If you wonder what is durian and what does it smell like, you are not alone. Durian fruit is a delicacy in Southeast Asia, recognized by its pungent, unpleasant odor and unique spiky shape. It can be a delicious addition to both sweet and savory dishes and has several nutritional benefits. However, because of its strong smell, it is banned in most public places! First, I tried durian for more than 10 years while traveling in South-Eastern Asia and in the following, I dive into all you need to know about this peculiar and smelly tropical fruit, including how to find and use them in your next dessert.
- What is Durian fruit?
- What does Durian smell like?
- What does Durian taste like?
- Durian vs. Jackfruit - What´s the difference
- Where to buy Durian
- Where is Durian banned?
- How to eat Durian
- How to tell when Durian is good to eat
- How to use Durian
- How to store Durian
- Durian Fruit FAQ
- What Is Durian Fruit & What Does It Smell Like (Ultimate Guide)
What is Durian fruit?
Known as the “king of fruits” in Southeast Asia, durian fruits are large, oblong tropical fruits with a hard, spiky shell, custard-like flesh, and large seeds. It is the edible fruit of tree species belonging to the Durio genus, with 30 recognized varieties. Only nine of those varieties are edible. The most common is the Durio zibethinus, native to Borneo and Sumatra.
Durian is quite large, growing as big as 12 inches / 30 cm long and 6 / 15 cm, inches in diameter. It can weigh anywhere from two to seven pounds (1-3 kg)and is often sold on the streets of South-East Asia from large trucks! The color of the skin can range from green to brown and its flesh from pale yellow to red, depending on the species.
However, despite its unique appearance and large size, many recognize durian fruit for its strong and pungent smell, which is so unpleasant that many countries have a ban on it in public places.
What does Durian smell like?
The Durian fruit smell is a very unique yet foul smell that is often compared to non-appetizing scents such as garbage, Limburger cheese, rotten egg, raw sewage, or sweaty socks. For many, durian fruit is overpowering and disgusting. But, for those who have gotten used to the smell of this fruit via acquired taste, the smell of durian fruit may come across as tolerable, pleasant, and even sweet!
What does Durian taste like?
Contrary to its pungent smell, the durian fruit durian tastes actually quite delicious and sweet, especially when fresh and ripe. Its soft, pillowy, and custard-like texture has a flavor often compared to caramel and vanilla. Its flavor profile has also been described as nutty, garlicky, and even cheesy. The seeds are also edible, though you must cook them first.
Because of its pleasant taste, you can use durian fruit in various sweet and savory dishes, personally, ice cream is my favorite and the only durian dish I can stand.
Durian vs. Jackfruit - What´s the difference
While durian fruit and jackfruit are similar in that they have an oblong shape and prominent appearance, however, they are not the same fruit. Durian has a very noticeable odor, a thick cheesecake, custard-like flesh, and a caramel-vanilla flavor. Durian is typically larger and more round, and smaller in size vs. jackfruit.
On the other hand, jackfruit is fibrous in texture with a yellowish color and has a sweet and meaty flavor. While jackfruit also has a unique yet sweet odor, sometimes compared to a mixture of bubble gum, pineapple, banana, and rotten onions, it is not as intense as durian fruit. Jackfruit also typically larger and has no spike on the skin of the fruit.
Overall, jackfruit is much less controversial and more broadly enjoyed.
Where to buy Durian
Durian fruit is cultivated in tropical environments and is primarily found in the Southeast Asian countries of Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia. While seldom exported, it is not impossible to find in other places. In the U.S., you can find fresh and frozen durian in Asian or international markets or specialty stores such as Whole Foods. However, it is a seasonal fruit, available only in the summer months of June through August.
Because of the importation costs, durian fruit is not as inexpensive as other fruits. In fact, those who consume it consider it to be a delicacy. Depending on the weight, some places will charge as much as $35 U.S. dollars for just 2-3 fruits.
Where is Durian banned?
Because of its offensive smell, some countries in Asia have banned durian from certain places. Countries such as Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore prohibit durian in areas such as public transportation, airports, and hotels. Some have even posted “No Durian” signs to warn people against eating them in public. If they find you with this smelly fruit in any of the above countries, you may find yourself left with a hefty fine!
How to eat Durian
When buying a whole durian, there is a process to properly cut it open and reveal the flesh before you can eat it. The following steps explain how:
- Place the durian on a clean cutting surface, stem side down. Using a sharp knife, make a 3-4 inch cut in the top of the fruit, pulling back the skin with your hands as you cut.
- Open the durian with your hands, taking care not to poke yourself with the spikes. The skin should rip apart easily, allowing you to open it completely. Lay the two halves down on your cutting surface.
- Using your hands or a spoon, carefully remove the fruit pods and place them on a plate.
