Adventurous Eating Gone Awry

There is this grocery store a short distance from my house called the Hong Kong Market, and it’s one of those “authentic” places that smells horrible and has all kinds of weird food products for sale.  For example, their meat departments consists of all kinds of whole fish just sitting in these big cardboard boxes.  It’s also the only place where I can buy various types guts, chicken feet, duck heads or a big container of blood.  Now since I am a pasty white guy, I usually only go there to buy pasty-white-guy things like oolong tea and shitake mushrooms, but over the weekend we had some company and were feeling fairly adventurous, so we bought this giant prickly fruit called a durian.

A durian

If you haven’t heard of a durian, it’s probably because they are banned in most public places because they smell absolutely horrible, and as a result are kept in the freezer of my local Hong Kong market.  They also are roughly the size of a football and look like the business end of some sort of medieval weapon.  But apparently, many people view these things as a delicacy and some say that they actually taste really good, despite the off-putting smell.  So anyways, we purchased one, brought it home and let it thaw out on the deck for a while.

After a few hours, we got a big knife and cut it open, and lemme tell you, people aren’t kidding when they say it smells absolutely terrible.  In fact, the most accurate description I can think of to describe the smell is three-day-old wet garbage.  Now many people might not even want to taste something that smelled like that, but against my better judgment, I scooped out some of the glop from the inside and tasted it.

To say this stuff tasted bad is an understatement.  Instead, I would say that one experiences several different tastes while eating a durian.  My taste progression went something like this:

  • Three-day-old wet garbage
  • Three-day-old wet garbage with some sugar on it
  • A sweet, rotten onion
  • Back to three-day-old wet garbage

As you can see, none of the four taste sensations I experienced are tastes that I enjoy, but I could also say that they are tastes that I had never experienced prior to last weekend, for whatever that’s worth.

Overall, a durian ranks #2 on the list of the grossest foods I have ever eaten, with sea urchin roe from a sushi place several years ago still holding down the #1 spot.  So what am I saying with all this?  Nothing really.  If you really want to go eat a durian, knock yourself out.  But don’t say you haven’t been warned.

This has been Andy sayin’, “Ahh, engineering. Where the noble semi-skilled laborers execute the vision of those who think and dream. Hello, oompa-loompas of science.”

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22 Comments

  1. Posted October 8, 2008 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Durians taste wonderful in the same way stinky tofu tastes good—if you can get a rancid sock past your nose, your tongue’s in for a treat.

    I once opened a Durian and huge, hairy spider leapt out. Haven’t eaten any since.

    Durians have been banned in most of the civilized world and for very good reason.

  2. Joss
    Posted October 8, 2008 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Once you get past the smell they’re pretty good.

  3. JIff Riff
    Posted October 8, 2008 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Ewww boy that looks quite scary!

  4. Anonymous
    Posted October 9, 2008 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    meh

  5. Joe
    Posted October 9, 2008 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    You gotta have them fresh… the frozen ones aren’t nearly as good, and the large ones don’t have good flavour. Best durians are from Malaysia! There’s a good chance your durian actually was rotten by the sounds of it.

  6. Posted October 9, 2008 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    You gotta be kidding me. I come from Asia and durian is called the King of Fruits! We practically wait twice a year to buy them in truck load. It really taste good but you just need some getting used to. Try it again and few more times, I guarantee you will fall in love with it. — Marris Choi’ magazines http://www.readerspick.com

  7. Ken
    Posted October 9, 2008 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    They only smell bad once defrosted. You don’t eat all of it at once. You remove what you want and freeze the rest till later. Then you don’t smell it.

    It actually tastes like and has the consistency of custard. You have to eat it fast. The insides aren’t frozen solid either, but just enough to keep it from stinking.

  8. Ted Durian
    Posted October 9, 2008 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    A friend of mine tried durian candy. He said the flavor was pretty close to what he imagined a burning tire would taste like.

  9. David Podolsky
    Posted October 9, 2008 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    I just ordered a Durian shake from my favorite Vietnamese restaurant yesterday and it was delicious. Tasted like vanilla with hints of mango and pineapple. Mmmmmmm

  10. Nick Gucker
    Posted October 9, 2008 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Oh, I’ve had Durian, from the northern area of Bali, oplucked fresh from a tree. My wife and I disagree on the level of ick concerning the flavor but the smell is irrefutably rank. We joked about it being corpse fruit, attracking certain pollenating insects to spread the joy of this acrid fruit. The durian, when fresh, has a custard/baked-lima-bean consistancy, it is sweet, in a similar way that a banana is sweet but also weirdly over-ripe in a flavor unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. Truely unique and I have only ever smelled it in various asian groceries. I’ve tasted a durian milkshake and it’s not bad, but again the smell gets in the way, and it’s not a nice thing to do to ice cream.

