Sunday, July 11, 2004

Day of the Durian

The Durian and George.

"All hail great Durian, in whose spiny breast
A thousand wonderous flavours have their birth
All hail to thee! We wanderers from the West
Here crown thee King of all fruits of earth!"

- H.S. Whiteside, from Gula Melaka, 1914

"When the durians come down from the trees,
the sarongs come off... "

- ancient aphrodisiac saying

"It smells like Hell and tastes like Heaven."
- oft-heard quote, unknown author
Durian is a fruit of endless curiosity, its lore fraught with romance and peril. In Southeast Asia it is both revered and reviled. It has broken up marriages, destroyed families, ended friendships and instigated riots. Falling from tall trees the spiky fruit has even killed people. It's banned in many public places, including temples, movie theaters and airplanes. On one level it's a kind of cult, on another, it's simply the fruit connoisseur's dream. And the reason? The durian's unique smell and taste - a mix of mango, green onions and Romano cheese! (Because fresh durian has been so hard to find in the States, I'd only tasted it in ice cream and cookie form. One Christmas I brought Durian cookies for my family, as a joke, but to my surprise everyone loved the quirky flavor.)

My friend George and I had ruminated about the durian for years. Then last Summer, he brought a real durian to the office, threatening to have a tasting party. Few people liked eating it save for our Asian workmates, but I loved its flavor, and instantly understood the allure it has with half the population of Southeast Asia. And, yes, it does taste like mango, green onions and Romano cheese - with the texture of creamy custard.

View George's durian feast here.

For more about the "King of Fruits" click on Durian Palace,, DOL, Lat's Durian Cartoons, durian quotes, Durian Fruit and Daniel Eats Durian Fruit.

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