Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Smells like hell, tastes like heaven

So here I am making comments about adventurous eaters, and I myself had not yet tried durian, the most notorious fruit of all Southeast Asia. You know how some things seem to taste just like they smell? Well, durian certainly throws people off because it smells so nauseating that buses and other public places forbid its very presence. Yet even with the odor, durian has its connoisseurs that rave about the fruit and organize durian festivals to celebrate it.

My dad wanted to see for himself what the fuss was all about so he bought a package of sweet Malaysian durian yesterday in Chinatown. The package was triple-wrapped, but we had to keep it outside on the balcony until we were ready to eat it. The time finally came after dinner. I tried to cut the fruit sections up so that we could skewer the pieces, but discovered it has the consistency of custard. With all of us crowded onto the balcony (since that stinkiness wasn't coming inside), Dad and Jeff tried it first. Even though they didn't like it, they managed to choke their portions down. Mom was next, and I could tell right away that she didn't like it.

They all said that it wasn't necessary for me to try it since they had not liked it, but that would be chickening out, now wouldn't it? So I smooshed up a piece with my fingers and popped it in my mouth and... found heaven. The taste is very hard to describe — it's wonderfully sweet like honey, with the barest hint of sharpness that some might call bitter. I couldn't stop eating it after that, until my mom was afraid that I was going to gorge myself sick.

I am now a self-professed durian lover. Too bad the pleasure is not without the pain of durian burps that plague you for hours afterwards. I guess that's just part of the experience.

UPDATED 26 JUNE: I passed this durian stand the other night at the Bugis Night Market and one of the sellers let me sample some of the durian that he had just cracked into. He also gave me tips for avoiding the dreaded durian burps and how to get the smell off your fingers. I'll share these secrets with the first 10 people that write in.