Durian, the legendary tropical fruit of Oceana, is considered by many to be the ultimate eating experience. Covered with a thick brown spiky husk, it resembles a bizarre medieval football. However, the magnificence that lies within is out of this world!
Durians are mainly available from Asian food stores in cities. If your Asian grocer does not recognize the name “durian,” ask for it by its Asian name, “mornthong.” Durians typically come frozen from Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore. Frozen, they sell for around $1.50 per pound; fresh, they typically sell for $4 per pound and up. Averaging 6 pounds each, durians are an expensive meal, but you may find them to be well worth any price!
A good durian has a light, fruity aroma. A durian that has a repulsively noxious aroma may still be good to eat—the husk may he decomposing and releasing sulfurous gases, giving it the characteristic rotten egg aroma. But don’t give up—ecstasy lies within!
Durians typically have five inner chambers (locules), each with a soft, creamy, yellowish piece of fruit, with one or two large seeds (to be discarded). Each chamber, or pod, has an invisible seam down the middle. When naturally ripened on the tree, the seams split open, yielding fruit for fortunate primate or human connoisseurs. Since virtually no durians arrive at the market split open, you can try feeling for the seam and peeling the pods open with your fingernails. If that fails, a sharp knife will do the trick.
Durian can be eaten semi-frozen, providing a delight reminiscent of banana-nut ice cream. Eaten at room temperature after thawing, the durian fruit is amazingly silky and creamy, making it an incomparable, naturally sensual delight. Mildly to moderately sweet, with about 5 percent fat content (weightwise), durian is “oh so satisfying.” However, the secret to the durian’s allure goes way beyond the sweetness.
All tropical fruits contain natural hormonal proteins—precursors to neurotransmitters—enhancing our brain functions and making most people feel good. The durian, apparently, is the richest food source of these proteins, taking most eaters to a wonderful state of euphoric happiness and lovability. Indeed, durian is well-known as an aphrodisiac. But if this makes you uncomfortable, fear not, for the effect is comfortable and natural.
In contrast to the dense, ice cream-like texture imparted by freezing, fresh (unfrozen) durian is lighter, reminiscent of whipped cream. If you can shell out the $30 to $36 for a fresh durian, here’s hoping that it it is a perfectly ripe one! Durians are available in different varieties, each having slightly different flavors and textures and, generally, a small percentage of the durians we choose will not be completely ripe—they can be hard, rubbery and unpalatable. The quality of the fruit inside is not easily discerned before opening, making durian-buying a bit of a gamble; however, a nice fruity aroma and a light brown husk are the best clues to go by. Avoid dark-brown husks—these typically have been thawed out and refrozen one or more times, reducing their flavor and producing the characteristic rotten egg aroma.
If you get one or more “bad” durians, don’t give up! The next one might give the ultimate eating experience of your life! A good durian is, in my opinion, the ultimate monomeal. I actually think that durian goes way beyond any other food—even my second-most-favorite food ranks a distant second place. Share one with a friend and enjoy this gem of Creation!