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Southeast Asia: Durian, the “King of Fruits”

Categories: East Asia, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Food


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 [2] of durian in the region.

Despite its offensive smell, durian is a leading food product [3] thanks to its distinctive flavor. Examples of durian products are durian pancakes and macaroons [4] in Kuala Lumpur, durian candy and ice cream [5] in Davao City in the Philippines, durian mousse cake [6], and cream puffs in Brunei, and baked durian in whole wheat filo pastry [7] in Indonesia. There is even a durian flavored condom [8] in Vietnam.

jerrenn from Malaysia does not like the smell of durian but admits that it is the undisputed “king of fruits” [9]

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 [10], in an email reply, writes about the popularity of durian in Brunei [11]

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 [12] 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 [13] 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 [14]. If Big Apple is New York, the blogger describes Jakarta as the Big Durian [15]

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 [16] 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 [17], 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 [18] 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 [19] to Singapore just to purchase 98 pieces of durian.

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