Originating from Southeast Asia and abundant in countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia durian is a popular tropical fruit that many North Americans have never seen before. With its odd, spiky appearance, it looks almost alien to us. Its taste and looks are as strange as they come, and while some revere it as the “king of fruits”, some stay far from its pungent aroma.
Durian aromas can be overwhelming, but it has a hint of complexity that encompasses sweet custard, overripe cheese, and garlic. Enthusiasts describe the flavor as sweet, creamy, and even slightly bitter. The complexity of these flavors makes it a favorite addition to desserts such as ice cream, puddings, and cakes. Pastries carry a special feel when durian is added. And while I found it very difficult to find durian flavored desserts in Canada, when I get the option, I always opt for durian flavored Swiss cake at the local Chinese bakery.
The nutrient profile of this fruit is also diverse. It contains vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and a good source of antioxidants that improve overall health. It also has a relatively high-calorie content, which means eating small amounts is recommended.
Durian has always been a controversial fruit. Once I stepped into a local creamery which offered durian flavor and I noticed the ice cream was stored with a cover to protect the smell from contaminating the other flavors. Moreover, transporting the fruit proves difficult, with its spikey exterior, but also its strong odors that, when mixed with other foods, may be overpowering and offensive.
If you’re interested in trying this exotic fruit, here’s a few tips:
Opening the durian:
- Selecting a ripe durian: Look for a durian with a strong, pleasant aroma and a slightly yielding shell. Avoid ones with moldy or wet stems, as these could indicate over-ripeness or spoilage.
- Tools Needed: You might require gloves (as the spikes can be sharp), a sharp knife, and a mat or newspaper to catch any drips.
- Cutting the Durian: Make a shallow cut around the middle of the durian, then pry it open with your hands or a tool. Some vendors sell pre-cut durians, making it easier to access the flesh.
Eating the Fruit:
- Removing the Segments: Durian is divided into segments, each containing a seed surrounded by creamy flesh. Use your fingers or a utensil to separate the segments.
- Enjoying the Flesh: The flesh can be eaten fresh as is. Some people enjoy the durian chilled, while others prefer it at room temperature. Each segment contains soft, custard-like flesh that you can scoop out with a spoon or simply bite into.
- Discarding the Seeds: The seeds are not edible raw. Remove them and discard, or consider cooking them as they can be used in various recipes.
Flavor Pairings: Durian pairs well with sticky rice, coconut milk, or in desserts like ice cream, pancakes, or cakes. Some enjoy it in savory dishes or shakes.
Moderation: Durian is rich and can be heavy on the stomach. Enjoy it in moderation, especially if it’s your first time, to avoid any potential digestive discomfort.
Smell Consideration: Eating durian emits a strong aroma. Some people prefer consuming it outdoors or in well-ventilated spaces due to its distinctive smell, which not everyone finds pleasant.