M. and I recently went to Ranch 99 in El Cerrito (the biggest Asian grocery store chain in California), and picked up a durian fruit. You know—those big spikey things reputed to be the most foul smelling fruit in the world? The fruit that is banned on public transportation in Thailand and other tropical countries? An unusually heavy fruit that occasionally drops on people’s heads, killing them? We are nothing if not food-adventurous.
So we bought it and took it home. And I have to say — we drove 80 miles, and that durian did not stink up the car. So that seemed like a good sign. We took it home, and I gave it a sniff. It smelled…fruity, a little like pineapple. Well, at the edges of that fruitiness, there was something else…indefinable. Not exactly pleasant, but not overwhelming, either. A day later, we opened it.
I found instructions online. You are supposed to shake it first, and if it’s just right, it should rattle slightly. I didn’t hear a rattle, so I was a little worried that it was overripe.
Then, after laying it on some paper (it could get messy) you turn it on its end, and look for “seams.” When you find a good one, you stick your knife in there, and pry it open along the seams. We couldn’t find any seams, though, so we just stuck the knife in, and some seams opened up. I kept a trash bag available in case we had to run it out to the garbage can in a hurry.
As it turned out, no garbage rush was necessary. After sticking the knife in, M. pried open the shell with his fingers (you might want to put on gloves–thick gloves).
At this point, some scent other than “fruity” made itself known. I thought it smelled a bit like propane. If you’ve smelled propane gas, you know I’m not referring to something pleasant. But it still wasn’t overwhelming.
The fruit inside was all gooey and yellow, and, just as described–custardy. Like a bright yellow oyster. Also kind of alien looking. As in the film, Alien. Remember the first “egg” scene? And then the thing that popped out… Well, OK, I’m exaggerating a little.
I had mentioned that I was trying out a durian on my FB page, and got a surprising amount of responses. Half of them thought that durians were a wretched, disgusting fruit invented by the devil, and the other half thought they were glorious and delectable treats. Go figure.
The yellow nodes reminded me a little of jackfruit, one of my favorite fruits; only the durian is more gooey. (Oh the wondrous, perfectly bite-sized nodes of the sweet-smelling, sweet-tasting, and extremely expensive (but worth it) jackfruit!)
We scooped the fruit out, deposited it in a container, and then each took a bite.
I found that, up close to your nose, the smell does get a bit overpowering—even coming from this relatively unstinky specimen. But it’s probably the combination of the stinky, gaseous, propane-like scent PLUS the extreme pulpy gooeyness of the fruit that makes it difficult to eat. I also noticed that some parts of the fruit (the less ripe parts) were more fruity, and less stinky. It tasted like a cross between a very ripe mango, a very ripe pineapple, and…banana custard. I tried one piece of fruit sprinkled with fresh calamansi juice (which I also got at Ranch 99). The limey freshness of the citrus (popular in the Philippines) helped a lot.
M. was OK with it. I felt just a teeny bit like retching…
But in fact, we were thinking that perhaps we had picked a durian that’s a bit too ripe, and a greener one might’ve been better.
Still, a couple days later, M. made us durian smoothies, from the pieces we had refrigerated. Of course, it was mixed with banana, star anise, cinnamon, vanilla protein powder, and soy milk—which pretty much stifled the stinky fragrance, while leaving that fruity custard taste. I actually had seconds!