The fruit Durian (Durio zibethinus) is named after the Malay word ‘Duri’ for ‘Thorn’, referring to the thorny skin and ‘zibethinus’ obviously refers to its smell. And the most sought-after variety in Malaysia is ‘Musang King’, where ‘Musang’ means ‘Palm civet’. There seems to be some relationship.
Every country in South-East Asia pretends to have the best tasting Durians. Therefore, every traveler should be aware, when to talk and when to be quiet on the topic of Duran’s. There are generally some topics, which cannot be discussed without emotion. In South-East Asian countries this not only concerns politics and religion, but also Durian, Mangos, and Batik. I have got an opinion on this question, but do not want to offend my friends in other countries.
There is a wide variety of Durian species. But basically, they can be divided into cultivated and non-cultivated ones. All of the cultivated ones have got their specific type of smell, flavor, or texture, or got more exotic traits like when they are releasing their odor after harvesting. Depending on nationality and culture there are certain preferences.
Non-cultivated (wild) Durian
On the other hand, non-cultivated ones are mainly available within rainforest areas by Orang Asli (a collective term for various tribes of First Nation People in Malaysia). They grossly vary in size, shape, color, and smell – from round orange hedgehogs to light green oblong shapes with bright red, orange, or bright yellow colored fruit inside. They smell and taste intensively.
Check the ripeness of Durian
Checking out the ripeness of a Durian requires some experience. On the internet, every article I read was recommending shaking the fruit next to the ear and hear the movement of the fruitlets inside. This is not easy, as the spiky and heavy fruit has to be held in hand and hawkers don’t like shaking their fruits around. It is by far easier and more accurate to just take a slim wooden hammer with long handle and very small head, hold the Durian at its stalk and give it a good club. That’s the way also hawkers are doing it. The sound will tell the ripeness of the fruit. If the tone is high, the Durian is still unripe. A dull sound on the other hand gives you a ripe fruit. Thereafter smelling the fruit confirms the ring tone. Over-ripeness will not occur, as such a stage would split open the rind of the Durian.
How to enjoy Durian best
And now we are turning to some emotions: For me (and not just for me) Durian is the king of fruits. What can be more relaxing, than a Saturday morning, where I walk to a big heap of Durians next to the road. Check out and discuss the ripeness with all the people standing around. Much clubbing, much chatter and at the end me and the still intact Durian going home. Thereafter have some tea for relaxation on the veranda and the final act by taking a Kiwi-knife (seasoned Asian travelers will know what it is) and cut open the durian along the small depressions in between the fruitlets inside. Taking out these creamy fruity portions and sucking this vegetarian vanilla custard (with a slight hint of cinnamon) off the big seeds. Total joy and happiness! Thereafter the next one and the next. At the end, I feel completely filled up and satisfied and need some time just to stare a hole into the air. Whow, this was good.
It is just important not to cool down the fruit, as it has to be enjoyed at the surrounding temperature and somewhere outside with a whiff of surrounding air. And most importantly: Up to half a day after enjoying Durian, no alcohol be drunk, as otherwise gases develop in the stomach, which smell like carbolic acid.
And Durian has got a perfect partner: Mangosteen, the queen of fruits. Both complement each other perfectly. By eating both together, you will be choc-bloc full by the Durian and still have a light and pleasant taste in the mouth by the Mangosteen(s) enjoyed.
Lessons learned about Durian fruits
- Be open and try to eat a variety of Durians. If it is not your taste – just leave it and try Mangosteen instead.
- Learn how to determine the ripeness of Durian yourself
- Don’t buy Durian in a Supermarket. Nearly all of them are still unripe.
- Learn how to cut open Durians
- When eating Durian on the veranda: Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!