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My first durian

Hi folks,

I was in Manhattan Chinatown this evening and saw a fruit vendor cutting open durians and neatly scooping out the flesh into take out boxes for customers. After reading so much about durians on this board, I decided to purchase one. As many posters have written, the flesh was a combination of creamy custard surrounded by thin layers of firmer flesh. The combination of smooth and gentle crunch was enticing. The custardy part was the texture of strained yogurt and very rich. The flavor was sweet like a vanilla pudding, but with a surprisingly strong touch of roasted garlic! Since many posters have also said that it's hard to have a good durian experience outside of Asia, I was wondering if my experience was close to the real thing. How would you describe the flavor of durian? Do you prefer to eat it cold or at room temperature?

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  1. Im very interested in trying Durian.I always smell them at the asian stores when I walk by and wondered how they'd taste.Sound good.

    1. Yes, ...but do you have a sense of smell?

      3 Replies
        1. re: billjriv

          I meant chowmeow, who describes the experience with no referencce whatsoever to smell. I mean I liked the taste and texture but not the smell when I lived in Asia.

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            Hi Sam,
            Yes, there definitely was a strong odor. To me, it smelt mainly like gasoline, which I do not like at all. I didn't get the rancid smell that many complain about. I chose not to describe the smell in my OP because I had already found so many posts about the foul odor.

      1. Welcome to the durian club.

        Yes, your experience is pretty close to the real thing. You do get better durians in SE Asia, but you can also have pretty good durians here as well.

        I don't smell the garlic when I taste it - perhaps roasted meat would be closer (pork?). Sweet, savory, savory, savory. I think the sheer bizarreness of tasting anything other than conventional fruit throws people off.

        Wikipedia is also good at perpetuating groundless or unfair myths.

        You can serve it at room temperature or cold.

        2 Replies
        1. re: grocerytrekker

          The colder the better for beginners (I like it half frozen, it takes on a crunchy ice cream texture) but as it grows on you you'll enjoy the smooth texture of it at room temperature.

          1. re: grocerytrekker

            Ah! I tasted my first "garlicky" mealy durian yesterday.

            Now I see what you mean by garlicky. When you can actually taste garlic though, it tends to be a mealy durian, perhaps repeatedly frozen. The flesh should be firm, the thin membrane entirely intact (although creamy inside). Not white and mushy. Really good ones are VERY sweet and tends to overpower off-flavors, if any.

            What I had yesterday happened to be a mild Thai durian, which is nice when fresh, but perhaps should not be frozen.

          2. Sounds like you had a very positive durian experience.

            To me, durian is best appreciated at full pungency (ie room temperature) and when the surrounding skin is punctured by the teeth to reveal the custard-y flesh. However, frozen durian is akin to eating a custard-y ice cream, which is also very delicious. I prefer the ones that are just slightly bitter (to offset the sweetness). I agree that there is a garlic and onion aftertaste that lingers long after you have partaken of the fruit - you will burp up durian fumes!

            BTW, a tip for getting the durian smell off your hands is to wash with water that has been run over the inside of the durian husk. Also, to avoid 'heatiness', drink salt water from the husk.

            1. Thanks for your responses - I'm glad that I had a good first time experience with the durian. It sounds delicious frozen so I'd like to do that with some of my left overs. I definitely want to try them in Asia some time!

              1. I have had my first durian a couple years ago and it was just as you describe amazingly custardy and vanilla tasting but with a very strong taste of onions (as if somebody pureed custard and onions together)
                What I found interesting is that I always was really put off by the smell (even just passing by) and when we first opened it, i had to really "dare" myself to try it -- then I ended up eating 1/2 of it by myself. However, since then I LOVE the smell! (have been warned to never bring one back to the apartment ever again though ^-^ so have to wait until I find someone else who likes durians and eat it at their place)

                1. So funny- my SO and I got one last week in Chinatown and were so excited to eat it. We were out for the day and to make a long story short I set it down at some point and stepped on it. The skin was punctured a little and it started to smell. Here's the crazy part- my SO was disgusted. He keep saying it smelled like rancid garbage. I on the other hand thought it smelled fine--we ended up tossing it out because he thought that we were disturbing people with the smell. now he is nervous to get another one. Is this common for one person to smell something good and one to think it smells awful? Also we live in a small apartment--does the smell last a long time. I don't want to kill my neighbors if they have the smae reaction as him.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: roze

                    Well my boyfriend thought it smelled horrible, then tried it, and still hates the smell -- he assures me that our apt smelled like durian for 2-3 days even with airing out. Then again I didn't smell anything at all.

