Durian is the world’s most controversial fruit. Some treasure it like a mother loves her children, others find it so offensive they get angry at even the slightest thought.
But before we get into the reasons why durian makes some people rage with anger and others filled with ecstasy, let’s first go over what a durian really is.
Durian, colloquially known as the King of Fruit, is one of the most prized delicacies in Southeast Asia. Thailand grows and exports the largest quantity of durian, but residents of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and parts of the Philippines are equally passionate about this divisive fruit.
It’s most distinctively known for its incredibly thorny outer shell that looks more like a medieval melee weapon than a food. Though there are many natural and purpose-bred varieties most durians range in size from around 2 - 5 kilograms. They grow from thick stems, high up on the branches of durian trees which can grow to a height of 20 - 50 meters.
But the real gift is what comes wrapped within the spiky ball. Sectioned into chambers within the shell are individual pieces of yellow flesh, which have the texture of thick pudding and a taste variably described as whipped cream, corn, custard, sweet onions or almonds. No two people, it seems, taste durian the same way.
Despite the fact that durian is an undeniably interesting fruit taste-wise, there are also some undeniable reasons why some simply can’t stomach even a single bite.
The first and most evident reason is that durian has a strong aroma that even the most liberal nostrils find pungent – even when it’s still inside the spiky shell! Durian lovers say it smells like sweet fruity caramel, ripe melon or brown sugar, while durian haters are reminded of a rotting animal, bad cheese or even turpentine. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, everyone agrees that it has a strong, dense, almost sticky aroma, which is likely the trigger that generates a mental dislike of the fruit: when the first bite is taken, the only thing the eater can think about is that shocking smell and their gag reflex simply takes control despite the taste.
The next reason for the controversy is that durian has a buttery texture that’s very strange coming from a fruit. Unlike an apple that’s crisp, a banana that’s firm, or even a pineapple that’s stringy, a good durian has the consistency of smooth peanut butter, soft and velvety enough that even a toothless infant could chew it. Connoisseurs adore its rich creaminess while skeptics can’t grasp the fact that such a pudding-like consistency is its unaltered natural state.
Finally, there’s the flavor of durian, which is hard to explain properly, especially since everyone tastes it differently. Along with the texture and aroma, which plays a major factor in the flavor, the taste also changes depending on how ripe it is, varying from sweet to bitter and many shades in between. It is by all means a pungent, powerful and unique flavor that will linger in your mouth long after you eat it. Of course, it’s hard to describe accurately – the best way to understand the King of Fruits is to just sample some yourself!