August 8, 2014

Stinky and spiky.Few fruits are capable of being as divisive and controversial as the durian. Hailing from Southeast Asia, the large, spiked fruit has been known to be a fatal threat to those walking beneath the durian trees during harvest time. And if being impaled by the fruit’s spikes doesn’t kill you, it is possible the stench might.

The durian fruit is famous for having an incredibly foul odor that food writers enjoy describing in wonderfully gag-inducing detail. Richard Sterling once wrote of the fruit, “its odor is best described as pig sh*t, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock.” Adventure foodie and chef Anthony Bourdain pronounces that after an afternoon spent indulging in fresh durian, “Your breath will smell as if you’d been French kissing your dead grandmother.” To say the fruit stinks is an understatement.

In fact, the durian smells so bad that it has been outlawed in many public places. Try to take a durian on a plane, into a hotel, or to any other confined, public space and you are likely to become the subject of intense general scorn. In many instances you will be evicted.

That being said, there are many who have been able to get over the smell of burning garbage and rotting meat to quite enjoy the fleshy insides of the durian. It’s taste is difficult to describe, a mixture of many flavors that include caramelized bananas and hazelnut. In many places, the fruit is not eaten until it falls off the tree. At that point, the durian innards have become so ripe that they become mushy and very cottage-cheese-like. For some, the texture can be as off-putting as the smell.

Love it or hate it, the durian is truly one of the most interesting fruits in the world. If ever you have the chance to try a sampling of it, be sure to not let the horrible smell put you off. Take a bite in the name of research.