The durian (IPA: [ˈdʊəriən, -ɑn]) is the fruit of trees from the genus Durio belonging to the Malvaceae, a large family which includes hibiscus, okra, cotton, mallows, and linden trees. Widely known and revered in Southeast Asia as the “King of Fruits,” the fruit is distinctive for its large size, unique odour, and formidable thorn-covered husk.
The edible flesh emits a distinctive odor, strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Regarded by some as fragrant, others as overpowering and offensive, the smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust. The odor has led to the fruit’s banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in Southeast Asia.
Durian fruit is used to flavor a wide variety of sweet edibles such as traditional Malay candy, ice kachang, dodol, rose biscuits, and, with a touch of modern innovation, ice cream, milkshakes, mooncakes, Yule logs and cappuccino.
Southeast Asian folk beliefs, as well as traditional Chinese medicine, consider the durian fruit to have warming properties liable to cause excessive sweating. The traditional method to counteract this is to pour water into the empty shell of the fruit after the pulp has been consumed and drink it. An alternative method is to eat the durian in accompaniment with mangosteen, which is considered to have cooling properties. People with high blood pressure or pregnant women are traditionally advised not to consume durian.
According to a “You know you’re Vietnamese if…” list that reader N linked my way, #42 is likes durian. While #6 rang a little too true, “your parents think you’re 12 when you’re really 18,” when it comes to sau rien, I’m not that Vietnamese. While most people are put off by the smell, for me, it’s the taste. Whereas durian registers as sweet and creamy for fans, it just tastes like mushy roasted garlic to me. I don’t hate durian, it’s just far from my favorite.
Which side of the durian fence do you sit on—love or loathe?