Jun 2008

Vegetation Profile: Durian

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?

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20 thoughts on “Vegetation Profile: Durian

  1. I’d kill for some durian right now. I’m addicted, and I can eat 2 or 3 durians at once, had my mom not told me it’s “hot” for my body 🙁

  2. I love durian. I’m Australian, but have worked in Malaysia often. It does smell unusual, but my favourites come from Penang, and one of my clients in the early stages of my durian training! showed me that if you wash your hands with the pips, the smell goes away.

  3. I’m Viet-Australian. And I cannot stand durian. My dad also hates durian and my mum, who loves it, is only allowed to eat durian if it is frozen – so that the smell cannot escape. Ba also *always* knows when mum has had some durian in the house when he has ben away…

  4. I absolutely love it..Love it =)
    It smells like perfume to me actually, maybe it’s childhood memory.

    I said it but I’ll say it again, I love your blog!

  5. it’s strange…I used to HATE it as a kid but grew to like it more as I got older. I’m not like crazy about it now like some people in my family but I do eat some on occasion 🙂

  6. I love it. But only when eaten fresh, not in ice cream, not in cookies or other derivative products.
    But I love the Singaporean Durian Puffs!
    However, i hate the lingering smell in your breath after you ate one.
    Not to be eaten on a first date unless your date loves it too!

  7. Absolutely love it! I used to hate its smell then one day many moons ago, I took one bite and something must have clicked in my brain and taste buds that I became hooked on it. Strange but true. How cheap/expensive is it in VN?

  8. i cant say i hate since i never tasted it. but i have tasted durian candy and that really put me off. but i so hate the smell… dont think i can do durian.

  9. Worth mentioning. Madame Lirelou, from the rice paddies of Tam Vu near Can Tho, is absolutely nuts about the fruit. Wants to plant several trees on our very small property. Luckily, the Home Owner’s Association does not agree, though I’m not certain that will stop her.

  10. I’m indifferent. It’s just another fruit to me, I’ll eat it if it’s available. I dislike durian-flavoured stuff though (ice cream, candy etc..)

  11. damn i love durian. to me its like a creamy custard and now im wondering what it would be like as a donut filling. mmmmmmmm

  12. Not a fan myself. I feel that it delivers various forms of torture in the olfactory and the tactile sense. My grandmother used to use it as punishment… if my dad or one of my uncles or aunts was naughty they would be banished and forced to kneel on the spikiest one in the corner. Ouch!

  13. I don’t mind the smell of durian, I remember hearing so many horror stories before I ever encountered one but when I first smelled it, I though, “what’s the big deal?” But the taste, it’s ok. I’m with you Gastronomer! I think it tastes like roasted garlic and beef broth cubes with a creamy texture. It does taste better to me in ice cream or frozen.

    I went to Sarawak (Borneo) and had the local durian there and it was very different – smaller, dark orange flesh and it was really yummy without the savory creaminess of the more common kind that you have pictured on this post.

  14. durian is awesome !!. nature version of the creamiest ice cream. i orged myself with durian whenever i go back to vietnam. god bless my lovely country !….and thai for their durian too. 🙂

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