Amy Eddings' Food for Thought: What's to Love About Durian?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Is it durian, or is it raw chicken? You decide! (Amy Eddings/WNYC)

I ate the Southeast Asian tropical fruit the durian today. It was my first and last taste.

Last Chance Foods producer Joy Wang had lined up an interview about the fruit -- in season till the end of July -- with former Salon food writer Francis Lam who now writes and edits for the new food Web site, Guilt Taste. Not wanting me to be without the experience of sampling durian, she went shopping for the smelly, spiky fruit in Chinatown. She couldn't find a fresh one, so she brought back some FROZEN durian.

It looked like raw chicken parts.

It had thawed a little along the edges by the time she brought it into the studio, so I pulled off a pinch of its pale yellow flesh. It tasted like creamed onion. 

That wasn't bad ... but, hours later, I still had the taste in my mouth. Yuck.

The durian was frozen, so I did not get a chance to experience its famous stench at its ripest. However, I could discern a faint whiff of sweaty socks.

I don't know what people see in durian, or taste in it. Have you tried one?  What did you think?


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Comments [12]

Thu Nguyen from SF Bay Area

I grew up eating durian in Vietnam and love it!
It is apparently in the genes...I don't detect ANY bad, off-putting smells or taste from this creamy, sweet and FRAGRANT fruit (if somewhat exotic for the Western palate!)
And I just recently found a great dessert shop which has the best durian ice cream...
Amy, when you're in the Bay Area, let me know and I'll take you to this place and their durian ice cream will change your mind!

Aug. 10 2011 12:57 PM
Name, Personal: Manditory from California

I can't stand durian! All the pockets where the fruit lies are like little mucus wombs. I have watched someone shovel out the gooey pods of flesh and am repulsed by that alone, not to mention the scent and taste of onions.

But it is definitely something a person must experience.

Jul. 30 2011 02:37 PM
jm from sunnyside

Ugh! As soon as my boyfriend sticks the tip of the knife into a durian, I can smell it. Our relationship generally takes a downward plunge during "the time of durian"--that is, when he's bringing it into the house, cutting it, eating it, rhapsodizing about the taste, storing it in the fridge, disposing of it, dreaming about it, talking about it.

I hate durian...the taste, the smell, the very fact that it exists. Maybe the attraction to durian is a male-thing. Or maybe he just enjoys driving me crazy...

Jul. 11 2011 12:57 PM
Greg from New Jersey

I first came across Durian working for the State Department of Primary Industries in Queensland Australia in the late 1990's.

For me the most unique characteristic of the fruit is the strangely addictive quality to it - whether mouth feel or flavour I couldn't say. After my first taste I thought to never go back - once was definitely enough. But about a week later I was looking for another taste. Then 3 days after that and then the next day.... The smell becomes less important as the taste/texture becomes more familiar. Just hearing the discussion today brought it back.

That said one year some of our guys cut a Durian in the staff room, the smell got into the air conditioning and emptied the building.... Myself included.


Jul. 08 2011 11:52 PM
carol from Mahanttan

I grew up in Malaysia eating durians. It was a treat for us - normally, we eat it straight out from the fruit or eat it with sticky rice. My best recollection is durian ice-cream and durian cakes. It is an acquired taste and one definitely grows up with the smell. It may be intensely pungent but it does not smell like socks! And it should not be describe as such as such a description will bias those who have not tried the fruit.

Jul. 08 2011 08:49 PM
Geoffrey from Iowa City

I tried a durian milkshake many years ago at a Vietnamese restaurant on Pell Street. I remember liking it, though the smell was...intense. I say I liked it, though this was many years ago and I haven't been moved to have a durian shake since.

Jul. 08 2011 08:35 PM
Jane C from Brooklyn

My sister and her friend visiting from Greece bought durian in China town, took it home and then forgot about it. The next morning they awoke to a smell of gas so strong they called the fire department. The firemen came up to the five flight walk-up and when their meter that detects gas found nothing they walked back down. Yes, turns out it was the durian.

Jul. 08 2011 08:11 PM
Shannon from Brooklyn

I tried a durian milkshake from a deli on Grand Street on a whim. I appreciated the complexity and texture, but could not fathom the incredible rotting smell that seemed to follow me out of the store, and the vulgar taste that would not wash out of my mouth for hours.

It was quickly added it to the very short list of foods that I will not eat.

Jul. 08 2011 06:13 PM
Marie Viljoen from Brooklyn

Nooo, you had a bad experience! Where was it bought? Curious.

In Chinatown, a vendor will split one for you (the skin is very tough) and the lobes of fruit inside do smell...suggestive. Stick a teaspoon into one and the creaminess inside is like the best tropical punch you've had - strongly reminiscent of pineapple and passion fruit.

I think durian icecream is better, as it tones down the very rich custardy texture, which may be an acquired taste. Used to have it often at the shuttered Pat pong restaurant on E 7th Street.

Jul. 08 2011 06:02 PM
Angelle from Bushwick

I had to try Durian as an end of year bonus following a Biology Final. It was as complex and characteristically awful as discussed in your interview. I definitely think everyone should try it. It'd put any negative fruit preferences in positive perspective.

Jul. 08 2011 05:56 PM
Laura from NYC

I love durian. It is so complex--truly the king of fruits.

Jul. 08 2011 05:34 PM

Amy! I love durian ice cream and pastries. Just sayin! Plus the fruits are excellent for still lifes.

Jun. 30 2011 10:28 PM

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