Durian (ทุเรียน)

(Out of 30 plants of “Durio” genus, at least 9 are edible)

Even those who never have been to Thailand or South-East Asia have heard of the mysterious stinky fruit that is banned to be brought to public places (like hotels etc) and carried as luggage in any transport mean except probably songthaew. Thais name durian “king of the fruits”. It is rich in vitamins & minerals and it is so unusual, even durian flowers are pollinated by bats, as they are open only in the night.

The name “durian” has Malay origin and means thorns that cover the fruit. Durian is an introduced plant, but despite of it Thailand is the world’s #1 exporter of durians.

Taste of durian

Durian pulp has tender creamy non-juicy consistence as if it is a kind of butter or ripe avocado flesh. It is nourishing with sweet fruity taste. It’s hard to describe the unique taste of durian, it reminds a mix of banana, mango, pineapple, papaya, cream cheese and vanilla custard with a pinch of strawberry and nuts.

As for me, I like its taste. I wouldn’t eat durians every day or all day long like I do it with mangoes, durians are too expensive & nourishing, but it’s a kind of my tradition to eat at least 1 durian during the trip to Thailand.

Pickup full of durians
Durians on the way to a market

The smell and how to eat durian

The only edible part of raw durian is the aril (flesh that coats seeds). Seeds are big (~3 seeds per 1 aril) and inedible when they are raw. To avoid bad smell one should eat arils as soon as the durian was opened. All inedible parts should be thrown away the far (and the sooner) the better.

Just opened durian has simple fruity scent, this makes tourists doubt and break the rules bringing it to the hotel. In 15-30 min. the odour transforms to a stinky smell, as if there’s a dump + somebody died right at your feet. One needs days to get rid of this smell. If you are curious to feel this smell – find a fruit stall that sells durians only. Usually fruit are opened right at the counter and all peels stay there for some hours.

Open durian, the flesh
The colour of flesh depends on the cultivar, some durians may have bright yellow flesh

Durians are hard to open; one needs a big knife to do it. That’s why it’s more convenient to eat durian right at the counter. Ask the vendor to choose a fruit for you and to open it. Eat durian flesh immediately and avoid touching it with fingers (vendors usually provide plastic bags, waxed paper or sticks). Wash your hands (or wipe them with wet cleansing tissue), if you have touched the flesh.

Durian that started to crack is supposed to be the ripest. Unripe durian has a lack of taste (almost tasteless) and its flesh is a little bit crispy.

Avoid eating durian if you are drunk (or gonna be), pregnant or suffer from high blood pressure.

I have seen durian flesh wrapped in plastic in Thai hypermarkets. From one hand, it’s very convenient – durians are big (2-5 kg) and it’s hard to find small and ripe fruit. From the other hand, I can’t tell you anything about the smell, I still didn’t risk to buy packed arils.

Also you will find in Thailand:

  • Tasteless durian chips (I suppose that they are made of unripe durians).
  • Durian jam that doesn’t remind of the fresh fruit.
  • Durian paste that is usually combined with pumpkin and used for some sweet dishes, f.e. for sticky rice.
  • Preserved durian flesh (a subject for export).
Ripe small durian
Such small ripe durians are hard to find

When and where to buy durian

The season for durians is the summer. In other months it’s more difficult to find a durian and this affects its price. Durian is an expensive fruit, the price starts from 50 THB per 1 kg during summer and reaches 150-200 THB per 1 kg in winter. Note: edible arils account for only 15-30% of the entire fruit.

Durians are sold in Thailand at:

  • “durians only” fruit stalls (in Russia the same way are sold watermelons in the summer, we call these stalls “tents” due to their look),
  • hypermarkets,
  • some various-fruits stalls & markets
  • from pickups.
Young durian tree
Young durian tree (it can grow up to 50 m high)
Durian tree closeup
Picking durians a farmer needs to wear a helmet and special clothes to avoid injuries that can cause a heavy ripe thorny fruit that occasionally falls from the top of a tree

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