Durian ทุเรียน, Durio Zibethinus Merr., is a native plant to Brunei, Sarawak, Malaysia and Indonesia. Southern Thailand is a part of the Malay Peninsula and it has a tropical climate pattern similar to Malaysia.
One of my memories of growing up in a village on a hilly isle of Phuket, Southern Thailand, is of the beginning of durian season. It would begin after two months of monsoon, around June and July, when the earth was moist and the mountains a lush green. The villagers would gather ripe durians that had fallen to the ground the night before and sell them out in front of my grandmother’s home the next morning. Many piles of 4 to 8 durians in all sizes were auctioned off each morning. Later the winners carried home the thorny fruits which had been tied up with twine or string. Then the whole extended family would luxuriously savor the heavenly durian, a feast of nature. Durian was not a fruit we enjoyed everyday, just as you would not want a rich custard everyday. Eating and sharing durian once or twice a year was an indulgence and a family ritual.
My last visit to Thailand in July 2011 was a memorable and fruitful one. I spent many days working on my plantation with my gardener and it was right at the peak of durian, bamboo shoot, and sator season. Durian (known as stinky fruit) and sator (also known as Petai or stinky beans) are infamous for their unique smells, though their health benefits transcend their strong odors. On my plantation, durian and sator grow side by side, a part of the Southern Thailand hillside landscape. One morning we had durian for breakfast with dark Thai coffee. As those of us who love durian say, “it tastes like heaven, a perfect custard on earth.” I was glad to taste durian again after a long time without it.
Life and culture around Seattle are not the same as in the village of Thailand. Here it is hard to convince friends and students to embrace durian’s infamous stinky side. My rules for eating durian are these: it must be a good durian (for me, this means a Phuket durian), in-season, not too ripe, eaten in small portions once or twice a year, and never mixed with alcohol. I would also recommend not socializing with people who don’t like durian the day you eat it, and don’t carry it around in a small closed space or a home with an air conditioning system. In Thailand, durian is considered contraband if you carry it in a rental car, or in air-conditioned public places such as buses, hotels or airplanes.
There are many durian cultivars in Thailand but in Phuket the small, native cultivar is popular with locals as well as tourists from all over Asia. When visiting Thailand during durian season, ask someone who is knowledgeable about durian to introduce it to you. If you try the right one, chances are you, too, will taste the heaven—and the smell won’t put you off too much. And you will have something to talk about for a lifetime!
The best way to enjoy fresh durian is in moderation. Some people experience a fever after eating durian because it contains so many calories. One hundred grams of durian has about 30 grams of sugar, 25 grams of protein and approximately 144 calories (please see source below). Besides eating fresh durian, you may find durian in many desserts: Kao Neow Thurian, sticky rice with coconut milk and durian sauce; Thurian Icecream, durian ice cream; and Thurian Gwan, durian candies.
How to open durian
Opening durian requires some skill. Below are step-by-step pictures on how to open the durian the way a Phuketian does it. You will need two thick towels to protect the counter and your hand, a cleaver and a paring knife.
First remove the stem, then find the natural split in the hull. Use a paring knife to follow the split and make it wider, then use the cleaver to twist the hull open.
The custard lumps and seeds are snuggled inside each hollow hull.© 2011 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen I Love Thai cooking Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area. Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com .
- D-u-ree-ian (yueyanglim.wordpress.com)
- Tropical Fruit Facts and Legends: Durian – Asia’s Notorious “King of Fruits” (travellingartist.wordpress.com)
- People Monday – VT Durian Seller (anthonli.wordpress.com)
- Learning to love durian: why the world’s stinkiest fruit is better than wine, cheese or chocolate (gadling.com)
- ‘King of fruit’ (bbc.co.uk)
- What does a durian taste like (wiki.answers.com)