When my husband related the story to me, we were driving back from the airport. I pulled up durian on Wikipedia on my phone, and we laughed for 45 miles at the following descriptions of this peculiar fruit:
"The edible flesh emits a distinctive odor, strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the durian as fragrant; others find the aroma overpowering and offensive. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust. The odor has led to the fruit's banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in southeast Asia."
"The unusual flavor and odor of the fruit have prompted many people to express diverse and passionate views ranging from deep appreciation to intense disgust. Writing in 1856, the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace provides a much-quoted description of the flavor of the durian:
"The five cells are silky-white within, and are filled with a mass of firm, cream-colored pulp, containing about three seeds each. This pulp is the edible part, and its consistence and flavor are indescribable. A rich custard highly flavored with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavor that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy. It is neither acid nor sweet nor juicy; yet it wants neither of these qualities, for it is in itself perfect. It produces no nausea or other bad effect, and the more you eat of it the less you feel inclined to stop. In fact, to eat durian is a new sensation worth a voyage to the East to experience...as producing a food of the most exquisite flavor it is unsurpassed."
"While Wallace cautions that "the smell of the ripe fruit is certainly at first disagreeable", later descriptions by westerners are more graphic. British novelist Anthony Burgess writes that eating durian is "like eating sweet raspberry blancmange in the lavatory." Chef Andrew Zimmern compares the taste to "completely rotten, mushy onions." Anthony Bourdain, while a lover of durian, relates his encounter with the fruit as thus:
"Its taste can only be described as...indescribable, something you will either love or despise. ...Your breath will smell as if you'd been French-kissing your dead grandmother ... its odor is best described as pigsh*t, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia."
"Other comparisons have been made with civet, sewage, stale vomit, skunk spray and used surgical swabs."
With a description like that, can you see why I was disgustingly intrigued? Several months ago, I found out that my favorite candy, HiCHEW, was being offered in a seasonal durian flavor. I figured that if I was going to sample the "King of Fruits," I'd better do it in a delivery method that I am familiar with...HiCHEW. I've had the packages in my Japanese candy stash for a few months, and decided to end my Nicole Rates It hiatus with a review of durian HiCHEW.
Directly out of the foil wrapper, the white candy had a very light vanilla scent. At first bite, it was sweet, somewhat similar to the yogurt HiChew. As I chewed the candy, the flavor changed and my nostrils began to sting a bit. It is so hard to describe...kind of like an almondy vanilla onion, with a hint of strawberry. I enjoy the texture of HiChew, but the flavor didn't mesh well with the texture for me. Honestly, the flavor wasn't as bad as I expected, but it wasn't something I'd buy again for my own enjoyment.
It would, however, be a great gag gift. Or white elephant gift. I found the packages at an Asian market in California, and I was showing off my latest bizarre candy purchase at a party. A few of my friends volunteered to be subjected to durian HiChew torture, and they described the candy as such:
"An overripe strawberry yogurt cup, mixed with boiled onions and melted into latex."
"A rotten pickle in a mortuary"
"Rancid onion smoothie left outside in the sun for a week"
"A guacamole banana yogurt facial masque, accidentally consumed while drunk on a surgical glove."
"Var bitter. It was a deceptive experience because you see a candy. You unwrap a candy, it has the texture of candy, but it tasted like day-old yogurt. I thing it was supposed to sweeten up at the end but I didn't get that far." (Liz)
Cybele from CandyBlog reviewed it as such: " It’s a mix of strawberry and mirepoix. The onion notes weren’t completely revolting, it was like eating ice cream that had been stored in a smelly freezer ."
I can only imagine what the fruit would taste like fresh. I'm not sure I'm ready for it.
Nicole Rates It...3/10 (Try it once, then trick your friends into eating it)