Not widely known to Americans, the Durian fruit is a South Asian “delicacy,” which, like so many “gourmet” foods, is either loved or despised. But regardless of whether one likes it or hates it, it seems that all agree its odor is pungent – so pungent, in fact, that in Singapore, signs prohibiting carrying Durian on public transportation are posted–
Lord Alfred Russell Wallace wrote, in “On the Bamboo and Durian of Borneo” (1856), that:
The five cells are silky-white within, and are filled with a mass of firm, cream-coloured pulp, containing about three seeds each. This pulp is the eatable part, and its consistence and flavour are indescribable. A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy. It is neither acid nor sweet nor juicy; yet it wants neither of these qualities, for it is in itself perfect. It produces no nausea or other bad effect, and the more you eat of it the less you feel inclined to stop. In fact, to eat Durians is a new sensation worth a voyage to the East to experience. … as producing a food of the most exquisite flavour it is unsurpassed
Travel and food writer, Richard Sterling, in The Traveling Curmudgeon (2003), provides a stark contrast to Lord Wallace’s praises:
… its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia.
Now, after reading all of the above, if you’re interested in purchasing some Durian, the word is that it can be found in some Asian markets in North America. I’ve never seen it in an Asian market, or I didn’t recognize when I did–and I’ve smelled so many strange things in Asian Markets that I can’t be sure whether I have ever encountered its odor, or not.