Durian: Despicable or Delectable?

The spiky durian

King of Fruits or Evil Deception? Image by Jayson delos Santos

The notorious and much-maligned durian—although passionately consumed and celebrated by some as an exotic delicacy—is the big bad fruit from Southeast Asia. Infamous for being dreadfully and colossally malodorous, it has also become a constantly debated topic with two distinct camps: Love it or loathe it.

The durian is a big, heavy, green-brown fruit that has a woody husk covered in sharp spikes that aren’t just for show. This baby can inflict serious pain, and not just the olfactory kind (people have been struck in the head and killed by this beast while standing under its tree).

Lyrics to a durian ditty

Since tourists love posing under trees, and many countries depend on tourism, this seemed quite necessary.

Inside are pod-like sections that contain the pulp-encased seeds. This pulp is the prize—the sweet, creamy, custardy pulp that smells like… well… It’s called stinkfrucht in Germany, but many people tend skip the poetry and go for the graphic:

  • backed up sewer
  • onion that’s been buried for a month then marinated in acetone
  • baby poo
  • cat’s piss with a hint of dog breath
  • rotting roadkill
  • and my personal description—smelly armpit
A red fleshed species of durian

The inside of a rare and stunningly beautiful Red Durian. Image by National Geographic.

This fruit just does not want to be loved! Perhaps in the past it was made fun of by the prettier, more accessible fruits and had thus evolved with these formidable defenses. For the most part it works. You cannot ride the subway in Singapore without seeing the “No Durians” signs.

Sign: No durian allowed

Among the many things one cannot do in Singapore. Image from travelblog.org

The brave few who refuse to be daunted by the durian’s prickly exterior and offensive odor, refer to it lovingly:

  • king of fruits
  • an acquired taste
  • like almond-flavored custard
  • heavenly aroma, divine taste
  • Durian’s not food. It’s durian.
A Singapore cultural center with a durian-inspired design

The Esplanade. Perhaps feeling guilty about the subway ban, Singapore built this shrine to the Holy Durian. Image by instantshift.com

I wonder about the first durian eater. Who was this daring and determined prehistoric fellow that, armed with but his crude stone tool and steely stomach, decided to grapple with the thorny durian to get to the yet-unknown insides? I imagine him wrestling with the husk, grunting through the pain of his mangled hands, and fighting to stay conscious through the first whiffs of stench so he could take his first glorious taste… Bravo! Well done, bro!

Posted in Culture, Food, Travel | Tagged , ,

4 Responses to Durian: Despicable or Delectable?

  1. Pat Millar says:

    This is so interesting… a fruit I have never heard of that is totally unappetizing. Reminds me that my son is always trying to make me sick with blue cheese.

  2. Pingback: Quirky Asian Fruits | The Design Tree by Greentea Design

  3. Nurul says:

    I love Durian very much. love it. love it. love it.
    Thanks for the post.

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