Durians from New Golden Sparkling

durian1The durian is a Southeast Asian fruit that is by many people across Asia considered “the king of fruits.” Its meat is often described as delicious. It is also considered in many places to be an aphrodisiac (the Encyclopedia of Food claims that both the Chinese and Malays consider it so, citing a Malay saying “when the durian falls, the sarong falls”). But along with these unobjectionable features, the durian are also known for a highly objectionable, “fetid” smell. If this weren’t enough, the fruit is covered in sharp spines. It looks like a grotesquely overgrown cousin of the horse chestnut.

The smell of the durian has been likened to that of a dead animal in putrefaction, rotting trash, and stale vomit. Many people, perhaps a majority, report this impression, and in fact durians are banned in some places, their smell is considered so offensive.

Not everyone finds the smell offensive, and many of those who do learn to love the taste of durians anyway.

durian2I purchased my first durian at New Golden Sparkling this weekend, and I was surprised to find that I could not detect a putrescent odor from it at all. It smelled merely sweet and a little overripe. I have since learned that there is a small minority of people who do not perceive a rotten smell from durians. The writers of Wikipedia’s article on the durian, wise souls, opine that we are better able to distinguish the harmless ketones and aldehydes in durians from those in putrescent garbage than other people are.

The other surprise was that the durian’s visual unpleasantness does not end with the spikey exterior. When I pulled the shell of the durian open, a yellowish tube of meat limply rolled out like a dying grub. Had some giant maggot found its way into my durian? No, the dying grub was the famously delicious meat of the durian.

The durian is prized across Southeast Asia for its flavor; an early Western taster said this of the durian: “as producing a food of the most exquisite flavour it is unsurpassed.” A person’s esteem for the durian only seems to grow with time, in fact–although the person’s revulsion at the smell may not.

My impression: It has the consistency of custard, and a lightly sweet, complex flavor. And, within the spikey exterior there is a maggot-like piece of meat that is as appetizing as a maggot can be. Is its exquisiteness unsurpassed? I cannot say, but it is certainly worth a try.

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