W knew of a tropical fruit whose smell was so bad that in some hotels they would put a sign in the lobby, forbidding people from eating it in the room. He could not remember, however, which fruit was it.
First we thought it might be the dragon fruit, but once trying it we realised it was delicious, and not smelly at all! After a bit of research, we found it: it is the durian!
Known as the king of tropical fruit (whilst the queen is the mangosteen), this fruit is native to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, but is mainly exported by Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, and you can easily find it in the supermarkets of Abu Dhabi.
Known for its large size, strong scent, and striking thorn-covered husk, it can grow as large as 30 centimetres long and 15 centimetres in diameter, and it typically weighs one to three kilograms. Its shape ranges from oblong to round, the colour of its husk green to brown, and its flesh pale yellow to red, depending on the species.
It is apparently a cousin of the hibiscus and the okra, and it is rich in minerals like manganese, copper, iron and magnesium, it is free from saturated fats, rich in dietary fiber, a good source of antioxidant vitamin C, and an excellent source of health B-complex groups of vitamins (a rare feature among fruits). (source)
Wikipedia confirms that its strong odour had this fruit banned from certain hotels and even public transport.
It even says that ‘the smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as rotten onions, turpentine and raw sewage.’
Now, this is a bit rough.
To be completely honest, we were expecting something in between zombie’s breath and a pile of rubbish abandoned in the sun, but you know what? It was not so bad.
Yes, it stinks. But not more than some French cheeses that you can easily buy at London’s Borough Market (and I am talking from experience).
The taste reminded me of almonds and apples, and maybe a bit of cheese, but online it has also been described as similar to custard, cream-cheese, onion-sauce and sherry-wine. (source)
It is quite a delicate flavour in any case, and apparently a lot of people brave the smell to be able to taste this tropical delicacy.
Useful links for those who would like to know more include this step-by-step guide (with photos) on how to eat a durian (which shows how we completely did it wrong) and several tasty recipes, such as durian tiramisu, ice cream, crepes, egg tarts, yoghurt cake, cream and custard, and all sort of sweet and savoury dishes inspired by Thai, Filipino and Vietnamese cuisine.
I will have to try and buy another one, to see if this time the smell lives up to the hype, and maybe try one of these inviting recipes!