If I told you it’s banned in hotels and on public transportation in Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, you might wonder: what is durian?
Is it some kind of dangerous animal or chemical? Nope, it’s a fruit and a delicacy in Malaysia and other parts of Southeast Asia.
Durian is one of the most sought-after fruits in the world, with a distinct taste and smell. It’s brownish-green and has spiky outer skin. And while they aren’t related to jackfruits, they look very similar, only smaller. The flesh has a custard-like consistency that’s typically white or yellow.
Its powerful odor has gained notoriety around the world, and it’s something you have to taste for yourself.
That said, in this blog post, we’ll explore what durian is, what it tastes like, where to buy it, and more.
Let’s get to it!
What Is Durian?
Durian is a large brown-green fruit known as the “King of Fruits,” weighing anywhere from eight to 18 pounds. Its thick, spiky skin protects pods of meaty flesh inside with a savory-sweet taste that has been compared to vanilla and banana, as well as onions and rotten eggs.
Those who love it, think it’s a lot like creme brulee with a velvety texture and sweet taste.
But those who hate it have other, less-flattering nicknames, like “the stinky gym sock” fruit.
The inner flesh can sometimes be red, and it has such a strong odor, it’s really banned in many places.
The smell lingers for days (and weeks) in enclosed spaces, which is why you’ll never see it on menus in hotels.
It grows mainly in Southeast Asia and can be challenging to get in the Western world.
What Does Durian Taste Like?
Unless you’ve tried it for yourself, it’s almost impossible to know how durian tastes.
There are numerous descriptions online and on cooking shows, and they all differ.
I had my first small bite in an outdoor market in Thailand and thought it had a mild, slightly nutty vanilla-like flavor.
It wasn’t tangy or overly sweet like most fruits, and it wasn’t bitter or foul-tasting, either.
For those who haven’t tried it, here’s my best description:
Durian tastes like sweet, custardy cheesecake when it’s ripe. Though it can often have slightly bitter undertones. However, some people argue the durian taste is overpowered by its smell, which has been likened to vomit, rotten eggs, moldy cheese, and worse.
That smell is intense even before you cut into the fruit. But while it does smell like some of those things, it tastes pretty good.
The only way to know for sure is to try it for yourself.
And be sure to try it more than once, if possible. Depending on its level of ripeness, it may taste different each time you taste it.
Where to Buy Durian
Outside of Asia, durian isn’t easy to find.
The few times I’ve had it (outside of Thailand), I found it at my local Asian market or ordered it from an exotic fruit seller online.
You may have better luck finding canned or dried durian than fresh. Amazon regularly sells many freeze-dried brands.
I’ve also had durian candies, but those have added sugars, so you don’t get the full effect.
If you’re determined to try it fresh, check Asian markets in the summer and look for fruits with light spikes and no dark patches.
Don’t buy durians with dried-out stems or that rattle when you shake them. Chances are those are no good.
How to Eat Durian
Before you eat durian, you must know how to get into it. Here are the steps:
- Make a four-inch cut on the top.
- Pull back the skin while cutting.
- Pull the durian completely apart into two equal (or almost equal) halves.
- Place the halves skin-side-down on a cutting board or clean, flat surface.
- Remove the pods with your hands or a spoon.
- Place the pods on a clean dish.
- Pull out the seeds with your hands.
- After removing the visible pods, cut through the center seam of each half.
- Pull out the remaining newly revealed pods.
After that, you can snack on the durian raw. You can also toss it in the blender to make smoothies or mix it into yogurt.
You can even cook with it!
How to Use Durian
Besides the things I mentioned above, here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy durian:
- Durian ice cream
- Durian smoothies
- Durian cocktails
- Durian candies
- Durian curry
- Durian jam
- Adding it to stews
- Adding it to crepes, pancakes, or waffles
- Adding it to cakes and other desserts
- Adding it to salads
- Sauteed with mushrooms and onions
There are also some great durian recipes online.
How to Store Durian
Storing durian is simple, whether it’s cooked or raw.
Many sites advise you to simply wrap the raw fruit in a couple of layers of plastic cling wrap. Then, you can stick it in the fridge.
I don’t like this method because, as mentioned, this fruit smells.
Instead, wrap it in a couple of layers of plastic wrap. Then, put it in an airtight, sealed container.
Some of the odor may still leak into your fridge, but not nearly as much.
Either way, it will only last a couple of extra days in the fridge.
You can keep it for about three months in the freezer, however. Just transfer the fruit to a freezer-safe Ziploc bag.
(Or wrap it in cling wrap and use an airtight container.)
Be sure to date it and eat it before the 3-month mark. Then, let it thaw in the fridge overnight before enjoying it.
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