The only fruit to be specifically banned on public transport, a heavenly aphrodisiac for some, and the most repulsive smell in the world for others, the durian is certainly one of a kind. Rachel Hand finds out more about this strange fruit.
Aphrodisiac or vomit inducing?
From the outside, with its tough, spiky skin that makes it difficult to hold, the durian appears more like a weapon than a fruit. But once inside, the rich creamy pale flesh tells a different story.
Now, I like durian and can happily eat a whole fruit, but just telling my husband that I was writing this article made him wretch. With its unique smell, which is sumptuously fragrant to some and intensely disgusting to others, like Marmite to the English, durian is either loved or hated.
Throughout South East Asia, there are many traditional beliefs associated with eating durian. Pregnant women and those with high blood pressure are traditionally advised to avoid eating durian, and in some areas the fruit is believed to cause excessive sweating. Indonesians believe the durian to act as an aphrodisiac and the saying “durian jatuh sarung naik,” meaning “durians fall and sarongs rise,” refers to this.
However, durian is nutritional, with high levels of vitamin C and potassium as well as carbohydrates, proteins and fats. In Malaysia, the leaves and roots were traditionally used to cure fever.
How to eat durian
In many parts of South East Asia, you can buy ready-to-eat durian, where the edible flesh has been removed from the outer skin and pre-packaged in plastic. Apart from avoiding the fruit’s large seeds, this is straightforward to eat, and you can store it in the fridge for a few days, though the smell with pervade throughout your house.
If, however, you’ve bought a whole thorny fruit, you might be wondering what to do next. Fruit sellers will sometimes open the fruit for you, with a large machete-like knife. Otherwise, take the unopened fruit and slam it into the ground or stamp on its side (with thick-soled shoes) to split it open. Then pull the sides apart until it opens. Simply take out the creamy flesh-covered seeds one by one in your hands and eat.
After eating durian like this, your hands and breath will stink. Now comes a clever trick I learnt from a friend here in Indonesia: having finished your durian, take the empty shell, and pour some water into the segment-shaped hole where the fruit was. Wash your hands thoroughly in this water, and use some of it to wash your mouth, gargling if you like. Amazingly, this neutralises the odor, leaving you durian-smell free.
Durian – try it once
The durian is native to South East Asia. It is cheapest and tastiest in season, which varies across the region. As well as being eaten raw, durian is sometimes used as a paste in cooking and for sweets and iced durian drinks. If you visit Southeast Asia, try this unique fruit at least once to find out whether you’re a durian lover or hater.
Have you tried durian? Do you love it or hate it? Could there me a more strange fruit? Let us know in the comments below!