DURIAN

 

"It has the texture of a cold cow pat (*see note below), it smells like a poorly maintained public convenience but the taste is worse!". This is how the Asian fruit durian was first described to me, by western expats living in Singapore. Unsurprisingly I avoided it like the plague. Then I met some local connoisseurs, who hold this fruit in very high regard, they claimed "The texture is like baked custard, while the smell and taste are simply in-describable but delicious". So of course I had to try it myself.

Each fruit weighs 2 – 4 kilos, the outside skin is covered in sharp bumps. I would guess it might kill you, if you were standing under a durian tree, when one fell on your head. The most popular and expensive brand of durian in Thailand is called "Morn Tong", which literally means "Golden pillow". Undoubtedly it would be very difficult to sleep, if you did use a durian as a pillow. A cheaper Thai brand is "Chanee"

Inside the prickly, yellowish green outer casing, is a generous bed of white pith. Embedded in the pith are several lumps of pale yellow flesh, each of which contains a single dark brown stone. The yellow flesh is what you eat. The Thais like the flesh to be firm and the flavor relatively mild, while Malaysians tend to prefer the flesh to be almost decomposing and the smell quite putrid. Many of the Malaysian varieties are identified by codes. D24 is popular.

To me the texture of durian is like avocado, while the taste and smell is somewhat like a strong Camembert cheese, sweetened with honey. The Thai version could be equated to a young Camembert, while the Malaysian version is more comparable with a Camembert that has been stored for a long time, in a warm room and has consequently liquefied in it’s centre.

I now love the stuff and find myself moving with the season, which starts for me with the annual fruit fare at the Thai Embassy in Orchard road, Singapore. Having re-acquainted myself with the milder flavoured Morn Tong and Chanee there, I find myself a month or two later, a few miles away at Geylang, tucking into the D24s and other purulent Malay variety.

I have been told by a number of people that beer can be fatal, if drunk within a few hours of eating durian. This is apparently on account of some fermentation process, which causes your bowels to explode. However, based on my own experiments, this rumor appears to be totally untrue. WARNING : Not everyone has the same metabolism, so I take no responsibility if you try it and achieve a different result.

Durian season runs through April and May for the Thai durian and somewhat later for the Malay ones. The durian season is as eagerly anticipated by local Asians each year, as Christmas is by children in the West.

*Note The reason the "cow pat" referred to above had to be cold, is due to a tendency for durian flesh to be slightly crusty on the outside while remaining viscous on the inside.

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