DC Omnivore 100: #65, Durian

Durian by Perantau Sepi Lodge

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.

Carl Weaver is a writer and brewer for RealHomebrew.com and has been making beer and wine for more than 20 years. He is also an avid photographer and writer and just finished his first book, about a trip he took to Thailand to live in Buddhist monasteries. He considers himself the last of the Renaissance men and the luckiest darned guy in the world. Follow him on Twitter.

10 thoughts on “DC Omnivore 100: #65, Durian

  1. It even says so on the webs, Katie. Maybe I should have added that civilized people think of it as the king of fruits.

    Have you tried it? How about if I host a durian party and everyone is invited?

  2. Wanted to try it for a while now Carl, next time I am up there and have some time we should meet up for some durian.

  3. OK, so I grew up with the stuff, and that’s going to skew my objectivity, but durians are my favorite food, bar none. Wife’s not a big fan, although she does tolerate its presence in the abode.

    One warning, even if you do like it, watch out for the dreaded “durian burp” which will revisit you long after you’ve consumed the fruit, much to the agony of those around you. :-)

    I’ve also seen whole fruit in the Korean supermarkets like Korean Korner and H Mart, although they’re probably flash frozen before shipment. The good news there is the smell is greatly diminished, so you could transport it without being…noticed.

    The best way to get to the pips would be to make in shallow incision at the end of the fruit and use a knife or even a screwdriver pry the fruit open along the seam. If you’re really good, you can use your bare hands after the initial cut is made.

    Cutting all the way through the fruit might cut through the seeds, and it can get a bit messy.

    So, Carl, if you want to have that durian party, I’m in!

  4. “Artichokes and fancy mushrooms” don’t smell like “death and rot”. It’s not your friends, man, it’s the food. Stop acting like your wife’s being unreasonable.

  5. Apa – I was likening the food to being my friend and the other food to being her friend. I was also exaggerating.

    Nanther – Durian is possibly the only perfect fruit in all of creation. Thanks for the tip cutting it. I have found it hit-and-miss at Korean markets in the past but will have to check again.

    Chris – Whenever you are coming this way, let me know and I will get one to celebrate. You can bring Kim and even Drewbie if you want.

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