It finally happened folks! We ate durian! It was the ending to a great night of food with Iris’s TA Joann and her boyfriend Ken. They took us out to a great Chinese hawker stall where I was again reminded that if there is a heaven, mine will be full of great food and lots of Chinese people. More on that coming in another post. Right now, lets get to the main story.
Not durian cream puffs or durian cake, but real durian. For those of you who might not know, durian has a bit of a reputation, especially if you watch travel shows such as I do. For a frame of reference, here is Andrew Zimmer of Bizarre Foods fame. He eats everything. Except durian apparently.
We went to a new neighborhood, SS2, to eat at DurianSS2. It was a collection of stalls, maybe 10 in total, all selling Durian and other fruits but mostly durian. There are a lot of different kinds of durian, which is perhaps to blame for why people do not like it. Some of them can be bitter, and some of them can be smelly. But also, a lot of sellers will give their rotten or unripe fruits to tourists since they know that they can not tell the difference anyway. So it is recommended, by a website not me, that you go to a reputable seller and/or go with someone who knows what they are doing. In our case, this meant going to Duriann SS2 and going with Joann and Ken, two people who have been eating durians their whole life. (Joann in fact took home some pre packaged durian for her mother-you can not really take the fruit home because it is difficult to open. Well, you could take it home, but it is just easier to go somewhere to eat it or bring home some pre-packaged stuff)
So Ken did the ordering for us and got us two different kinds of durian. One was Selangor Durian, I believe, and is very highly regarded. The other, name unknown, was still highly regarded but was not the king of the King Fruit so to speak.
The smell of durian is unique, I will say that. I would not say it is bad however. Strong and distinct, tough to describe, but neither bad nor good. It also does not get worse or better once you open up the fruit. This is done by some guy wearing a winter glove, because those spikes on the outside of the durian will hurt! He then takes a big old knife or blade of some kind, and gives the durian a good whack. Then he uses the knife to pry it open. In the above picture you are only seeing one side of the durian. Once that fruit is eaten, the workers will come back to your table and give the durian another whack to open up the other side of the fruit. The place was packed and from what people tell us, this is not just because it was a Friday not. In fact, it was Hari Raya so it was probably even less crowded then it normally would be during durian season.
And now for the big taste!
It is tasty. The Selangor one I did not enjoy as much. To me it was bitter tasting. Neither of us understand why durian is so hated though. Andrew Zimmer eats some amazingly weird stuff. Durian should not be something he can not stomach. I understand not likely it of course. It is very easy to try a bite and simply say that it is not for you. But to spit it out I just do not get.
It is custard like. Iris compared it to avocado, but more creamy. And that is not even really close, but is the best comparison I have heard. It tastes like pineapple and cooked onions, or something like that. That probably does not sound good to most of you, but it is. It a combo that works in that custard flesh of the durian. The custard part clings to the seeds, so when eating it you are essentially just sucking it all off the seeds. There are giant plastic bins all around on the ground and when you are done, you throw your seeds and the left over husks into them. A lot of people were eating with plastic gloves on because of the smell which I kind of get. Not because the smell is that bad, but it will get all over your fingers and under your finger nails. Again, its a semi solid custard type fruit really.
So this was a HUGE item on my food bucket list and was the number one food I wanted to try when I found out we were moving here. And I can not wait to have more, and to share durian with people when they visit here! Seriously, its great and even if you end up not liking it, I think it is a food you have to try.*
Little antidote to end this: I have jokingly been calling Iris my little durian, because she is sometimes smelly and sweet and complicated and wonderful. We told this to Joann and Ken and they thought it was funny. They also thought it was not a great term of endearment but they thought it was funny.
*Sandy Heise, I will NOT try to make you eat this when you come. John Heise, yes, you can handle it. But Sandy Heise, no way.