  11. Posted October 9, 2008 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    @ Nick

    “Corpse fruit” eh? My god do you make it sound appetizing. Thanks for the comment!

  12. Posted October 9, 2008 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    (First off, I too am a pasty white guy)

    I would agree with the posters above–frozen=bad and you probably got a rotten one.

    Also, it sounds like the sea urchin roe you got at the sushi place could have been bad as well. That can vary wildly from place to place, and even some places that are “the best” can actually have some pretty lousy fish.

  13. Posted October 9, 2008 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Erm, you might’ve gotten a rotten fruit! Get someone who knows what durians are supposed to taste like, and then taste the fruit they chose. They are really good, trust me.

  14. Blast Dirtpeck
    Posted October 9, 2008 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the comments everyone.

    Is there a difference between tasting the stuff from not-too-far underneath the skin and the stuff right in the middle? The stuff I tasted was white and gloppy, kind of like cream of wheat or something, and it came from right underneath the skin.

    After I got the first whiff of the thing, I was leery about chopping the whole thing in half, making a big mess and having my deck smell like garbage for a week.

  15. John
    Posted October 9, 2008 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Me and my roommate cracked a fresh one open last year. I can see it being enjoyable to someone who’s grown up with it, but personally I found it’s taste to be similar to some kind of tropical, onion pudding. A couple of tastes for each of us and it went straight to the dumpster.

  16. zeeohsix
    Posted October 9, 2008 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    you will probably never get a chance to try it since it is outlawed and thats a good thing but casu marzu must be the worst.

    “Casu marzu is created by leaving large pieces of Pecorino cheese outside and letting it ferment.[3] During the fermentation process, the eggs of the cheese skipper Piophila casei are either intentionally introduced to the cheese, or a female Piophila casei lays her eggs in the cheese, sometimes exceeding five hundred eggs at one time.[4][5] The eggs hatch and the larvae begin to eat through the cheese.[6] The acid from the maggots’ digestive system breaks down the cheese’s fats,[6] making the texture of the cheese gooey and soft, with some liquid (called lagrima, from the Sardinian for “tears”) seeping out. The larvae themselves appear as translucent white worms, about 0.33 inches (8.38 mm) long.[5] By the time it is ready for consuming, a typical piece of Casu marzu will contain thousands of these maggots.[3]

    [edit]
    Consumption

    Casu marzu is considered toxic when the maggots in the chdeliberately introduced to the cheese, promoting an advanced level of fermentation and breaking down of the cheese’s fats. The texture of the cheese becomes very soft, with some liquid (called lagrima, from the Sardinian for “tears”) seeping out. The larvae themselves appear as translucent white worms, about 8 millimetres (0.31 in) long. When disturbed, the larvae can launch themselves for distances up to 15 centimetres (6 in). Some people clear the larvae from the cheese before consuming; others do not.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worm_cheese”

  17. Posted October 9, 2008 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    I have…almost had this in the orient. Amazing how it is one of the most popular foods there – yet is disgusting. Could not even hold it in my mouth… Instant gag reflex

  18. Posted October 10, 2008 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    Got to admit I’m totally addicted.
    Suggest you find someone who knows what the !@#@# a good durian looks like, tastes like and try again.

  19. Blast Dirtpeck
    Posted October 10, 2008 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Wow zeeohsix, that’s pretty gross. I like to think that I’m relatively open minded when it comes to trying new and weird food; but I’m pretty sure I really wouldn’t be willing to try bugs and maggots. And genitals. I’m game for almost anything else though.

  20. Posted October 20, 2008 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    You have a droll wit, my friend. Good to see this post at Cabinet of Curiosities this month.

  21. Paul
    Posted October 21, 2008 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    From the descriptions it sounds like it smells and tastes as bad as Nato (The Japanese food, not the Organization) or Century Eggs.

    Nato is fermented soy beans. It looks similar to baked beans-maybe a little gooier in consistency, but it doesn’t smell or taste like baked beans. Close your eyes and take a sniff and you’ll swear you’re at the sewage treatment plant. I tasted it once and IMHO, it doesn’t taste any better than it smells.

    Century eggs are Chinese. They are duck, chicken or quail eggs preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and rice straw for about 100 days. When they are ready the white has become a dark brown jelly and the yolk turns into a dark green, goo-like substance. They smell like sulpher and horse piss. When I was in Hong Kong, friends tried to get me to try one. Nato was bad enough. I found no reason to ever put one anywhere near my mouth.

  22. Walter M. Clark
    Posted October 21, 2008 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    When I was in Thailand courtesy of the United States Army I tried durian. Guys who had been there before me said it was something you either loved or hated, no middle ground. So, I tried it. I thought it was delicious. But like I said, either love it or hate it.

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