The Art of Eating a Durian

by Anevay Darlington / Sep 28, 2013 /

Durian Fruit… In my opinion they are strange. You, the reader, might see why if you read on…

The Art of Eating a Durian

In Southeast Asia, some people regard them as the “king of fruits”. The Durian has been eaten since prehistoric times, but only for 600 years in the western world. In Europe, the first reference of the Durian Fruit is in the record of Niccolo Da Conti, who traveled to Southeast Asia in the 15th century. Poggio Bracciolini recorded Da Conti’s travels and explained the Durian Fruit like this:

“They [people of Sumatra, the place where Da Conti traveled in Indonesia] have a green fruit which they call durian, as big as a watermelon. Inside there are five things like elongated orangs, and resembling think butter, with a combination of flavors.”

I totally agree with this description. For me, the flavor is hard to explain; it’s umami (the fifth taste), which means it sort of settles in your mouth like salmon with the fishy, slimy sort of feel.

To me, Durian smells as if it could be a sauce on sushi. I would rather not put it on my sushi - the smell and taste of it aren’t for me. It also has a sort of sweetness to it, and smells like it’s from the sewers. People think that Durian smells of almonds, rotting onions, or a gas leak - everybody thinks it smells different. Personally, I think it smells awful, tastes like sweet sewage (confusing right, yeah I know), and looks like crème brulee.  

The Art of Eating a Durian

Who would eat this? Yes, some Southeast Asians love it, but for most westerners it’s a little daring. Here’s the story of how we ate this odd fruit:

Earlier in the day, my mom had taken a tour in Chinatown (in NYC where Chinatown goes on for many miles), and she happened across a Durian, so she picked it up and brought it back to my friends’ house (where I had spent the night). Mom found the perfect people to eat it. They’re all very adventurous people:

“Guess what I have!” Mom said when she came in the door. She opened a plastic bag and inside was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.  OK, living in NY I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff, but this was strange. The Durian had sharp, tough skin that I’ve heard can draw blood (I touched it; no blood was drawn that day). It was another one of mom’s brilliant ideas.

“What is that?” said 5 year old Johnny.

“A Durian Fruit.”

“Weird,” I muttered.

Johnny, Willa, and Sammy’s dad looked at it and sighed, “I think that’s going to smell bad, let’s take it outside.”

We walked out to the backyard, with the sidewalk running along the side, the garden with the big grape vine, small maple trees, smallish sunflowers, and many herbs running along the side; basil, mint, etc. It was a beautiful day, but suddenly a smell like no other (that was close to a sewage smell) wafted into my nose. I looked down and saw that mom had started to cut open the durian. The rest of us stood there watching her as the smell gradually got stronger. Mom finally opened it all the way and we all stood there looking at the crème colored goop.

“That looks, umm, interesting,” I said.

Willa, Johnny, and I all hesitantly took our spoons and took a bite at the same. Johnny made a face. Willa looked thoughtful and said, “I’ll try it again and hold my nose, maybe it’ll help.”

“Good idea,” I said. Willa and I dug our spoons in again and each tried a bite, this time holding our noses.

“That helped a little bit,” I said The sewage taste cut back a little bit when you didn’t breathe in.

Then mom took a bite. It was the ultimate in food retribution-let’s just say her face turned green for a second.

Next was Willa’s dad. After he had one bite, he had another, and another, and another- he ended up eating half of the thing. All of us watched him eating more and more. I don’t think he necessarily liked it, but maybe he ate so much because he was experimenting with the tastes, wondering if one way he ate it would make him like it better. For example, if you were to eat a big bite or a small bite, what might taste better?  But that’s just my theory, who knows. I have no idea why he ate so much… maybe he did like it.

“Weird,” he said, taking yet another bite. I don’t how he did it. 

I’m glad I tried Durian, it was an…interesting experience, one that I won’t forget. Every country has different tastes and different things that they’re used to. For example, here in America a lot of people like Cheetos (I personally think they’re gross, but don’t let that stop you from eating your crunchy cheesy things), but people in another country might not. The Durian is a delicacy in Southeast Asia, but here in the US, most people think it gross. It’s all about preference. Practicing cultural relativity includes trying new things whether you like it or not. So yes… Durian wasn’t my favorite, but I’m glad I tried it. Just a warning though, after you have a bite, the taste in your mouth will get stronger and you may want some mints handy.

 

 

Anevay Darlington is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Anevay Darlington

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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