(Durio zibethinus) This infamous
tropical fruit is indigenous to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the
southern Philippines. The reputation of this fruit has gone before it as
surely as its aroma trails after it. A good durian is sweet and has the
texture of smooth, rich custard and the flavor, while quite unlike
anything else, hints at banana, mango, pineapple, pawpaw (all somewhat
over-ripe) and vanilla. Some call it the king of fruits, regard it as an
aphrodisiac and break hotel rules by sneaking it into their rooms.
Others hate it with vengeance.
So what is it that provokes such passionate
reactions? Unless you have smelled ripe durian, it is hard to imagine an
odor as invasive. Some say that it smells like hell but tastes like
The most forbidding aspect of this fruit is
its spiky skin. Roughly the size of a soccer ball, heavy for its size,
and coming to a point at one end, the skin of the durian is thick,
covered in sharp, sturdy spines of dull green which yellow as the fruit
ripens. A fruit is ripe and ready to eat when it splits along its 'seamline'.
It may need a little help and, if the spikes are yellow, a sharp thump
on a hard surface (a concrete driveway works well) should achieve the
same result. Another way, if it doesn't split of its own accord, is to
use the point of a knife at the end away from the stem and lever one of
the segments of skin upwards. Then praise the shell open, segment by
segment, with well-protected hands.
Inside, the fruit is divided into sections
and within the smooth white walls of each section are three or four
large, glossy, cream-beige seeds, each one enclosed in a custard-like
covering which can be pale cream to bright yellow in color (depending on
the variety of durian rather than its stage of ripeness). The texture of
the flesh that encases the large seeds is dense and creamy, the taste
highly praised by all brave enough to venture past the smell. Durian is
considered "heating" to the body and for this reason, a feast of durian
is usually followed with "cooling" mangosteens.
In some areas, durians are never picked, but
left to ripen and fall - ensuring they are perfectly ripe. A common
saying is "a durian has eyes and can see where it is falling". This is
because (so the saying goes) the fruit never fall during daylight hours
when people may be hurt by their size, vicious spines and the velocity
gathered as they hurtle to the ground, but rather in the wee hours when
honest citizens certainly would not be prowling under durian trees.
Durian are used to make preserves, ice-cream
and candy. Commercial durian ice cream sold in Asia is flavored with
artificial durian essence. Delicious though it is, durian remains an