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).
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
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.
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.
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!