Have you ever left sweaty clothes in your gym bag on accident and almost upchucked when you went to take them out weeks later? Or gone on a long vacation and come home to rotten onions in your cupboard? If you have, then you have a pretty good idea of what the durian, the so-called King of Fruits, smells like. Due to the offensive odor this King isn’t permitted on the MRT (Singapore’s subway system) and is banned from most hotels.
The fruit has a lousy reputation among Westerners but for some reason many local Singaporeans love it. Michael and I decided that we would try durian just once so we could make up our own minds about it. When a couple of local friends offered to take us out to try it we readily accepted. What better way to try the fruit than with experienced locals who have a taste for it? They knew exactly where to get it and what variety to try.
With Linn and Peng Fong as our gracious guides, we arrived at Durian Lingers (how appropriate!) in Katong to sample the fruit. After carefully choosing the finest specimen our friends demonstrated how to eat the fruit and watched in anticipation as we took our first bites.
The first thing I notice is the texture of the fruit. My fingers sink into the custard-like flesh and what initially felt soft and smooth quickly turns to mush from the warmth and pressure of my grip. The scent of the fruit hangs in the air but as I take my first bite I find that the fruit doesn’t taste as strongly as it smells. The durian’s flesh is both mushy and stringy at the same time and it sticks to the inside of my mouth and throat as I chew then swallow. I find it’s not as bad as I had imagined, so I take a few more bites and finish one section, then grab another.
The durian wasn’t terrible, but it definitely wasn’t good. Which makes me wonder- what’s the draw? It may have some vitamins but it’s full of carbs, calories, and fat. And it’s not cheap. In Singapore a large, high-quality fruit can set you back S$50 or more. I can only assume that there are vast differences in the taste perception between those who like it and those who don’t. If you eat it, you must somehow believe that it tastes good. Otherwise… Why? I’m glad I tried it, as it seems a sort of rite of passage of living in Southeast Asia. And now I’m quite glad to cross it off my list for good!