My first taste of durian happened on a day of firsts. Despite her passion for Thailand’s king of fruits it was the first time my wife had actually opened a durian herself, it was the first time I ever saw a durian which did not smell, and obviously it was the first time I ever tried durian.
I suppose I’m no to different to most people when it comes to forming an opinion about food. If it doesn’t smell nice it really can’t taste nice, right?.
Smells Like Hell
Durian is said to be the smelliest fruit in the world, and I’m not not going to argue. Both the smell and taste of durian are the topic of many a conversation in Thailand, and the durian’s attributes of taste and smell have lent themselves to a “love hate” relationship among many expats I know.
The pungent smell of durian has actually lead to it being banned from many hotels and public transport services in Thailand, a logic you will most likely find easy to understand after getting your first whiff of durian.
To give you some idea what durian smells like, it is commonly described as smelling similar to raw sewage and vomit.
Raw sewage and vomit are 2 of the most sickening smells I can imagine, and it’s hard to imagine any fruit smelling so bad. Those descriptions are not far off the mark though, and my own description of what durian smells like be similar, but with an added sweetness and a hint of cooking gas.
To put the smell of durian in perspective, when I’m unaware that a durian is in the house I immediately make my way to the kitchen, convinced somebody forgot to turn off the gas.
17 years in Thailand without ever tasting durian!
My own obstinate belief that something which smells like hell could not possibly taste like heaven is my excuse for my 17 year durian abstinence. The end to my durian abstinence came after watching my wife patiently and persistently attempting to open a durian (photos below) for the first time.
My Odorless Durian
On opening the durian she proclaimed “no smell” and offered me what was indeed odorless durian. The fact that the durian was odorless is related to its state of ripeness, the more ripe a durian is, the smellier it becomes. Meaning my first durian must have been in a very early state of ripeness.
Does Durian Taste Like Heaven?
Ask a Thai about durian and they will tell you durian “smells like hell, tastes like heaven”. That sounds alluring, yet forbidding. Fortunately for me there was no hell, but did it taste like heaven?. I suspect just like the smell, the taste of durian will alter according to its state of ripeness. My first durian did not have a powerful taste, but it did have a pleasant custard taste, and what I would describe as a firm creamy/pasty texture.