Durian is a fruit unique to Southeast Asia
By Lionel Bauer
This is sort-of strange, as almost any fruit or vegetable with a somewhat appealing taste has long become a universally cultivated crop. And not that the durian would be lacking in taste appeal. Those who like durian typically regard it as the king of fruit. And even in countries where, during the harvest season, there is a real flood of durians, prices never drop to dirt-cheap levels, as they do for pineapples and bananas.
Well, durians have a strong smell and a unique taste. Could be that those who haven’t seen others indulging in durians have doubts as to the fruit’s fitness for human consumption. Judging by the fruit’s smell, its flesh moves straight from unripe to rotten.
But when good durians are available at reasonable prices I can, as I do when in Penang, Malaysia, for weeks on end, make durian the staple of my diet. And I enjoy a good health doing so.
I haven’t been to a hospital or physician for years, and I practically never take any medicine. Anyway, I have little confidence in medical science, and would never undergo an operation that requires full anesthesia.
(While I do not take any Western pharmaceuticals, I am, however, enthusiastic not only about Indonesian durians, but also about another Indonesian plant, the testosterone-boosting herbal tongkat ali. Never heard of tongkat ali? A trial set is available from: tongkatali-trialset.com)
When in Malaysia or Singapore during durian season, I can eat durian for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I am confident that I can do so until an old age, without developing diabetes or hepatitis. Actually, I even believe that the durian has a magical power to keep me young and look young, without facelifts or other cosmetic or plastic surgery.
While they have been a delicacy in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, durians are only slowly catching on in other parts of the world. They aren’t grown yet commercially on other continents, though the climate would be ideal in the Northern parts of South America, as well as sub-Saharan Africa. (I have been informed by a reader that there are a few durian trees on Zanzibar.)
Durians are catching on in other parts of the world primarily because Thailand now produces, on a large scale, exportable durian fruit of the Mon Thong variety. Mon Thong is the only durian variety that is suitable to be shipped (usually by plane) to far-away destinations because Mon Thong durian can be harvested weeks before they have fully ripened, can be stored for weeks, and have no tendency to rot prematurely.
However, because of its comparatively mild taste, the Mon Thong variety of Thailand has never convinced real durian lovers in Malaysia and Singapore.
Classical durian varieties as they are common in Malaysia and Indonesia (mainly Sumatra Classic durians, as they are found on Penang, Malaysia, and Sumatra and Borneo, come in as wide a variety and shades of taste as does wine, or cheese. Though there isn’t a durian culture yet as there is a wine culture, there would be a good foundation for it. It’s probably only a matter of Southeast Asia becoming sufficiently developed in economic terms to support food culture on a Western level.
Gourmet durian culture will have to be centered on Malaysia (with Penang ranking highest) and Indonesia, just as wine and cheese culture is centered on France.
Thailand may currently be the world’s main durian exporter, and has the lowest prices (during the season in May), but Malaysia and Indonesia are the cradle of the fruit, and have hundreds of yet unclassified varieties.
Those who know only the standard Thai Mon Thong variety will be surprised in how many different flavours and textures durian can come.
Standard Thai Mon Thong durians have sweet fruity-tasting meat with a firm texture and of yellow color. It’s the variety that is the least likely to be outright disliked. It’s also a bit boring for the taste buds.
Malaysian and Indonesian durians come in a wide range of flavors.
My own preferred variety has white, wrinkled meat with a texture like whipped cream and a bitter-sweet, nutty taste.
When the meat is not wrinkled upon opening of the fruit, the taste will be less creamy, and rather fruity.
You are less likely to find bitter-sweet durians with yellow meat, but occasionally you will come across that combination, too.
Yellow-meat durians are usually just sweet, not bitter-sweet. They also are less likely to have a nutty flavor.
“Durian”, by the way, is a Malaysian and Indonesian word. “Duri” translates as thorn, and “durian” means thorny. Therefore durian, by name, is the thorny fruit.
Which indeed, it is. You can kill a person by throwing a durian at his head. It’s just like a ball of spikes. (There is another Southeast Asian fruit, known by a Malaysian and Indonesian name: Rambutan, the “hair fruit”, “rambut” being the Malaysian and Indonesian word for “hair”.)
Malaysia and Indonesia have the best climate for durians (highly tropical), and in the chief Indonesian durian-growing area of North Sumatra, durians are available year round. Incidentally, during the Thai durian season of mid-April to mid-June, there is the least output on North Sumatra, and prices rise to threefold their peak season’s level.
I am convinced that durians are good for health, not just because fruit in general is healthy.
The locals in all countries where durians are grown believe that it heats the body. You’ll be told that if you eat durian before bedtime, you won’t need a blanket. I haven’t seen any scientific proof in that direction, and I have been feeling unusually hot only a few times after eating durians in the evening.
Amount Per 100 grams
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5 g 7%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 2 mg 0%
Potassium 436 mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 27 g 9%
Dietary fiber 3.8 g 15%
Protein 1.5 g 3%
Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 32%
Calcium 0% Iron 2%
Vitamin B-6 15% Vitamin B-12 0%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.