Durian – The world’s most divisive fruit?

13 November, 2020

Your guide to durian and why it stirs such strong opinions

Durian is a food that’s guaranteed to generate strong opinions. Renowned across the globe for its strong smell, durian has been described as “smelling like hell but tasting like heaven.” The aroma can be so unpleasant that durian is banned on public transport across Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, and was even involved in evacuating the library at the University of Canberra a few years ago. (They thought it was a sewer leak, but nope, durian was the culprit.)

But, despite the smell, there’s also a lot of love for durian. It’s the official fruit of Singapore and is known as the “king of fruits.” It’s even said to have inspired the architecture of The Esplanade building in Marina Bay, Singapore. Encased inside the hard and spiky interior is the edible pulp. It can be eaten when hard, with bitter flavours, but most durian-lovers prefer the fruit to be very ripe. When durian is ripe, it gets pronounced sweet and citrus flavours with a consistency like sour cream. There’s so many descriptions of what durian tastes like, but one of the most common is cheese, almonds, garlic and caramel, all at the same time.

Durian facts

Native to Malaysia and Indonesia, durian is now grown across South East Asia and beyond. One of the nations that grows the most is Thailand, but it’s even grown in tropical areas of Australia, including far north Queensland and around Darwin. If you’re wanting to try to get some locally sourced durian, it fruits between November and February in the Northern Territory, so now is a good time to keep your eye out at local greengrocers. Or you can keep an eye on specialist durian retailer, The Thorny Fruit, who supply businesses and consumers with a huge range of durians, both Australian grown and imported.

There’s actually around 30 different varieties of durian. And they’re huge too! Durian can grow to around 30 cm long and 15 cm wide, weighing up to 4 kg. Durian is also one of the most nutritious fruits available. It’s a great source of:

  • Vitamin C
  • Thiamine
  • Manganese
  • Vitamin B6
  • Potassium
  • Riboflavin
  • Copper
  • Folate
  • Magnesium
  • Niacin

Interestingly, durian should NEVER be eaten in conjunction with alcohol. It’s believed that some compounds in durian prevent your body from breaking down alcohol, which can lead to symptoms like nausea, vomiting and heart palpitations. Eating durian can also reduce blood pressure and in 2010, a Malaysian politician was rushed to hospital with breathlessness and dizziness after eating too much of the fruit!

Getting a taste of durian around Chatswood

If you’re ready to try durian, a great introduction is with foods flavoured with the fruit, like Breadtop’s durian gateau, available from its store at Chatswood Interchange. Combining Asian flavours with French technique, this is a gentle introduction to durian flavours.