Behold the King of Fruits
With its prickly exterior, this odoriferous Southeast Asian delicacy hides a soft inside that devotees fiercely love.
Words: Chusri Ngamprasert
Photo: Kay Choomongkol
With spines like that of a sea urchin, the spiky durian is a most controversial fruit: you either love it at first taste or hate it forever for its pungent smell.
The origin of the durian is believed to be from Borneo and Sumatra. The word durian comes from the Malay word “duri”, meaning “thorn”. Attributing to its formidable look, heavenly taste and overpowering odour, the durian receives the crown as the “King of Fruits”. Although beloved among its fans, this spiky king is banned from most public places and transport in Southeast Asia because of its strong smell. Think – intense blue cheese!
The French culinary encyclopaedia, Larousse Gastronomique, tells us that the durian fruit is ready to eat when its husk begins to crack as the fruit would be at its sweetest and creamiest. From region to region, the stage of ripeness to be enjoyed varies. Simply keep in mind that the more they ripen, the more they smell.
Like nature’s answer to a multi-vitamin tablet, the durian is rich in vitamin C, vitamin B complex, iron, potassium, tryptophan, and dietary fibre. It supports the immune system, enhances red blood cell regeneration and lowers blood pressure.
Fresh durian tastes better if served chilled. When in season, the durian craze goes around the Asian region. In Thailand, Khao Niao Thu Rian (Durian with Sticky Rice), durian pate, durian ice cream and pastries with durian fillings are everywhere. For the faint-hearted, start with a durian chip. Made from unripe durian, the crunchy chip has a lighter aroma plus a rich taste of the famed thorny fruit.
With seeding variations, there are over 300 varieties of durian in Thailand. Popular breeds are Mon Thong (thick, full-bodied creamy with a mild sweet fresh and moderate smell), Chanee (rich and creamy flesh, a strong smell), Kan Yao (smooth, almond-like and creamy flesh, less odorous), Kradum (buttery, smooth, with a moderate scent), Long Lap Lae (smooth, creamy, moderately sweet, with less of a smell) and Phuang Manee (sweet, creamy custard, bright yellow colour, and a strong smell).
For durian fans, the delicious taste of the fruit can be addictive. Once the fruit is enjoyed, you’ll be oblivious to the smell of the rind and you’ll keep asking for more!