We’re currently on holiday in Penang and this means satay, beer, kway teow and durian! Everywhere we go there are signs saying ‘No Durian’; not in hotels, shops or on public transport.
I first experienced durian during my first visit to Malaysia in 1997. You smell it before you see it. It’s a mixture between rotting rubbish, onions and more. And once you smell it you will always remember that smell, wherever you are.
This time of year is the peak season for durian and everyone says there’s an abundant crop of them this year. Everywhere we have driven around the island they’re being sold on the side of the road in fruit stalls, out the back of cars and they’re piled up on the side of the road.
Durian is considered to be the ‘king of the fruits’ in South-East Asia and most living in this region love this fruit, having been bought up on it. But many people from the western world struggle with the pungent smell and taste.
On this trip we encouraged our eight-year-old son to try durian. We tried not to influence his decision or preconception of what it would be like. On our island tour we stopped at a roadside fruit stall, high up on the side of the road set amongst the lush vegetation.
We bought one and the stall holder cut it open, exposing the soft pale yellow flesh. My husband scooped out the flesh and gave some to our son. For those who’ve never had it the easiest way I can describe the edible part of the durian is like soft, gooey custard.
But because it has a skin around it, that skin is also quite fibrous in places. So it’s a very unusual texture. The taste itself is very difficult to describe – there is nothing quite like it, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the stench of it while eating.
Our son declared he didn’t like it but I was just proud he tried ‘the king of fruits’.