Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Durian

Speaking of things that stink...

A few summers back, Ken had the idea of going on a new food adventure every weekend. Chinatown offered many items to test our taste buds, including a variety of unfamiliar produce. We ate taro root, lotus root, bitter melon (I highly recommend never putting bitter melon anywhere near your mouth), and rambutan. But nothing compared to the weirdness of the durian.

Most of you have probably seen durian for sale. It looks like this:

How many of you have actually tasted it? Are there any durian-lovers out there? It's popular in Asian cultures. Supposedly it has healing properties, and even tastes good in the right context.

But I just can't get past the smell.

On a sunny day in July, Ken decreed that this was the day we would bring home a durian. The temperature was getting up to around 30 degrees Celsius (that's 86 in American degrees). The whole Chinatown market was quite whiffy, as it always is during the summer months. The fish vendors were competing for smell dominance against overflowing garbage cans and a general, pervasive undertone of sweaty armpits.

We had heard that the durian was a smelly fruit, that it was banned on airplanes and certain other public places, but I guess we thought that the tales of its stinkiness were exaggerated. It seemed innocent enough at the fruit stall, especially compared to the place next door that had piles of dried shrimp and buckets of (mostly) live shellfish perfuming the air.

Once we had the thing in a plastic bag, we realized that it was too heavy to carry all over the market with us while we did the rest of our shopping, so we walked it back to the parking lot and left it on the backseat of the car.

An hour later, when we had finished the rest of our errands, we were ready to head home. We opened up the car, and were immediately overpowered by a strong smell of rotting garbage.

Me: OMG, what the hell IS that?

Ken: It must be the durian! Boy, does it ever stink! Geez!

We stood there with the doors open for a few minutes, trying to air out the car. It didn't help much, so we got in, rolled the windows all the way down, and drove home really, really fast.

Figuring that it was the heat that had brought out the worst of the durian's smelliforousness, we put it straight into the refrigerator as soon as we got it home. Clock-wipe transition to the next morning. I opened the fridge to get some juice, and guess what? The fridge smelled like it was packed full of rotting garbage.



If you want to eat this thing, you'd better do it right now, or I'm going to throw it off the balcony. It's stinking up the whole kitchen.

Ken wasn't willing to let the durian go without tasting it, so we sawed through the tough skin to the flesh inside. The texture wasn't any more charming than the smell. It was custardy, with strings like spaghetti squash. It didn't taste quite as bad as it smelled. It was equal parts kiwi, strawberry, and rotting garbage. Statistically, 33% trash is an improvement over 100% trash.

Once we had satisfied our curiosity, we wrapped up the rest of the durian and chucked it down the trash chute. But the story doesn't quite end there. It ends a few days later, when I was down in the basement on my way to the laundry room, and the super was bagging up all of the building's garbage to go out for collection. She had her nose wrinkled up as far as it would go. The trash room was emanating a familiar scent. The durian! It wasn't finished stinking yet.

For all I know, it's resting happily at the dump, stinking to this very day.


chris said...

Lucky for me I'm lazy enough that the very weight/size/spikyness of durian prevented me from doing little more than observing them in the freezer section of Super88.

The Chapati Kid said...

I LOVE Durian. The stink and pricklies are worth it, just for the taste. If that's too smelly for you, try jackfruits. Similar taste, less creamy, less smelly.

There's a wonderful story I read from Singapore, I think, about a dragon that was very greedy and terrorized the town at the bottom of the hill he lived on. So one day, they offered him Durians. And because he was so greedy, he ate them whole, and then he died. The End.

Solomon Broad said...

Durians can kill dragons? One more reason not to eat them. :D

Sparkling Red said...

Chris: If you want the durian experience, you really have to commit. It's not an enterprise to be undertaken lightly.

The Chapati Kid: I was hoping that I'd hear from someone who could speak up on behalf of the durian!
I do like that story.

Solomon Broad: Yes, but you might want to keep one on reserve in case of invading dragons. You never know...

