Hail the King of Fruits
Durian, no other fruits in this world can conjure such intense emotion from people – either hate or love. A fruit that looks nothing at all like it can be eaten on the outside, thick husk with thorns all over it that fends people off, I have always wondered who was the first person that ever think “hey, let’s open up this thorny rock and see what’s inside”. The next bewilderment to me is after they manage to pry open the crazy shell, they would look at the yellowish gooey chunk of meat and not to mentioned its unpleasant smell would then say “hey, let’s try to eat and see what it taste like!”. So that is how then durian has invaded our palate and humanity had never looked back ever since.
For me, durian had been a roller coaster of an affair. I used to turn my nose up to it, much to the chagrin of my Nanny and family. It was a shame actually, as my Nanny’s husband owns an estate and normally when he brings home durians, rest assured that it has been hanging on the tree just few hours ago! At that time, the whole family will gather around the bunch of durians, the whole atmosphere would be thick with excitement, anticipation and lots of impatience, where I would then stand in awe and watch the whole drama unfold as I do not understand then what is the hype all about the said fruit, durian. After the ritual of opening the durians, they would all pounce on it, grabbing fistful of soft gooey chunks, most with experience to know which to choose from that they would like. There are the ones with darker shades of yellow, some which are pale, some nearly white while some even have orange hues. Then there were the texture factor, most are soft pulp, but some slightly harder while some literary slides down your palm. All these and we have not even get to the odour yet. Oh yes, this fruit can certainly pack a punch in the aroma department, where it can be pick out through the nose way before you can see it and thereafter, it will leave a lingering aroma in the air or a stubborn smell on anywhere it had touched, long after it has been disposed off or even try to washed off.
There I was then growing up with a family blessed with fresh durians during the season and which also sing praises to them had been quite an experience but not one enough to convince me to even try to love them. But long after when I came out to stay on my own, where my culinary and taste buds had grown tremendously, I start to see the specialty of durian, culinary wise and definitely taste wise. I start to eat it by large quantities, squatting beside the bunch of opened durians, devouring one after another of each pulp from durian to durian and then returning for more of those we found we liked the most. This is how a typical luxurious durian eater eats with their fellow partners in crime; I like to call this ritual the durian feast.
I remember the first time that I ever dare myself to feast on durian, I just start popping and I could not stop after that. My parents, especially my dad who used to keep trying to get me to eat was utterly surprised. Not surprising though was that the next day, I fell sick straightaway. Yes, durian is heaty (a Malaysian way of saying something that will cause body temperature to rise) and if you’re not careful during consuming, you may end up paying the price like me! There are many tricks to counter this when consuming durian, from the unconventional ways like drinking water out of the durian husk to more scientifically logical ways like eating Mangosteen, which is a fruit that has the cooling effect at the same time. Thereafter my first gluttonous feast, I did abstain from durian for a long period of time until I feasted once more and then fell in love all over again, with this one, there is a second chance and it was all worth it!
Now, whenever the season arises, we Malaysians will start to see stalls set up even at the most obscure places in even more obscure ways such as on the back of a lorry, or a makeshift table with huge umbrellas, or even baskets lined up around a tree for shade, all by the road sides and various conspicuous places. At most of these so called stalls you would see people gathering, poking, sniffing, while the seller hacking to open a crack of one of the durians to show that their durian is as good as it can look on the outside, sometimes even opening a few for people to taste that durian species, which may fall into any mixture of the description above, from soft to hard, dark to pale colour and bitter to sweet. My personal favourite would be those that are superbly mushy and soft, mostly tend to be pale, and really bitter in taste, to me it resembles how alcoholic fudge would be, and it was extremely addictive for me.
As we all know that now we are in the durian season in Malaysia, normally between June to August, and so if you’re ever lucky to be around at this time, please do take the opportunity to try this exotic king of fruits. Trust me as I am a converter from hate to a love to an addiction relationship with this fruit. it does take some time to get attach to these smelly and unappetising looking fruit, but once you do, you would be hankering for it on every out-of-seasons to hunting around for your own personal best type during the seasons. Then again, this is where all the fun is, opening up every thorny thick skin, in hopes to find the said gem you’re looking for, eyes glimmered when it resembles what you like, and then you gingerly pick it up and then proceed to enjoy slowly, for this is one fruit where you should savour every bite and also not to not go overboard. With this, you would then have the perfect durian feast!
Rokh is a food columnist on Malaysia Travel Guide, she’s an epicurean and a cook who loves to eat, also writes in her own Malaysia Food Guide – Thamjiak.com . In this column, she will bring you along while she explore various Malaysia foods, like what is good, what makes them so special and how or where to best well enjoy them. More [+]