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Confessions of a durian addict

June 11, 2011

Oh durian, King of Fruits, how I love thee!

I tried durian, a tropical fruit grown in Southeast Asia, for the first time about a week ago. Rick is at home for his brother’s graduation, and so I’ve had quite a bit of extra time on my hands. Needing a break from watching episodes of The Wire, and craving a novel experience, I finally gave in to my curiosity and bought some durian pods at the local fruit stand.

I had always been reluctant to try it, because it’s famous for smelling really gross, like rotting vegetables. In some countries, it’s banned on public transportation because of the smell. It’s also extremely divisive: people either love it, or it makes them hurl. Alfred Russel Wallace, a British naturalist who wrote about eating the fruit in 1856, described it as “perfect,” and said its “most exquisite flavor is unsurpassed.” The Food Network chef Andrew Zimmerman, on the other hand, said it tastes like “completely rotten, mushy onions.”  I had no idea what to expect.

What I experienced biting into its flesh was something akin to ecstasy. Everything about the fruit is difficult to describe, because it’s so unique. The scent, to me, is not altogether displeasing, but is certainly pungent. The texture is like creamy custard, like a less-dense avacado, with a dash of pulpiness like you would find in a citrus fruit (but is not acidic like a citrus fruit). The flavor is indescribable. It’s sweet, but not overly sweet, and its fatty for a fruit–five grams of fat per 100 grams, according to the wikipedia page. The fattiness adds a luscious, savory element. The flavor is truly indescribable. I refuse to even try. It’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever tasted.

Now durian haunts me. It’s all I think about, dream about. I know I shouldn’t overconsume it, especially as I now live a low-carb, no-added-sugar lifestyle (I’m convinced sugar and refined grains are the cause all the world’s chronic diseases; look up Gary Taubes). One durian pod is about half my daily carbohydrate allowance. ALso, it’s not cheap – 25 kuai for 2 pods, which are about the size of an avocado. And it makes your breath stink, a lot. (Lucky for Rick that he’s out of town!)

But I can’t stop. Other sugary treats that used to entice me seem like pig slop in comparison to the almighty durian, unless they include durian of course (like durian ice cream, which I got to try when I was in Hong Kong). Other foods I used to think were the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten have been downgraded in my mind to “very good but not as good as durian” status. Every time I eat it, it tastes better than the last time! How is that possible?!? Every time I buy it, the fruit stand lady knowingly chuckles at me with flashing eyes. She knows.

She knows I’m a junkie.

The most painful part about my addiction, however, is the knowledge that I won’t have easy access to this luscious fruit in the US. Most Americans have never even heard of it. I did some research and discovered you can sometimes find it frozen or canned in Asian supermarkets, but I’m sure it pales in comparison to the fresh stuff.

I dabbled in self-delusion for a day or two, thinking of ways I can cook durian into recipes so that when I’m home, I can open a durian themed restaurant to justify importing it fresh every day. Durian creme brûlée. Durian ice cream. Chocolate-covered durian. Durian pudding, durian cake, durian pie. Yesterday, I cooked up some durian with 2 tablespoons of butter and topped it with cinnamon, ate it hot. It was amazing, but not as good as the raw fruit by itself. The problem is that you can’t improve on it, which is why the restaurant concept is actually a terrible idea. What was I thinking?

I just need to enjoy durian while I can, for the next few weeks, and then kick the habit cold turkey. No more late-night runs. No more recipes. No more stinky breath. No more delusions. As much as I love it, it was not meant to be something I eat every day. I think the experience of eating durian on its own justifies coming to China. I will cherish the memories.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Gaudia Ray permalink
    June 11, 2011 3:38 pm

    Think “heroin addict”; the cloying desire which when near the drug in truth or in thought spurs intense desire to reunite with the ecstasy you’re describing.

    25 years later, after first encountering the forbidden fruit, were it assured to me that the offering before my eyes were as you are now experiencing, as nasally engaging and as custardy, flavorly, nearly fermentedly spiked, it wouldn’t be even a question whether or not in the States the probe into the pleasure zone would be re-indulged.

    Alas, while you will encounter the fruit for sale at Asian/Thai-themed supermarkets in CA, though hope will spring forth as you fondle and embrace your new-found object of additional desire, you are forewarned the experience subsequent will multiples of inferior to that which you are enjoying now, no matter how many trips to the China Thai Inonesia fruitstands here you may approach in anticipation of just one more illicit encounter with Durian’s flesh.

    As my first encounter was in a pastoral setting on an estate in the Javanese highlands, outside the home, of course, for obvious olfactory reasons, the bathroom having been scrubbed clean by the servants, the strategic issue of avoidance of causing distress to others not then engaged in the mystry rite was well avoided.

    But when in Surabaya staying at the Bumi Hyatt, having been denied entry for my then newly acquired sin and soul, my durian, the subsequent need to leave that seductress out on the entry patio, to experience the denial of amorous luxury of deciding the when and the setting for my anticipated encounter was unforgettable. It transformed my planned indulgence from luxurious to street urchin desperate. as you now “know” this fruit, you well understand that no addict surrenders access to this high, please just one pod, please, without immediately being consumed in thought devising an alternate plan to receive the ecstatically joyful gaudiesque feeling extended to beyond the end of memory, heck forget the memory and bring on the sensual bacchanal.

    Picture the American sitting on some gritty back alley, crumbling, low wall in a back alley slum nestled next to four star luxury, his eyes besotted, his hands fully occupied clutching the pod in one and his hotel-absconded spoon in the other, slavering and savoring the object of his adoration, yes, unquestionably searing pleasure exuding from his sensory nerve endings then vibrating in harmony with what God has so graciously shared, the portal to instant immortality, with what the Devil approved as a sure way to capture and claim another eternal subjugate, the craved innocent, durian.

    That c&c for the memory.

    Gaudia, just one of a thousand surplus readers to your Canterbury tales

  2. June 12, 2011 6:58 pm

    As the saying goes, eating durian is like eating a delicious pudding while sitting in a stinking toilet. Personally, I’m not a fan, and it drives me crazy that my neighbors leave their durian shells in the communal garbage bin right outside my door! But I know people who love it.

    I think it’s more popular in HK, since it’s tropical. In terms of food culture / cliimate sometimes I feel we’re closer to Singapore / Thailand / Malaysia. During durian season, all the supermarkets here reek of it.

    As for your diet — there’s good sugar and bad sugar, good carb and bad carb. You can’t just look at the numbers. There’s 14-15 g of sugar in a banana, and 17 g in a McD’s ice cream. But we all know that the fructose of fresh fruit is better for us that the refine white sugar in a processed product.

    Unless you’re obese or have some serious medical / dietary issue, why cut out a food you love? Just have it once a week or something — after all, it’s natural fruit.

    Personally, I wouldn’t adulterate it with anything. Just have it raw. Enjoy your durian.

    • June 14, 2011 9:12 am

      Thanks for the comments, Joyce! You’re right – no need to completely cut it out, especially because I’m young and eat very healthfully most of the time. Once a week will do no harm, especially when I eat it raw (and you’re right – no need to adulterate something I love so much.) I’m only worried about my boyfriend’s reaction to my breath when he gets back in a couple of days… 🙂

  3. June 14, 2011 4:18 pm

    Aw, indulge all you can before you move to Texas!
    I’m afraid I have no cure for durian-breath.

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