The Durian Fruit

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–

No Durian

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.

Custard & almonds or pigshit & turpentine? You decide.


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5 responses to “The Durian Fruit

  1. Setian-phrenaltid

    It’s been about five or ten minutes since I polished off a plate of a few ounces of durian. It’s like pudding! Of course, it smells rank, but I got used to it and now I taste its fumes every time I burp.
    It’s like a mushy mango that lost its colour, and has the texture of fibrous pudding. I once bought a whole fruit and damn near broke the meat cleaver trying to hack that spiny bastard open! The stuff I just ate came frozen. Still smells *lovely*. Garlic, onions, crap, old socks, and farts. And fruit.

  2. To anyone who can answer…

    I just arrived from Malaysia last night and one of my friends over there has given me one. It is so special experience for that really can not be described!! Because I opened it in five stars hotel and I have caused a lot of noisiness to the hotel staff and guests.

    I still do not know what is the health or body benefit from eaten durian?
    if you know the answe please e-mail it to me at

  3. Durian is definitely an interesting experience. I had it several times in Shenzhen last year. I liked it overall. To me the flavor is redolant of custard, sugar, burning tires, old shoes, and body odor… is a very curious combination, but not completely despicable.

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    I wanna use ur “Fine” Poster in this article.
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