Part of what makes Malaysia such a special place, is its affinity for this obscure fruit called durian. Perhaps you’ve seen this infamous fruit laying dormant in an open freezer in the produce section of your local Chinese supermarket. They’re marked by their incredibly spiky, green flesh and are frozen not for preservation purposes, but rather to prevent their otherwise putrid aromas from wafting throughout the supermarket. People often describe them as smelling like a combination of rotten meat and/or garlic. The smell is so bad in fact that in many cities we’ve visited across Southeast Asia, we’ve noticed signs strictly prohibiting their consumption.
These fruits are begging you not to f*** with them. As they evolved they probably thought: okay well, these animals are eating us an awful lot right now so let’s evolve this terrifying spiky armor so that they won’t mess with us. Then a few hundred thousand years later: oh man, regroup, regroup… they’re still eating us! Let’s evolve a really vile smell so they’ll obviously avoid us and assume we’re not fit for consumption. We humans of course, will put anything into our mouths. Who was the first person to discover this monstrosity and think ‘yeah, putting this foul smelling piece of yellow slime into my mouth seems like the right thing to do!’?
Such is the tragic tale of the durian: the mechanisms it had evolved to deter predators are precisely why some people love them so much. It’s a very controversial fruit that you either love or hate – kind of like Cilantro (which by the way has a strong genetic explanation). I actually thought I’d enjoy them. From afar, they don’t smell too bad and I typically enjoy bold flavours: I like my food spicy, my beers bitter, and my coffee black.
The experience had also been built up for me. Sara’s parents are were born in Malaysia and prior to our trip assured us that the durians you find it Canada don’t hold a flame to the fresh ones you can purchase from the markets of Kuala Lumpur. Since we’d all be there together in May, Sara’s father promised he’d prepare some for us once we arrived. I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into…
The Durian Eating Process
Stage 1 – Excitement:
As noted, the experience started off positive. I thought they smelt okay, and so I assumed I would probably enjoy them. Painstakingly, I held off eating durian candy, ice-cream, and pastries so that my first taste would be of the best fresh durian we could find. I was excited – durian would be my thing!
Stage 2 – Uncertainty:
Wait, maybe not. I confidently sniffed the fruit assuming that it would build my excitement further, but instead it killed it completely. What have I gotten myself into?
Stage 3 – Confusion:
Sara and her parents watched with eager wide grins as I slowly brought the piece of durian to my mouth. As I wedged it between my teeth, and bit down, I knew it had all been a ruse. What is this? WHY is this? Who am I? Will I ever be able to trust these people again? They’re trying to poison me!
Stage 4 – Disappointment:
Okay calm down, everything’s fine. It’s sweet, yet garlicy. It tastes like rotten eggs and sweet-potato. While it’s awful, I think I’ll recover. It could be worse (though it could also be much better).
Stage 5: Guilt
Darn, I don’t like it. I’ll never get my Asian certificate of authenticity! How will I ever be asiany-enough for Sara! Her parents must be so disappointed – I’m not a doctor, lawyer, OR durian-enjoyer! There’s no way I’m a suitable match for their daughter!
Stage 6 – Acceptance:
It’s over. My fingers smell horrible, but I’ll survive. Sara’s cousin and father are scrambling to eat their share. Moreover, they appear to love it! I don’t think I was poison.
And that’s that. Overall, I give durians a 4/10 with 1 being definitely poison and 10 being eh, maybe poison. It’s is a polarizing and perplexing fruit that by all means shouldn’t exist, but some people go absolutely crazy for it. It’s available all throughout Southeast Asia, though I’m told the ones in Malaysia are the best. I’d hate to taste a bad one.
What are your favourite and least favourite fruits and why? Have you ever tried durian? What did you think? Leave a comment in the section below.