-Bayard Taylor (19th-century American journalist)
Whenever there’s a durian in the house, I’m always a little happier because the pleasure of eating it is something to look forward to. It always needs a few days to ripen when I buy it from the supermarket. For each day that it sits on my counter, I coo at it like a mother hen, watching, waiting, touching. When the smell is at its strongest and the spines are more flexible, that’s when I open it.
To eat a durian, oh! There is no comparison in the world. Its taste is at once custardy, its texture creamy, and its consistency is delicate. Because I’m the only one who eats durian in my house, it’s a solitary activity. Better that way, so that I don’t have to share and so no one can hear my moans of unrestrained pleasure nor smell my durian-scented burps.
The durian lowdown
Durians grow on trees in moist, tropical climates throughout Southeast Asia, with Thailand being the motherlode in terms of production and varieties grown. The trees themselves, sometimes as tall as 130 feet, are pollinated by bats. Three to four months later, the fruit, each weighing several pounds, plummets down, (hey, you could kill somebody!) already reeking with its characteristic aroma. Some varieties of durian however, are always cut from the tree while still green and allowed to ripen off the tree. (Most Thais consider a “naturally-dropped” durian already past its prime).
I used to think that durians were seasonal, but they seem to be available for a good part of the year here in Manila. Durians are expensive, (the priciest I’ve encountered is P129/kilo!) and purchasing one is a solemn, touchy-feely ritual. It’s
only by odor that one can determine whether a durian is truly ripe ”“ or not. They say that the flesh itself is regarded as an aphrodisiac, although I don’t subscribe to that kind of hearsay since it has the opposite effect on my Bin. (!)
For many Asians, this thorny, football-size fruit, divinely lustrous, yet potent in odor, is as much a cultural icon as it is a treasured, eagerly anticipated food. The durian’s otherworldly flavor and smell still remain a unique experience of the East.
Believe it or not, the durian is highly nutritious, a complete natural meal in itself, high in carbohydrates, proteins, fat, minerals, and vitamins. The exact nutritional composition of a ripe durian can vary greatly, depending on soil richness, growing methods, climate conditions, and variety. The range of nutritional values for 100 grams [about 3½ ounces] of the fresh pulp are:
carbohydrates 30.0-36.1 g
fat 1.2-4.3 g
Leaving a scent behind
After all the eating is done, there’s the problem of removing the smell from my fingers. Plenty of durian lovers swear by washing their hands with durian seeds. I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t work for me. Like the durian, the smell stays with you, and like the taste, it’s out of this world.
Many thanks to Nirav for most of the information in this post, as well as the awesome cover photo. If you’re a lover of durian, check out his Durian Palace!