Durian is an interesting fruit. It’s a fruit that conjures up a few different images: the business end of a medieval mace perhaps, Andrew Zimmern vomiting on cable television, a beautiful muslim woman in Southern Thailand wielding a machete with surgeon-like skill at a fruit stand, and a million other scenarios those of us who like to watch television about food could pull from our brain vaults at a moment’s notice.
When it comes to durian, though, it’s not the images that matter. The one thing that everyone talks about is the smell. Anthony Bourdain describes it as the smell of a rotting dumpster, but claims the fruit is delicious. I’m pretty sure Andrew Zimmern, who will eat anything including uncooked testicles and other offal bits used the word “putrid” before vomiting up his serving of this majestic beast of a fruit. One of my Korean coworkers tells the students (in Korean) something that includes “hwa-jang-shil” which translates to “toilet” in English, so I can only imagine it’s not something nice.
I don’t find the smell all that terrible, and neither does Carolyn. I think the smell of durian could be described like this. You know your grandmother’s oldsmobile that she owned from 1980 until 1998? The one with the pleather seats that was always kept clean but smelled of granny’s car specifically because it was rarely used and the interior baked in the hot Texas sun all day every day? Now, if you can imagine what that car would smell like if you spilled about ten gallons of that canned Hawaiian Punch (yeah, the red one) in the car and let it sit in the hot Texas sun for a whole summer. You’d get a concentrated mix of granny’s car and Hawaiian punch delivered to your nostrils upon opening the door that could probably be smelled from space. Yes I realize that there are no smells in the vacuum of space. That’s what it smells like. From like a hundred yards away.
I wanted to try durian really bad when we visited Thailand this summer. I had a year’s worth of regret built up inside me for not trying it in Bali last year. I had a chance to buy it, but the gal at the fruit stand was expertly slicing a pineapple for too long and it was late and we just wanted to lay down in bed. I should have waited, because I had no idea how difficult it would be to try this fruit and that those difficulties would keep me once again from experiencing the stench of durian in my own gullet.
The truth about why I haven’t tried durian
- Durian are really big. They have a hard shell. We did carry a knife for one night after we bought it to cut fruit, but we didn’t see any durian on that outing. Dammit. Why not take the durian back to your room with you? Well that’s point number two.
- You can’t take a durian into your hotel room to cut it with the knife you bought and kept in your room. Yeah, you left your fruit knife in the room because you don’t want to walk around with a shiv all night. Dumb mistake, n00b. No durian for you.
- Taking a durian into your hotel room, public transportation, or just about anywhere enclosed is a no-no. One of our guesthouses in Phuket made it clear that there would be a 2,000 baht adjustment made if durian was taken into the room. I guess that smell really sticks. Don’t leave that fruit knife in your room if you want to take on the king of fruits.
- There’s no trash cans, and I can’t stand to litter.
- If you try to order a sexy durian dessert, expect it to be sold out. I tried to order one the last night we were in Phuket, and I’ll be damned if there wasn’t any available.
So I’m a disappointment to adventurous food nerds everywhere. I missed my opportunity to try durian. Hopefully, one day soon, we’ll be back in Southeast Asia, I’ll have a damned machete or something in my back pocket, and the gal at the fruit stand won’t be spiral slicing a pineapple at a late hour at night when I’m ready for bed. C’est la vie, I guess.