Monday, February 19, 2007

the king of fruits

Friday I got the opportunity to cut open and taste a durian fruit! I was so excited. After seeing them on TV and reading Anthony Bourdain's experience with this exotic stinky fruit, I couldn't believe I was face-to-face with one here in Missouri! I had the honor of opening the thing. It was very spikey and hurt my delicate hands a bit, but I toughed it out and stabbed a huge knife through it, at one of the seams, cutting it in half. The smell got stronger once it was opened, and the insides looked like soft organs of some sort. I scooped a piece of the smelly flesh up and tasted it. Despite reports, it kind of does taste a little like it smells. But, yummier. Very yummy in fact. Creamy and silky like some kind of custard. The taste was kind of like over ripe melon, stinky cheese and and aftertaste of green onions. Yeah! Green Onion! Crazy!!!

So, another fun food to cross off the list! Oh, and coincidentally, when I got home that evening, I saw that Slashfood had a post about durian cupcakes! I don't know about getting a durian and bringing it home, though. Maybe in the summer, when I can have an outdoor picnic. The smell is really pungent. Oh, and the burps? Eeek! To learn lots more about this very interesting "King of Fruits," check out the best durian webpage I've come across so far, Durian Palace.

And since it was where I first heard of durian, here's the bit from Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour:

"I knew it was close. I could smell it. The fabled durian fruit. You can smell it a hundred yards away. Imagine a big green menacingly spiked football - only it exudes an unforgettable, gassy, pungeant, decomposing smell. It's an odor that hangs over markets and produce stalls all over Asia. It is said to be delicious. I was intrigued. Expensive, ugly, difficult to transport - it's against the law to take durian on most planes, buses, and trains - it is said to be one of the most prized delicacies of the East. I had to try it. I bought a nice big one; it looked much like the relatively benign jackfruit, except spikier. I'd planned on taking it back to the hotel, but after ten minutes in the car with the reeking, foul-smelling object, the crew were crying for mercy. We had to pull over by Wat Phnom, a pagoda and park in the center of town, where, under the watchful eye of an elephant, I carved up my durian, sawing through thick skin and cutting myself on the stegasauruslike armor. God it stank! It smelled like you'd buried somebody holding a big wheel of Stilton in his arms, then dug hime up a few weeks later. After sawing through the skin, I pulled apart the fibrous yellowy pulp, exposing, around the avocado-sized pits, lobes of cheesy, gooey, spreadable material that looked very much like whole foie gras. The smell inside was less intense. I took a thick smear of the stuff - it had the consitency of a ripe St. Andre - and was shocked. It was fantastic. Cheesy, fruity, rich, with a slightly smoky background. Imagine a mix of Camambert cheese, avacodo, and smoked Gouda. OK, don't. That's not a very good description. But tasting the stuff, one struggles for words. It didn't taste anything like it smelled; the flavor was much less assertive, and curiously addictive. Durian was one of the first truly 'new' flavors I'd encountered - unlike anything else in its uniqueness, its difficulty. Remember the first time you tasted caviar? Or foie gras? Or a soft ripened cheese? There's that same sense of recognition that you're in new and exciting territory. You may not love it right away, but you know you've tasted something important and intriquing."

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