not a sarcastic swipe although one
historian was forced to write, "the flavor and odor of the fruit may be
realized by eating a 'garlic custard' over a London sewer." Most durian
neophytes reject the fruit and some never develop a taste for it. Travelers
visiting the region are invited to make their own judgements. Freed from
its notorious reputation, the durian, when carefully chosen and eaten
properly, is a one-of-a-kind taste sensation.
To The Market
Indigenous to Borneo and Malaysia, the durian is also commercially
cultivated in Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The caviar of fruit
commands higher prices than most. While an inferior mango is just an
inexpensive mistake, a bad durian is also a wretched experience to be avoided
at all costs. So unpleasant, in fact, that one rotten mouthful can force the
intrepid person to write off the fruit forever.
Fortunately, prices are usually fixed at supermarkets and street
stalls in large urban areas. Ask a store clerk or vendor to choose one for
At markets where haggling is expected, the onus is on the buyer to
select quality fruit at reasonable prices. Experienced durian handlers tap
fruits with their knives and listen for a particular sound. But occasional
buyers can try the following:
- Grab the stem with one hand and carefully support the fruit with
the other. Bring it to your nose and inhale sharply. A ripe fruit emits a
penetrating odor probably caused by sulphur compounds. Imagine marsh gas or
rotten onions with a hint of vinegar. If you intend to eat the fruit the
same day, choose only those that would never be found inside your car on a
- The color, ranging from olive green to tan, will depend upon the
variety, but shun those with thorns which are dry and woody. Check the stem
for a fresh cut or scar. If the seams are splitting, make sure the cracks
are no longer than a centimeter or two.
- To avoid larvae-infested fruits, reject those pocked with holes.
- The coveted pulp is nestled inside five elongated compartments.
Choose a symmetrical sample. The smaller compartments of lop-sided fruits
yield little or no pulp.
- Whole durians are sold by the piece. So all things being equal,
choose the largest fruit for the same quality and price.
- An odorless fruit can be left to ripen for a few days.
The Dining Experience
Because of its signature odor, the fruit is banned in most hotels,
and unlike pineapples from Hawaii, airlines do not allow them as carry-on
luggage. Riding Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit with a durian on your lap
will land you with a stiff fine. Plan to eat the fruit at a park, outside
on the street, or out on the veranda.
To extricate the pulp, use a sharp knife with a stiff short blade.
Look for several lines of converging spikes running the length of the fruit.
These are the seams (much like a football) that separate the five
compartments. As the fruit ripens, the seams split from the bottom end.
Gradually pry apart one seam with the knife. When the opening is wide
enough, insert your fingers for more leverage. Once you have pried apart the
fruit into roughly two halves, the remaining compartments can be separated
by placing the fruit on the floor or table, thorn-side down, with the stem
facing away from you. Place the heels of your hands on both outer edges of
the section, the fingers oriented outwards. Lean forward and transfer your
weight onto your hands. The central seam should split to expose more pulp.
Each compartment contains two or more oblong seeds surrounded by
pulp which is attached to the inner walls along the central seam. The
texture of the yellow to off-white pulp resembles a creamy custard
sometimes with a fibrous grain akin to cooked chicken thighs. The flavor is
an arguable mixture of caramel, bananas, cooked onions, almonds, and
vanilla extract. Durian lovers prefer a slightly under-ripened fruit.
The flavor peaks two or three days after the fruit has fallen from
the tree. After this, the pulp quickly turns rancid. When passed its prime,
it sports a wrinkled surface with greyish discoloration. The flavor rapidly
disappears and the texture deteriorates to a consistency of puss.
Don't Blame The Fruit
The durian is richer than most fruits because the pulp contains
starches as well as fruit sugars. Its low water content (relative to other
juicy fruits such as the mango) also contributes to the fullness after
eating the fruit. Although the combination of the starches and sugars alone
can be a challenge to the digestive system, many people compound the
problem by eating the fruit haphazardly thereby enduring inevitable health
problems. They blame the fruit out of ignorance when careless eating habits
are at the seat of these complaints.
To prevent unpleasant symptoms (fever, headache, sour gas, stomach
cramps, vomiting or diarhoerrea), consider these precautions:
- Eat only the raw fruit. Avoid abominable concoctions such as
durian ice-cream or cookies. Don't compare apple pie with apples.
- Eat the fruit, especially in large quantities, on an empty
stomach. Unless you're a fruitarian, wait three or four hours after
vegetarian fare and five or six hours after any cooked meat dish before
eating the fruit.
- Eat the fruit alone or with other fruits only (bananas or dates
make a decent combination). To enjoy other foods without incurring stomach
problems, eat the durian first and wait an hour before eating anything
else. Otherwise the fruit sugars will ferment violently if held in the
stomach with other items such as rice or meat. A durian and a bag of
roasted peanuts is equivalent to a guaranteed two-day tour of your bathroom.
The durian season varies from region to region. In Bali, the best
fruits are found during November and December. In parts of Thailand, April
thru July yields prime fruit. Off-season durians are not fair samples.
Visit a large wet market during peak season. Enjoy a fresh, ripe fruit.
About ten major varieties exist to be explored. Seek them out. They
vary in color, shape, size, odor, flavor, texture, seed size, and pulp
content. Determine your favorite. Of course, take sensible precautions when
If your first durian triggers vivid dreams about
bushwhacking through tangled forests in search for the fruit, welcome to
the club. Attracted to the odor that offends so many, you are among those
who are found to plan their travel itenary around peak growing seasons and
neglect areas that do not cultivate it. The title, The King of Fruit, has
your passionate approval.
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