Durian: The King of Fruit

Durian VarietiesI will come right out and say it: Durian is one of the most misunderstood fruits in western culture. It has the reputation for smelling so bad that most liken it to the odor of rotten flesh. It’s banned on subways, airlines and in shopping malls and, believe me, once you smell it you will never forget it. Having said all that, you might wonder why anyone would eat it. The truth is, the Durian-haters are about half-right. We spent 2 hours at a Durian festival in Singapore to give you the eyes-wide-open western point of view on the “king of fruit”.

First of all, there are well over 200 different types of Durian. Think of the word Durian as you would think of the word apple; how many different types of apple are sold in your local farmers’ market or grocery store? The basic structure is the same across all of them, but there are visual, aromatic and taste differences between varieties.

Durian - seed sizesThe Durian that everyone knows to be the smelliest is called “XO” (think of cognac). It has the harshest strongest taste to go along with the aroma, and it’s one to love if you don’t like super sweet fruits. Along with XO, we tasted “Golden Phoenix”, D-series and the most expensive, “Mao Shan Wang”. Each of them had a different taste profile, as well as different seeds. The Mao Shan Wang had seeds the size of peach pits while the Golden Phoenix had seeds reminiscent of candy corn.

The texture of all of these are similar: extremely slimy and custard-like. If you have an issue with food texture (uni, anyone?), you may have a challenge with this fruit. The sweetness is similar to that of a heavy cream custard and it’s often used to create desserts and sweets such as candy/taffy, ice cream and even dessert wine.

Durian Festival SingaporeThere were about 300 people at the festival and you could certainly smell the fruit as you approached the venue. After a few minutes, we settled into our groups and the nervousness goes away —  you are among people who love this stuff not only for the oddity of it, but for the family traditions they have grown up with where Durian was a central feature. Because Durian is best eaten within a day of being ripe enough to fall from the tree, it doesn’t travel well outside of Malaysia and Singapore. If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend coming to SE Asia on a food trip and having the locals introduce you to their favorite Durian “uncle” (Durian stall owner). Bon Appétit

Have you found Durian treats around the US or ever tasted it while in SE Asia? Tell us about it on Twitter at @MIEWfoodsLLC