Durians and I
I’m not a fan of durians. Every time I have tried a piece it has grossed me out and had me wishing for a bottle of mouth wash and a tongue scraper. And the taste lingers for ages; durians – it seems – cannot be untasted.
Despite this I have still been willing to give the king of fruits another chance. Living in Southeast Asia I have met many people who profess to like durians. I sometimes wonder if they really do, like people who say they enjoy reading Ulysses. I suspect that some people say they like eating durians just to show off.
That theory was blown out by a foodie friend of mine. I have been following Mark Wien’s blog for a while and have eaten with him when I have visited Bangkok. When it comes to food, I trust his judgement. I knew he loved durians, but when I saw his wedding photos where he had used a durian for a wedding cake I knew that his love for durians was for real. I also knew that I would have to try again.
Davao – Durian City
Davao is a city in the southern Philippines that is famous for durians. I have heard that people come here just to have durians, which are reputed to be the best in Asia.
[Davao – Durian City]
I was in Davao on a work trip and enough time had elapsed since my last attempt at eating durian so it was time to have another go. I found lots of vendors around the city but they were selling durians whole, and I only wanted one piece.
[Durianmobile – not much help for me]
I didn’t have any luck finding a merchant who would sell me one piece of durian, so I bided my time with a durian coffee. Blugre Cafe is a local chain cafe and their specialty is durian coffee. Wanted to try it mainly because I’m into trying weird coffees of the world. The coffee comes served with whipped cream which takes the edge off the taste. I drank it all. It wasn’t horrible, but I still prefer my coffee undurianised.
Giving durians another chance
Eventually I found a merchant who was cutting them up so I asked if I could buy one piece.
The merchant looked at my like I was crazy and didn’t understand why I only wanted a piece. It was my last night in town and only chance to have another go so I resigned to buying a whole durian.
[Streetside durian merchant in Davao]
He was looking for a durian for me when he asked, “sweet or bitter?”
What, there is a choice? Maybe all those bad durians I had over the years were bitter? This could be a game changer.
“Sweet, please” I said.
“That is 60 pesos.” Wow, really? 60 pesos is about $1.40. It seems durians are just falling off the back of the truck in Davao. I have read where one durian can fetch $30 in Singapore. No doubt more in Japan and Korea.
I bought my durian and while he was cutting it up I noticed some guys behind me having a durian feast. I figured I would have a piece and leave the rest for them. Of course being in the Philippines they asked me to sit down and eat with them.
[Durian lovers in Davao]
I noticed that they were eating durians with plastic bags around their hands. This also proved to be a game changer in durian eating. Part of what grosses me out about eating durians is that it sticks to your hand and makes a terrible mess. The last time I had a durian was in Kuala Lumpur, where I was given a piece that I couldn’t finish. I was left with this stinky, sticky mess clinging to my fingers until I could find a bin.
I picked out a piece from the prickly orb, took a breath and started eating. To my surprise I didn’t gag this time around. It still had that slightly off-putting texture and strong smell, but I managed to finish the piece. More surprising to me was that I then had another piece.
I asked my durian devouring friends if they love durians. They all, of course, said yes and that they usually eat durians once a week. I offered them a piece of my durian and I had another piece myself. I was shocked to find myself eating another piece and I realised that I could possibly eat a whole durian to myself.
So, I wouldn’t say that I am a convert. I don’t wander the streets of Asia dreaming of durians, and I wont be booking a durian holiday to davao anytime soon. I’m just happy that I can at least eat a durian without wanting to throw up.
[Me about to eat durian.]
Pictures (of you eating durian)! Or it didn’t happen! 😉
James Clark says
Haha, good point Dima. I’ve added one of me almost eating one – that will have to do 🙂
Nicki Chen says
I wish I’d tried durian while I was in the Philippines, just to see what it tastes like.
Mark Wiens says
Awesome post James, glad to hear you enjoyed it much more than you ever have this time around. You’re making me dream about booking one of those durian Davao holidays just to eat as much as possible!!
Now I feel like we have to give durian a second chance, too 😉 Kudos to you for giving it another try 😀
Congratulations! Took me a really long time before I learned to love durian. I first tasted durian candy when I was in grade school. I was already in college when I got the courage to finally try the real thing. And yes, I’ve tried durian cake, durian coffee, and durian ice cream in between. Now, I crave from time to time.