Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Fruit of the Month Club V

I was out with a few of our American friends, enjoying the visual feast of colors at the Geylang Serai fruit market, when someone said the dreaded words: “You haven’t tried durian yet, have you?”

I’d heard this question a few times before, but so far I’d managed not to be asked it anywhere near the fruit in question. This time, there was no escaping it. The durians were in high season, and the ripe, cantaloupe-sized fruits were piled dangerously on slanting stalls just outside the market. I quailed at the thought of trying one.

Why, you might ask, was I so afraid of a little fruit? Clearly, you’ve never smelled one. From literally a mile away, you know it’s there, by the indescribable scent wafting through the air. Rotting eggs? Nearby sewer? The sweaty feet of a thousand old men after a hard day’s work? No, just a nice, fresh durian someone’s been crazy enough to purchase. Even the signs on the buses and the MRT allude to the stench: No food. No drink. No durian.

The real question, I think, is why people long ago decided that something that smelled like this was worth breaking into as a possible source of food. And breaking into it is difficult indeed, on account of the hard, thick, sharp spines that cover every inch of its dark-green surface. Picking it up requires hands of steel - or possibly protective gloves; cutting through the rind requires nothing less than a machete. And after all that effort, what’s the edible result? Less than a dozen small pods, each filled with a mustard-yellow custardy substance.

Worth it, no?

The truth is, although I’d never have tried it without enormous peer pressure (thanks a lot, book club!!), durian is not that bad. As long as I don’t think of it as a fruit. It has a nutty, garlicky taste and a pleasant, creamy texture, something like you might get with a good avocado. I could see myself enjoying it in sauces or maybe even trying a fresh one again sometime. But I still draw the line at the most popular durian product in Singapore: durian ice cream.

Photo credit: Thanks to Cheryl for the beauty shot!


ozlady said...

I came here via Erik and Cheryl's web site, and as a lover of durian (and an ang mo), I am happy to hear that others brave this smelly fruit. If it ever develops into a passion, then the smell will develop from dirty socks to something that is fragrant and sweet (I know, you can hardly believe this as you read it)... for those that aren't brave enough to try this fruit but want the full experience, try durian puffs and duran cake (although paste is a better description).

Cheryl told me about your fruit trip and it sounded like fun!


Mumsy said...

Fascinating! Can't wait to try it!

Cheryl said...

Your writing is such a joy to read. What an eloquent description of our outting! I will link my own account of this event to yours, so more people can hear it told by a true professional. Well done!

Zaida said...

This is great info to know.