I just visited a street lined with fruit stands serving durians. They sell other fruits — including mangoes, mangosteens, jack fruit, dragon fruits, and others — but only serve the durians at the tables.
If you haven’t heard of or eaten durians, here are some pictures. You can see they are unusual — sharp on spiny on the outside, looking like guts on the inside — but the smell makes them unique.
Here is a description from Wikipedia
The edible flesh emits a distinctive odour, strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the durian as fragrant; others find the aroma overpowering and offensive. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as almonds, rotten onions, turpentine and gym socks. The odor has led to the fruit’s banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in southeast Asia.
Here are a couple other, more colorful descriptions
British novelist Anthony Burgess writes that eating durian is “like eating sweet raspberry blancmange in the lavatory.” Chef Andrew Zimmern compares the taste to “completely rotten, mushy onions.” Anthony Bourdain, a lover of durian, relates his encounter with the fruit thus: “Its taste can only be described as…indescribable, something you will either love or despise. …Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.” Travel and food writer Richard Sterling says:
… its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia
Other comparisons have been made with the civet, sewage, stale vomit, skunk spray and used surgical swabs.
The smell’s potency and long-range action lead to its banishment from public, for example this sign in Singapore’s subway system
No fine for bringing them on the train, but they aren’t allowed either.
Anyway, they taste great when you get over the smell, you can’t find them fresh in the U.S., and they’re really weird, which gives them a certain allure. So I search them out when I’m around where they grow.
So on this street, groups of people — apparently often families — come and select a fruit or two. The guy at the stand chops it open and they sit down to eat them, opening them up grabbing a handful, eating the flesh, and sucking the pits clean.
The street smelled like the descriptions above — that is, not pleasant… like something rotten, but the place was crowded. It seems like a family event — let’s all go to the street that smells like rotting garbage and eat some durian!
Most of the places I visited, I saw Americans and Europeans around. On this street I saw none but myself.
So I had some durian. I like them more each time I eat them. This time I got my freshest taste. I recommend them for a bizarre, surprising taste treat.
EDIT: I found an awesome video of a tiger eating a durian! Many animals are known to eat durians. It’s great to see one. Isn’t nature amazing?
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