Posted by Degan on September 21st, 2010
Note: this post was imported from EthnicEats.ca
Ah durian, that infamous, odorous fruit. I can’t just leave well enough alone, can I? The first time I tried durian, I got some of the frozen, processed durian-in-a-box from T&T Supermarket. It was a whim – I had heard about the horrific, cloying odor but also about the near cult-like addiction South Asians seem to have to the fruit and as I was on the way to meet my friend at the Irish Heather, I figured we could fortify ourselves with whiskey first. How bad could it be?
Schott’s Miscellany of Food and Drink describes it as “a tropical fruit notorious for its taste and smell, either or both of which may provoke reactions ranging from revulsion to adulation” whereas my Oxford Companion to Food writes that, “comparisons have been made with civet cat, sewage, stale vomit, onions and cheese; while one disaffected visitor to Indonesia declared that the eating of the flesh was not much different from having to consume used surgical swabs.”
But still I thought they must be overreacting and I unwrapped the package without much fanfare, getting the fruit almost to my mouth before a full-body gagging motion overtook me and my body bent in half. How and why I put it in my mouth after that, is just evidence of my utter stubbornness and nothing I said or did after that could convince my friend to try it. I threw the package out, brushed my teeth, took the trash out of the house and – when I noticed that garbage day had just passed – prayed that we would not get evicted.
The next attempt was at Phnom Penh, one of my favorite restaurants, and in whom I trust wholly to serve me delicious things. It came served with condensed milk and was so much better than the first attempt that I ate it with relish, although one of my dining companions described the smell as a combination of gasoline and semen.
With increased attempts, the gag reflex is tamed and I acquired something of a taste for the “acquired taste” in its various forms…durian ice cream, for instance, is lovely. But I had still not tried pure, fresh durian and while we can’t get fresh durian here (because it’s not allowed on planes!), whole, frozen durians are available and I sneakily grabbed one the last time we were at T&T. Getting it home (without dropping it, ripping the bag on the spikes, poking ourselves in the legs, etc.) was one thing but as it thawed over the next day it became very clear we had no strategy for eating it.
How to Eat a Durian was not all that helpful, but the advice that “vomiting… is common but considered bad form,” insured that we would not be sampling the “corpse fruit” in our house.
And that is how my fiancé and I ended up sneaking out under the cover of darkness to eat a durian in a park bench near our house.
“Are you scared?” I asked him. This was a question that needed no response. If frozen processed durian was bad, fresh meat must necessarily be worse by orders of magnitude.
And yet it wasn’t. When we got it open there was certainly a smell but not an overwhelmingly bad one. I did spit out the first mouthful because the stringy, clumpy texture was a little much to deal with after home-made ikura but it was certainly tolerable. Matt tweeted, “So…. Durian isn’t bad at all – even tasty! The texture, on the other hand – kind of like partially-congealed snot.”
And so we’ve leveled up in the realm of durian. At least until we get to Southeast Asia.