It’s time for another edition of the DC Omnivore 100, where we explore the top one hundred foods every good omnivore should try at least once in their lives.
I am guessing that probably 95% of you have never tried durian. Widely known as the king of fruits, this rare delicacy originated in Malaysia and is grown in many varieties in Southeast Asia. The real king of the king of fruits, however, is the montong variety, which is grown in Thailand and whose name is Thai for “golden pillow” - a wonderful description for how the flesh of the fruit looks.
If you have not tasted durian, you owe it to yourself to try it, at least once. Forget the Omni 100 list and what other people say about necessary life experiences. It’s all poppycock when held for inspection next to the durian.
To be honest about it, not many Americans love the fruit but on the other hand, I am rather certain nobody feels midway about it. The relationship is a dramatic one of love or hate. I fall into the love category. My lovely wife, on the other hand, falls on the opposite side of the fence. This is where marital harmony pumps its lovely little handcart to hell.
She won’t let me have durian inside and I refuse to have to eat it outside. For Christ’s sake, this is a family friend we are talking about. So my friends can’t come over but we can have your friends artichoke and fancy mushroom any time you want? Oh, good Lord, don’t get me started with all this.
The reason the durian can’t come indoors is because it smells like death and rot. It smells like a very full warmed-up morgue. The flavor of the fruit, however, is a subtle sweetness, sandwiched between overtones of onions and kerosene. However, once you get past the smell and partake of the flesh, the essence is really quite lovely and delicate. It’s a rich, hearty flavor and one taste is not enough for those whose eyes have been opened.
I wholeheartedly recommend trying this fruit. However, buying a whole durian is quite an investment in something you might not like. Look in the freezer section of your local Thai or Vietnamese market for a one-pound box of the fruit. You can get a box for about $4.69 at Duangrat’s Market or for about a dollar more at Cho Saigon, the supermarket at my beloved Eden Center. Even better, if you are feeling froggy enough to jump at this suggestion, let me know so I can join you and eat whatever scraps you do not want. It’s like manna.