Close

Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Southeast Asia: Durian, the “King of Fruits”

Durian photo from the Flickr page of YimHafiz used under CC License Attribution 2.0 Generic

Durian is an exotic fruit found in many Southeast Asian nations. It is known for its strong smell and taste which are appreciated and detested at the same time by many people. There are more than 20 varieties of durian in the region.

Despite its offensive smell, durian is a leading food product thanks to its distinctive flavor. Examples of durian products are durian pancakes and macaroons in Kuala Lumpur, durian candy and ice cream in Davao City in the Philippines, durian mousse cake, and cream puffs in Brunei, and baked durian in whole wheat filo pastry in Indonesia. There is even a durian flavored condom in Vietnam.

jerrenn from Malaysia does not like the smell of durian but admits that it is the undisputed “king of fruits”

Of course, that's to people who like it- to people who don't, like yours truly, we can hardly call it the king of fruits, although ‘national fruit’ seems suitable to me

But the durian is a unique fruit, isn't it? There are people who love it, and there are those who loathe it. I myself never liked it. The smell has always been overpowering. For those of you who like it, don't say a word, but for those of you who don't, you'll get what I mean when I say it's a foul stench.

GV author Senor Pablo, in an email reply, writes about the popularity of durian in Brunei

It's a very popular fruit in Brunei….and we have special varieties not seen in other parts of South East Asia… like orange to red coloured Durian. I have friends from China living in Brunei who would travel around Borneo trying out the different varieties….

Durian is considered king of fruits and to some an aphrodisiac!!

Speaking of red durians, Foodiva's Kitchen shares the red durian quick rolls recipe.

Durians are really an acquired taste for people who are not brought up eating this sweet, pungent-smelling fruit. But then hey, I eat smellies like blue cheese without any problem and I wasn't exactly brought up on that! I guess the key here is to keep an open mind and don't just believe everything you hear or read until you try it

The red durians are prevalent in Borneo and they have a very rich, sweet taste that I can't adequately describe here. If only my tongue could write, I would let it have a go at telling you how this fruit tastes like. Lol!

Durian is banned in many public places especially in hotels and airplanes. Still Life in Moving Vehicles from Bangkok uploads a picture of a ban durian signage

Durian, the spiky-looking tropical fruit that originates from Southeast Asia, isn't welcome in certain public places. Hotels, airplanes, and even taxis sometimes have signs or stickers on their windows that inform customers to leave their fruit at the door because it has a strong unpleasant odor. There's an urban myth that claims that some people who consume durian in combination with alcoholic beverages die from a strange chemical reaction. So it's an especially good thing the sticker next to it forbids customers to drink in the cab

Multibrand compares Jakarta City of Indonesia to durian. If Big Apple is New York, the blogger describes Jakarta as the Big Durian

I felt that Jakarta is similar to my favorite fruit i.e. the Durian which has sharp thorns, thick skin, and smells okay although might not be good for some people, but TASTES A LOT MUCH BETTER THAN ANY OTHER FRUITS, therefore I would not want to exchange with any other fruit.

What's That Noise from the Philippines is not bothered by the smell of durian

The smell doesn’t bother me. The fruit is custard-like but stringy with a seed in the middle of each section. The taste reminds me of slightly sweet onions. People either love it or hate it. After we had a few pieces, we gave the rest to a friend because it was smelling up the house and no one else here would eat it.

Kokot, also from the Philippines, believes that eating durian is like “eating your favorite ice cream in a public toilet”

My father’s family owns durian trees so, most of his family eats the fruit. I recall it was during durian season and the house keepers were opening baskets of durians at the back yard and my cousins were standing in front of them with their eyes set on the durian. Watching everyone eating durian was mouthwatering. My grandmother offered me one and to be honest, I didn’t like it at all but it grew on me and now I love it! I had trouble eating it at first because of the smell. I used to tell my grandmother that eating it was like eating your favorite ice cream in a public toilet. She used to refrigerate it and when it comes out from the fridge cold it taste better, a lot better

Bucaio from Davao in the Philippines (durian is planted in the Davao region of the Philippines) didn’t like durian during the first time she ate it

It was like eating butter redolent with raw garlic. I like butter, and I adore garlic, and I love them together in anything savory. But to find the combination in a fruit is nothing short of bizarre.

But has since then changed her mind

I had sampled three varieties (Cob, Yellow Cob, Arancillo) and they were all, ambrosially, sweet.

Sweeter than langka (jackfruit), but with the same pungency, though durian pulp is soft as moist cotton, the fibers fine and smooth.

Perhaps a good indicator of durian’s popularity in the region is the reported story of how Macau’s ‘gambling king’ Stanley Ho sent his personal jet to Singapore just to purchase 98 pieces of durian.

GV authors from the Southeast Asia region contributed to the drafting of this post.

7 comments

  • gie

    We have DURIAN FESTIVAL in Tagum City, Davao del Norte every August and we have lots of activities showcasing what can durian do to the palate…but, beware, one has to be cautious because eating too much is dangerous – it may lead to high blood pressure. It is very nutritious and an aphrodisiac!

  • Amira

    I haven’t tasted this fruit, but heard about it many forums and seen it hypermarkets.

    It resembles Jackfruit, which is of two varieties one is with mushy bulbs and one very crunch type. Mushy type is used for making cakes

    Stench is horrible(though I love to eat them) I remember in some homes cows would come in backyard

  • The Esplanade is a giant arts complex on the Singapore waterfront.

    Nicknamed “The Big Durians” after the spiny tropical fruit, the two domes house a 2,000-seat theatre and a 1,600-seat concert hall.

    I visited it a couple of years ago, photo here – http://flic.kr/p/7cwmys

    While I loved the building, I found Durian ice cream pretty tough on my (London) tastebuds.

  • Durian is so good! I love it frozen – it’s like a ice cream :) you either love it or hate it.

    If you are ever interested to visit Asia then check out my company Path to Asia. Right now you can to spend your life on ‘vacation’ in paradise, living like royalty on a fixed income, or start a business and invest for extra income. Pathtoasia.com is connecting Americans to opportunities in prime destinations!! Check http://pathtoasia.com for more answers..

  • Oh the smell of durian. I lived in Singapore for many years in the red-light district, which apart from its many attractions, is also a main durian market area. Personally I’m not a fan of the pungent smell or unusual taste, but I love walking in this area and watching the busy fruit trade. If you want to see some photos of durian sellers in Geylang, Singapore, check out http://www.lifetraveladventure.com/photography/entry/singapore-images.

  • harriet

    I am really enjoying dried durian chips I just brought home from Bangkok, Thailand. They taste like slightly salty potato chips, and have a benign odor.
    Quite a versatile fruit!

  • […] reports that the durian statue in Kampot, Cambodia is now complete in time for the Khmer New Year. Durian is a tasty fruit in Southeast Asia. […]

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.