It is durian season in Vietnam, which means you’ll see trucks full of durians, motorbikes with baskets full of durians and vendors everywhere selling durians.
What is durian? Well, if you’ve ever smelt it, you would know. Durian is known as “King of fruit” in Southeast Asia. The Boyfriend calls it Ass Fruit. In Vietnamese, it's called sau rieng. It's quite a big fruit, weighing up to 10 lbs. and very prickly on the outside.
Since I do enjoy durian, it’s hard for me to describe it objectively. I will admit it has a strong smell, but the smell makes me crave durian. It’s banned in most hotels in South East Asia due to its smell, although I did sneak it in years ago at my fancy Bangkok hotel.
This is a sign on the wikipedia durian page from Singapore.
Smell is relative. My Vietnamese teacher came in once to my room after I enjoyed durian and said it smelt good! So here are some more observations I’ve found on the internet.
“… there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. […] it is in itself perfect. […] the more you eat of it the less you feel inclined to stop. In fact, to eat Durians is a new sensation worth a voyage to the East to experience. ... as producing a food of the most exquisite flavour it is unsurpassed.”
British naturalist Rusell Wallace, 1856.
"completely rotten, mushy onions."
Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Food (I watched this episode this episode. He’s the freaking Bizarre Food Guy and spit it out – Booh!)
“Its taste can only be described as indescribable. Something that you either love or despise and afterwards your breath will smell as if you’ve been French kissing your dead grandmother. (while tasting the fruit) That’s awesome. That’s a noble fruit. Like a sweet, custardy, it’s kind of Vacherin like. But pungent, runny French cheeses not your idea of an appetizing description of fruit? It is in my book.”
Anthony Bourdain, No Reservation: Indonesia
These days, you can find all sorts of durian flavoured food: ice cream, xoi (sticky rice), pastries, candies, cake, etc. People love it here! Aside from its strong flavour though, I actually enjoy the texture of durian. It is like eating a creamy, sweet custard!
These durian vendors are in front of our alleyway every day. They asked me to take a picture of them and develop it. In exchange, I saved 2000 dong...!
Supposedly, the thick prickly skin cracking open is a sign of the fruit being ripe.
The vendors will cut up the fruit for you to take home. Durian has many segments that are housed in "compartments".
Durian in styrofoam container ready to take home. Durian segments range from pale beige to a nice yellow. I like the yellow best. They are currently selling two types: with small and big seeds. Small seeds (hot lep) mean more flesh to eat!
Because it is a fruit, The Boyfriend was willing to have a very small taste of it in the shape of my sinh to (fruit shake). He did not enjoy it, to say the least. He also had a taste accidentally once when his pineapple pastry ended up being durian flavoured. His students also keep giving him durian flavoured candies.
Like most fruit, I like eating my durian cold. However, the smell does permeate everything and The Boyfriend ends up eating durian-smelling bread. My solution is to leave my durian in our landlady's fridge. Every time I do, she tells me her granddaughter really likes it; this makes me worry that it will all be eaten! Today, she told me to be careful because I could get fat from eating too much durian... Getting fat from eating durian is the least of my worries!
I am going to take full advantage of durian season and enjoying it while I can. It is sold in Canada, fresh and frozen, but it is quite expensive.