This, is ‘Durian’. The King of Fruits. The thing that make South East Asians happy and the rest of us gag. Of all these trips to South East Asia I have not in fact, brought myself to face the fruit and it is a challenge that I finally accepted today, with my new found Malaysian friends from the Asian Women Empowerment Conference (AWEAsia13) and I believe my fingers will never smell the same again.
I am open to try anything once, as you know, from guinea pigs to dung beetles. Durian however, has been the biggest challenge yet (at the end of the year, I will be trying Balut in the Philippines, let’s see how that stacks up) mainly due to its confronting odour.
Some say, durian is the endorphin for foodies, whose fragrance lingers like a trap from a prey, luring the unsuspecting human into its spiky vicinity; others compare durian to a pair of wet socks that has been washed in waters used for cleaning fish and then left out to dry in smelting heat on top of a pile of rotten rubbish.
Did I say confronting?
So, having put together enough courage to actually purchase pre-cut durian from a street fruit vendor, I ceremoniously opened its wrapper and poked my fingers into its squishy bulge, pulled out a chunk of seed, along with the custard-like flesh, took one last breath of non-durian contaminated air, and dived in.
Immediately, my taste buds went into conflict mode. The taste is, just as everyone had described, like no other. It was at first nauseating. I was trapped in a sensation only achievable through eating fermented garbage that has been marinating in bad milk, with the taste of it all seeping right into my very core, digging under my skin and clouding any logical thoughts in my mind.
While my head told me to spit, my guts urged me to swallow. Try again. The second time always hurts less. So I did, listened to my guts and took another bite.
Either my taste buds has all died from its first exposure or that I am finally ‘getting’ durian. My second taste brought out an entirely different sensation, and this time, the flavour was less intense and I could taste this incredibly rich after taste. It was sweet and salty at the same time, and so fascinating that I instinctively took another bite, then another…
By now, my fingers have been smeared through by durian, and even after a shower and some good soaping, the aroma of the fruit lingered strongly on the tip of my fingers. It is the same sweet and salty smell that I got towards the end of my durian escapade, a smell that is no longer a foe to my senses.
I’ve learned two lesson today: don’t judge a fruit by its odour, and to appreciate durian, is to get right into it.