                    1. re: roze

                      If your SO does not like the smell of it, it might be a good idea not to bring it into the apartment. I have family members that can't stand the smell of it and will not permit it in their home. There are hotels in SE Asia that do not permit it in their hotel. It is a strong smell that fills a room or more than one room once it is open. You can even smell it through the skin. If you like the smell of it and can stand it, then you probably will enjoy the taste of it. Since your SO can't stand the smell of it, he might think it the most disgusting thing he has ever eaten.

                      Maybe you can open it or have it on the balcony or patio, if you have one--throw it away in a very good plastic bag (double bag if necessary).

                    2. There are genetic determinants for the sensing of a few flavors. Some are tasters and others not for a few specific flavors. This discussion certainly gives rise to the hypothesis that some smells are received by some and not others (and that the difference is genetically determined).

                      1. Youze guys are very brave.

                        1. This is what I find to be true, those who like the taste of durian can stand the smell of it (even enjoy it b/c of the taste association) and those who think it stinks, tend to dislike the scent of it.

                          I personally love it and agree with the description of the texture and taste. I enjoy it on the colder side. I have had it in cake, candy version, cookie version, and looking for other forms of it.

                          1. I've eaten durian only in Malaysia, and always at room temperature (rather higher than 72 degrees in the village), never cold.

                            1. Oh my...reading your account brings a smile to my face. Having been raised in SE Asia on a respectable amount of durian, I'd have to say your experience sounds dangerously close if not comparable to the real thing.

                              Custardy? Yes. Garlicky? Yes. Personally I would add Butterscotchy to the mix, but that's just me I guess.

                              Maybe nostalgia's got the best of me but I like durian anything. I'll happily consume it in whatever shape it takes, be it shakes, candy, cake...whateva!

                              My fiance can't stand the smell of it but even when I have some of it in the house he somehow finds it in himself to sample some of my share. Hmph.

                              Cold or room? Well, maybe I'm a purist but I like it at room. I find I can best taste the flavors that way.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: copacetic

                                Thanks for sharing you sweet memory! How lucky you were to grow up in SE Asia, center for such great food and fruits. Although I'm a durian novice, I think I'd agree with you about having it at room temperature. When I ate it cold, the cold seemed to cancel out some of the flavor - maybe it was numbing my mouth!

                                1. re: chowmeow

                                  Yeah I miss those days. Durian was pretty cheap in Kota Kinabalu back then. I can only imagine what the price per pound is nowadays in NYC...yikes!

                                  Maybe the room temperature thing is similar to eating sweets at warmer temperatures. I find that eating desserts after they've been heated usually make them taste sweeter than if I just ate them straight out of the refrigerator.

                                  Perhaps there's a scientific explanation for this? It would make a great feature on a Good Eats show.

                                  1. re: copacetic

                                    The durian was probably expensive compared to prices in Asia, but reasonable (for me anyway) for NY prices. It cost me about $5.50, and while I didn't see the weight, the cut meat completely filled a foam take-out tray and kept me happy for days. In NYC, you'd pay the same amount for one slice of cheesecake, and I'd take the durian any day.

                              2. My wife and I ventured into the local Vietnamese place a couple weeks back. On their menu is a durian shake. I asked the waiter if it was made with real durian or a durian mix. He said it was a mix but assured me it was a good representation of durian.
                                I have to admit, it has a very weird "I couldn't quite nail it down" flavour to it. It didn't really smell either. It was also good. Not knock my socks off good but I enjoyed it.
                                I wouldn't order it again but it's only because on our return visit today I tried the jackfruit shake and it was fantastic. Sort of a banana/vanilla with a background citrus taste to it. I loved it.


                                1. Hi Davwud,
                                  Is your local Vietnamese place in NYC? I would love to try those shakes, in particular the jackfruit. They sound delicious!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: chowmeow


                                    It's in Newmarket, On. It's about 30 miles north of Toronto.


                                  2. Berkeley Bowl has about a dozen fresh durians, and I really want to try one but have no idea how to choose one. Does anyone have any tips for picking a ripe one? I would like to consume it within the next day, so don't worry about how long it will store for.

                                    1. I tried some durian ice cream for the first time. I bought a box of four ice cream cups from an Asian market. They were made in Thailand.

                                      The moment I opened up one of the cups, an overwhelming stench came out. Like rotting garbage, but now that I read this thread, maybe it's more appropriate to say rotting garlic. I took a small taste, and it tasted just as it smelled. I had to imediately throw it away. But I don't mean throw it away in the kitchen can, that was too close for comfort. I mean I had to put it into an industraial strength garbage bag and take it to a dumpster. I couldn't chance the possibility of it stinking up the house or the neighborhood. This is the stinky tofu of fruit. Or the flavor of that Jamaican beverage (mawby) which tastes like Listerine with sand in it. I put this in the Hall of Fame for bad smelling and tasting foods that people actually eat willingly.