- Remove the seeds from the fruit before serving. Set them aside if you plan to cook them to eat later.
- Using your knife, cut through the center of the inside shell along its seam to reveal more fruit sections.
- Use your hands or a spoon to remove the additional fruit sections and place them on the plate.
- Immediately wash your hands to get rid of the smell. Otherwise, it will last all day. To help get rid of the scent, run hot water through the skin of the durian to create mild lye water, which, when combined with soap, helps get rid of the smell. Don’t forget to wash your mouth as well!
How to tell when Durian is good to eat
There are several signs to check for the quality and freshness of durian and to tell if it is ready to eat: Its smell, stem condition, shape, sound, and color.
Smell: It is good to eat if it has a strong yet pleasant sweet smell along the stem. If the scent is extremely intense, it may be overripe. If it has little to no scent, it is likely not ripe.
Stem: The stem color is perhaps one of the easiest indicators of fresh durian. Gently scratch the stem with your fingertips. If the interior is green and fleshy, it indicates that the durian has likely fallen off the tree within the last 24 hours and is still fresh. If the interior is dark, it is not as fresh.
Shape: The shape of the durian can say a lot about whether or not there is meat inside and the texture of that meat. If the sides are bulging, the seeds are likely fleshy. On the other hand, a durian with concave sides is probably empty. Don’t shy away from the durians that have a strange shape! Durians with an odd shape tend to have a creamier texture and more potent aroma than perfectly round ones.
Sound: A ripe fruit is more hollow and sounds like a drum when tapped with a spatula. An unripe durian does not.
Color: Durian fruit comes in a variety of colors depending on its species. However, durians with a deeper red color tend to be more ripe and sweet, whereas pale or white durians are not as mature and have less flavor.
How to use Durian
There are many ways to use durian fruit. You can eat it raw or cooked, served alone or with a side. You can eat it ripe or not-so-ripe, depending on the flavor that you are looking for. It is a fruit that works well in both sweet and savory dishes.
The creamy consistency of durian makes it an excellent addition to cakes, ice cream, and smoothies. In Southeast Asia, it is popular as a dessert with sticky rice and coconut milk. KLolak durian for example is a soup made of durian and coconut milk.
When trying durian for the first time, it is usually best to start with durian ice cream, which does not have as strong of an aroma. It will also allow you to truly experience its range of flavors.
How to store Durian
Because durian fruit ripens and spoils quickly in heat and moist environments, it is best not to store them at room temperature. You should instead double-wrap and keep them cold in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to open and use.
To store, place the durian into a zippered plastic bag and then place the bag into an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. The double wrapping will help prevent the odor from spreading to other foods.
If you plan to keep durian longer than a couple of days, storing it in the freezer is best. It will last for up to two months when frozen. Keeping them in a flat container and avoiding stacking is best to prevent overcrowding.
Durian Fruit FAQ
The durian’s smell, taste, and look can indicate whether it is spoiled. If it has a sour flavor or aroma, it has likely spoiled and should be thrown away. Likewise, if the stalk is dry and withered, it has probably gone bad.
Despite its unpleasant odor, durian fruit comes packed with health benefits. It is an excellent source of fiber, B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, and healthy fats. It also contains many anti-inflammatories and antioxidant compounds.
Because durian contains a large amount of fiber, eating too much of it can lead to digestive issues such as bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Its high potassium levels can also put those with impaired renal functions at risk of developing hyperkalemia, an electrolyte disturbance.
What Is Durian Fruit & What Does It Smell Like (Ultimate Guide)
What is Durian
- Durian fruit is a large, oblong tropical fruits with a hard, spiky shell, custard-like flesh, and large seeds. It is the edible fruit of tree species belonging to the Durio genus, the most common being the Durio zibethinus. It is known for its strong and pungent smell.
- Durian can grow up to 12 inches long and 6 inches in diameter and can weigh anywhere from two to seven pounds. The color of the skin can range from green to brown and its flesh from pale yellow to red, depending on the species.
What does Durian smell like
- Durian's unique aroma is often compared to garbage, Limburger cheese, rotten egg, raw sewage, or sweaty socks. For many, the smell of durian fruit is overpowering and disgusting. For this reason, it has been banned from public places in counties such as Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
- However, some who have gotten used to the smell of this fruit via acquired taste may go so far as to say that durian fruit is tolerable, pleasant, and even sweet.
What does Durian taste like
- Despite its smell, the flesh of ripe durian fruit is delicious and sweet. Its flavor is often compared to caramel and vanilla, with some also describing it as nutty, garlicky, and cheesy.
- Because of its pleasant taste, durian works well in both sweet and savory dishes. Its creamy, custard-like texture and consistency make it an excellent addition to cakes, ice cream, and smoothies.