Trying durian a couple of times does not mean you get a taste for it. Its deep smell and strong taste can act strong repellents; however, this controversial fruit is one of the most fruits in Indonesia, which is also one of the main producers and consumers. There are many varieties and many ways to eat it. You can dig in it with your hands or dilute is taste into sugar and flour and make amazing pancakes. In any case, it’s wroth a try, even if you will not be licking your fingers afterwards. You are probably missing something if a large part of the Asian population waits for the durian season with anticipation queues for hours in front of the most renown durian stalls. Who knows? Perhaps the Tukang Durian [durian seller] is your next guru. You will not discover this until you give it a go!
Durian [from Indonesian/Malay word Duri, meaning “thorn”] is a fruit unique to southeast Asia and native to Sumatra and Borneo and locally known as The King of Fruits. It grows and very tall trees and can weight as much as 5 kg. durians ripen in around 4 months; when they fall, they have to be consumed within maximum four days, after which it is considered overripe. For this reason, durians price rarely drops. Trees grow in tropical climates across Southeast Asia and each region has its own varieties. Durians found outside Southeast Asia usually come from Thailand and are of the Mon Tong variety, which is the only exportable one because it can be stored for weeks. However, durian experts say this type lacks taste and texture. Indonesia is the largest durian consumer in the world and North Sumatra is apparently the best place to find this fruit, because there are many varieties and durians can be found all year round.
How to choose a durian
There is no accounting for taste and there is no right way to pick the best durian, simply because there are as many preferences as there are varieties. The best way to choose a durian is to have the Tukang Durian choose it for you. In Indonesia, durians are usually sold and street stalls and the tukang durian is the salesperson and the expert who will advice you best according to your tastes. Is it the first time you try durian? Then it is probably better to go for the young fruit, which has a mild flavor and a crispy texture. You like strong taste and you are not afraid of smelly flesh? Then get the ripest ones, the ones with a creamy flesh and nutty flavor. In any case, do not be fooled by the smell, which often does not reflect the actual taste of the fruit. Most of all, taste before you buy and trust the tukang durian, who may be even able to tell you what plantation the durian you are buying is from and other interesting stories about The King of Fruit.
How to eat a durian
It is safer to open a durian without a knife; if you use one, make sure the knife is very sharp and you can deep cut into the divider along the center of the half. If you’d rather choose the safer option, wear shoes, place the durian on the floor and put all your weight on it until it cracks.
Dig into it
Pull apart the fruit by using your fingers and apply some force. The riper the fruit, the easier and messier this operation will be.
Go for it. Use your fingers and enjoy. Just do not eat too much, as you may get sick. A great way to finish your durian feast is to cool your mouth with some mangosteen or pineapple.
The Indonesian expression “Durian jatuh sarung naik”, meaning “ the durians fall and the sarongs come up” indicates the belief that this fruit has aphrodisiac qualities. It probably comes from the fact that eating durian heats up the body, this is why it is not recommended for people with high blood pressure or to consume alcohol and coffee after eating it.
Durians are very nutricious and are use to flavour many traditional Indonisian and Malay dishes, from desserts to side dishes with chilli and onions and even main courses, such as Ikan brengkes, a traditional Sumatran dish where fish is cooked in durian sauce. Other parts of the fruit are consumed; nectar of the tree is used to make honey and seeds are roasted or fried with sugar. Here, we propose a simple recipe to make durian pancakes, a delight to be served cold on hot tropical days!
250 gr of flour
550 ml of coconut milk
A pinch of salt
A pinch of pandan paste
Mix flour and salt
Add the eggs and stir until smooth. Slowly pour the milk, add the pandan paste and stir. On a hot non-sticky frying pan, pour a small amount of batter at a time. Cook for about 2 minutes. Take off the fire and place some whipped cream and fresh durian in the centre. Fold the pancake and put in the fridge. Enjoy!
Did you know?
Another name for Jakarta is “The Big Durian”. Just like the fruit, Jakarta can chase away first-time visitors because of its smell and appearance. However, by peeling away the layers, many people got hooked to this amazing city and Jakarta is the place they call home.