Thomas said...

What is the best Ken food adventure ever?

Warped Mind of Ron said...

I'm the adventurous sort and think I would like to try one someday. I once saw a TV show on foul food and the Durian was one of them. The hotel where this show was filming actually had signs banning the fruit from being brought into the rooms and the smell was compared to diapers. hmmm.... it would be an adventure I think.

The Ex said...

Oh I couldn't do that. Yuck, yuck.

The Chapati Kid said...

Eat it with your windows open.

jameil1922 said...

stop. i will not eat anything that smells horrid!!!! are you joking?? you eat w/your eyes and nose first. absolutely not! lmao @ 33% trash is an improvement over 100% trash, tho. quite funny. i'd never even seen or heard of one before and don't think i'll be eating one.

Anonymous said...

I think I just threw up in my mouth a little...ewwww! I officially now have NO desire whatsoever to try this "exotic fruit(?)"

Karen said...

I will live through your experience. I am not that adventurous. LOL

San said...

Durian, I never tried it. And I can't imagine giving it a try now. Life's short. Thanks for the warning, Red.

Sparkling Red said...

Thomas: Good question. Since they were his adventures, I'll ask Ken what he thinks the best one was, and get back to y'all.

Warped Mind of Ron: Cool! At the very least, you'll have a story to tell. At best, the chapati kid will have made a convert. ;-)

The Ex: It says a lot that we were never tempted to repeat the experiment.

The chapati kid: I will open my windows, but I still think that I will not be eating durian again.

Sparkling Red said...

Jameil: I remember a post about some veggies you find disgusting. Durian is in a whole other category. I don't imagine you would ever want to be in the same room as one, let alone taste it.

Binky: Ew! ;-)

Karen: Good call. :-)

San: Anytime! Forwarned is fore-armed, as they say.

Sparkling Red said...

The Chapati Kid: I wanted to add that I respect your appreciation of the durian. It's just one of those things that if you don't grow up with it as part of your culture, it's kind of hard to develop a taste for it later in life.

It wasn't long ago (Dec 16/07, 8 Random Facts meme) that I was grossing out all the Bloglins with tales of eating cow's tongue with my family. So there you go. :-)

Nicole said...

Thanks for the good laugh!
The last part really cracked me up :D!!!

I never had durian, I probably never will.
I wish hubby would be more like "Let's try".
Oh well, can't have everything ;)

I can't see the pic, which is weird.

The Chapati Kid said...

Oh not all. Taste is acquired (along with smell). I grew up in Bombay where it isn't available. The first time I ate a Durian was in England. It came out of a freezer, so I guess the stink was gone by then and I missed that part. When I bought one here in Toronto and ate it with the ex, I found it quite amusingly smelly. The ex loved it. But he kinda stank too. Anyway, I also eat brain. So a Durian is really quite tame. Good Lord. Where did I come from? :-)

Sparkling Red said...

Nicole: Oops, there goes Blogger losing my visuals again... It's fixed now.

The Chapati Kid: Definitely, being open to new things makes life more interesting. :-)

nancypearlwannabe said...

I am SO GLAD we did not actually purchase a durian at the asian market the other day. So glad.

Tink said...

What I want to know is who was the first person to deem that thing edible?! Great story, but I don't think I'll ever go near one of those things. ;)

Sparkling Red said...

nancypearlwannabe: If you ever want to try it, maybe the best idea would be to buy one on your way to a picnic. Keep it outside and never bring it into your home.

Tink: Probably a very hungry person!

Jenski said...

During the entire year I lived in China, I never tasted a durian. Now I'm very glad I didn't.

Aurora said...

Back in Thailand I remember people asking me, "So, do you like Durian?" with this look in their eye like, "Ha ha, you hate it DON'T YOU!!" They would go on, "Do you like the smell?" (do you? do you? heheheh). Personally I never really noticed it being that revolting. There are way worse smells.