Have you ever had the chance to taste a durian? My first experience with the “King of Fruits” wasn’t so good. I bought one that was previously frozen, and with its thorny shell and distinctive smell, as it thawed, it is a fruit I won’t ever forget.
The taste of durian is a complex blend of sweet, savory, and creamy all at once. It’s like a rich custard highly flavored with almonds but with a hint of something exotic that’s hard to describe. Some people adore it, while its strong smell and unique flavor put off others like myself.
In this article, we’ll look into what durian tastes like, why it’s loved and hated in equal measure, and even some popular dishes you can make with it.
How Does Durian Taste?
Durian is a fruit that’s hard to pin down in terms of taste. The mix of sweet, savory, and creamy texture is rich and intense, with almond, garlic, and caramel notes.
Unfortunately, for some of us, those flavors and smells come across more along the lines of onions or dirty socks, which is one of the reasons the fruit is banned in hotels and restaurants where they are grown locally.
Types of Durian
- Musang King: Known for its bright yellow flesh, the Musang King has a sweet and creamy taste with a hint of bitterness.
- D24: This variety is less sweet than the Musang King, with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
- Red Prawn: As the name suggests, this durian has a reddish hue. It’s sweet with a hint of herbal taste.
- Green Bamboo: This type is known for its pale cream-colored flesh and a balanced sweet and bitter flavor.
Comparing Durian with Other Fruits
- Jackfruit: Jackfruit is often compared to durian because of their similar appearance. However, jackfruit is generally sweeter and doesn’t have the same creamy texture or pungent smell as durian.
- Custard Apple: While custard apple shares a similar creamy texture with durian, its taste is much sweeter and less complex.
- Mango: Mangoes are sweet and juicy but lack the savory, garlic-like undertones and creamy texture of durian.
Do Durians Taste Good?
If you’re lucky, the creamy textures and complex flavors might make you fall in love with this unique fruit. The sweetness and a hint of bitterness can be an exciting experience for your taste buds.
However, durians aren’t for everyone. The strong smell can be off-putting, and the taste is quite intense. It’s definitely an acquired taste. If you’re trying durian for the first time, it’s best to start with a fresh ripe one and try to taste it before smelling it.
The flavor can change dramatically depending on the ripeness of the fruit.
Freezing durian is common, especially for those who want to lessen the smell. However, keep in mind that freezing can alter the texture and taste slightly, making it less creamy and more icy.
What Does Durian Look Like?
Durians are quite distinctive in their appearance. They’re large, usually about the size of a football, and covered in hard, spiky thorns. The color ranges from green to brown, depending on the variety and ripeness.
When buying durian, look for ones with a relatively firm shell but give a little when pressing it. This indicates that the fruit is ripe. Also, check for any cracks or holes, as these could be signs of over-ripeness or pest infestation.
The smell is another indicator of a good durian. A ripe durian will have a strong smell, but it shouldn’t be too overpowering or unpleasant. The fruit may not be ripe if the smell is too faint. The fruit might be overripe if it’s too strong or smells sour.
Do Durians Have Seeds?
Yes, durians do have seeds. Each segment of the durian fruit contains a large seed that’s surrounded by edible flesh. The seeds are quite big, often the size of a small pebble.
While the seeds are technically edible, they’re usually discarded because they taste hard and bitter.
In some cultures, durian seeds are boiled or roasted and eaten. However, cooking them thoroughly is important as raw durian seeds can be difficult to digest.
How to Make Durian Taste Good
If you’re new to durian and find the taste a bit overwhelming, there are a few tricks you can use to make it more palatable:
- Choose the right variety: Some varieties of durian are sweeter and less pungent than others. For beginners, the D24 or Red Prawn varieties are often recommended.
- Eat it with sticky rice: In Southeast Asia, durian is often served with sticky rice and coconut milk, which can help balance out the strong flavor.
- Chill it: Chilling durian can help to mellow the flavor and make it less overpowering.
- Pair it with neutral flavors: Eating durian with plain rice or bread can help to balance the strong taste.
- Try durian products: If the fresh fruit is too much for you, try durian products like durian candy or durian ice cream. These often have a milder flavor but still, give you a taste of the fruit.
How to Use Durian in Recipes and Side Dishes
Here are some popular ways to use durian in your cooking:
- Durian Pancakes: Durian pancakes are a popular dessert in Southeast Asia. The creamy durian flesh is wrapped in a thin, crepe-like pancake. The sweetness of the durian pairs well with the neutral flavor of the pancake.
- Durian Smoothie: Blend durian with some milk and ice for a refreshing smoothie. The creamy texture of the durian makes this smoothie extra rich and satisfying.
- Durian Mousse: Durian Mousse is a light and creamy dessert that showcases the fruit’s flavor. Just make sure to strain the durian pulp to get a smooth texture.
- Durian Sticky Rice: This is a twist on the classic Thai dessert, mango sticky rice. The sweet and creamy durian pairs well with the glutinous rice and salty coconut sauce.
- Durian Sago Pudding: Sago pudding is a popular dessert in many Asian countries. Adding durian gives it a unique flavor and makes it even more decadent.
Remember, when cooking with durian, it’s important to balance its strong flavor with other ingredients. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works best for you!
Why is durian known as the “King of Fruits”?
Durian is often called the “King of Fruits” because of its large size and the rich, complex flavor of its flesh. It’s also quite challenging to open due to its hard, thorny shell, which adds to its regal status.
What makes the smell of durian so distinctive and off-putting to some people?
The smell of durian is caused by a combination of volatile compounds that are released when the fruit is ripe. These compounds produce a strong, pungent odor that some people find unpleasant. However, others find the smell enticing and integral to the durian eating experience.
How does the taste of durian compare to other fruits?
Durian has a unique taste that’s unlike most other fruits. It’s a mix of sweet, savory, and creamy, with almond, garlic, and caramel notes. In comparison, some fruits like jackfruit and custard apple share certain similarities, the taste of durian is truly one-of-a-kind.
Are there any tips for choosing a good durian?
When choosing a durian, look for a fruit with a firm shell that gives a little when pressing it. The smell should be strong but not too overpowering. Also, check for any cracks or holes, as these could be signs of over-ripeness or pest infestation.
My Tasty Thoughts
So, should you try durian? If you’re a food adventurer who loves trying new flavors, then absolutely! Durian offers a unique taste experience that’s unlike any other fruit.
However, its strong smell and intense flavor can be off-putting. And while it’s becoming more available outside of Southeast Asia, it can still be hard to find, especially fresh durian. Remember to keep an open mind and not let the smell deter you from taking the first bite.