It’s that time of the year again in Asia when the much revered and reviled fruit, the durian, is in season. If you’ve never come across the durian, it is a large spiky fruit somewhat resembling a bulbous cactus.
Here’s a quote showing the reverential awe it can inspire:
Imagine the best, most delicious, and sensuous banana pudding you can imagine, add just a touch of butterscotch, vanilla, peach, pineapple, strawberry, and almond flavours, and a surprising twist of — garlic! Like many of life’s greatest experiences, eating durian cannot be adequately described with words. Durian has a characteristic delicious flavour, creamy texture, and tantalizing fragrance that is just… durian! — the king of fruits, nature’s most magnificent fruit gift.Durian Palace
The taste is certainly very unique, being both appealing and slightly repulsive at the same time. It does make a great filling for a dessert, especially when cooked in durian tarts or inside pancakes. Raw durian can be very strong, and is equivalent to eating garlic – it’s a taste you’ll find repeating on you throughout the day.
On first tasting it I thought it like the flesh of some animal in a state of putrefaction.Henri Mouhot, French naturalist
What about the smell? Some say the smell is heavenly, others say it is like rotting flesh. Here’s a selection of great quotes:
The durian’s smell is its outstanding feature – it is pungent, a bit like a clogged drain or rotten eggs.Financial Express
It has been likened to rotting onions, unwashed socks and even carrion in custard, but the most accurate description by far is that of a sewer full of rotting pineapples.BBC
Supermarkets here in Guangzhou have a dedicated durian counter. Long queues of people line up at these counters in order to get the freshest possible durian. A skilled durian picker uses a curved blade to pop the skin open, scooping out the strange yellow nuggets of durian meat, which are then placed into a plastic tray and covered with a plastic film.
The smell is so strong and distinct that it is not unusual for hotels to ban the fruit from their rooms, and to actually charge a cleansing fee should sneak them in: