Over the weekend, I purchased a durian, which is a tropical fruit that originates in Southeast Asia, in Chinatown in San Francisco with my friend Prisna. Durians have received mixed reviews across the board. They are considered either a delicacy or a nuisance; some say their scent is fragrant, while others have a far different opinion.
The durian fruit.
Richard Sterling, as quoted in The Travelling Curmudgeon, says:
"… its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia." (Source: Wikipedia)
Durians are about the size of a soccer ball, quite heavy, and covered with spikes. The outer flesh is thick and tough, and can be difficult to open if you don't know how. Inside are pockets of flesh with the consistency of custard, with a hard stone in the center of each pocket.
We took the fruit home on the BART – unlike in Southeast Asia, BART has no "NO DURIAN" signs, and no one seemed to notice. Prisna, who grew up in Singapore and has experience in opening durians, demonstrated for me while I took photographs.
Lay paper on the floor (this can get messy) and then with a large, sharp knife, make a deep score in the outer hull, about 8 to 10 inches long.
Dig your fingers in the incision and start prying the hull apart.
Keep pulling and pushing.
After some effort, you will have two halves.
Take the knife and score a deep cut in the fibrous "rib" in the center of each half.
Pull the halved section apart into two sections.
See the "pod" coming out of the husk? That's the edible part. It's a bit soft, and yellowish. In my experience, it did not have much of an unpleasant scent; it smelled sweet, almost like custard. The taste was sweet, creamy, and fruity. However, every so often, for a millisecond or so, we would get a whiff of something tart and slightly foul that would disappear.
Collected durian "pods."
Durian "pods" and bowls of sticky rice with coconut milk.
Durian and sticky rice with coconut milk. A very simple, delicious dessert.
Republished from article originally posted on February 28, 2008.
(Images: Kathryn Hill)