Plate or Pass: Durian

Categories: Food

Welcome to "Plate or Pass" a new series devoted to finding some of the strangest, most intriguing, and perhaps even disturbing foods the Twin Cities has to offer. Each week, we'll introduce you to a new ingredient, talk to local chefs who use it daily, and teach you how to prepare it on your own. But we're warning you: It may not be pretty.

frozen_durians.jpg
Emily Eveland
Frozen fruits of death

What looks like a pine cone, pokes like a cactus, smells like death, and tastes even worse? It's none other than the durian, considered the "king of fruits" by many in Southeast Asia. Thomas Fuller of the New York Times claims to "experience overtones of hazelnut, apricot, caramelized banana and egg custard" in the durian while others -- including Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods -- take one bite and vomit.

See also:
Top five scariest foods you'll love to eat

Durians, which can grow up to 12 inches long and weigh anywhere from two to seven pounds, simply fall to the ground when they're ripe, so most commercial farmers hang nets around their properties to avoid being knocked unconscious. If the size isn't enough to knock you out, the smell certainly is. Durians smell so bad that most hotels and public transit systems across Southeast Asia have banned them from their premises.

durian_flesh.jpg
Emily Eveland
Little dorian fetuses

Beyond the durian's pokey exterior lie parallel chunks of yellow flesh. Don't be fooled by its designation as a fruit; if smelling like a roadkill dumpster weren't enough of a deterrent, a full-sized durian contains upwards of 1,500 fatty calories.

We first stumbled upon the durian while perusing United Noodle in Seward. There they were, huddled together in a spiky, frozen mass, patiently waiting for another curious Minnesotan to take one home, crack it open, and immediately throw it out the window. United Noodle sells whole durians for around $3 per pound, as well as frozen flesh for those uninterested in being stabbed by large fruits. We opted for the flesh.

While waiting for the flesh to defrost, We took a trip to Pho 79 in Uptown to taste their durian smoothie. The smoothie is prepared with sweetened condensed milk, 2% milk, ice, tapioca pearls, and durian flesh. Though durian flesh is a creamy yellow, the smoothie was pale green in color. The first sip didn't taste particularly good, but it wasn't nearly as repulsive as we anticipated. The consistency was what won us over -- the smoothie was perfectly thick and creamy. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to counterbalance the flavor.

durian_smoothie.jpg
Emily Eveland
Pho 79's creamy durian smoothie

Midway through our first round with the durian, Pho 79 employee Ju Phan approached the table. "Do you like it?," he asked. We said yes. After all, we didn't dislike it. "Do you eat durian often?" we asked him. He nodded with enthusiasm. "My kid cannot eat it," he said, plugging his nose. "It's stinky. It's good, though."

Phan said he buys most of his durian across the street from Pho 79 at Truong Thanh Grocery Store. Though there weren't any whole durians available there, we found a few varieties of durian candy. Just under $2 buys you a bag of rotten-smelling candy morsels that taste kind of like caramel, but mostly like socks.

Our day with durian was almost done. There was only one thing left -- the durian flesh itself. Removed from its plastic wrapper, the flesh looked like larvae and responded to the touch like something in a state of decay, but the texture was just a portent of the flavor to come: curdled milk, rotten eggs, cottage cheese, wet garbage, and a dash of sugar.

smashed_durian.jpg
Emily Eveland
Hungry, anyone?

For us, durian was like the evil ex-lover of the exotic fruit world -- it made us queasy and filled us with regret, but we kept returning for more, thinking the next bite would be better. It never got better. The durian wants to make you suffer.

Durian lovers of the world, we salute you. If only our five senses were as finely calibrated.

Verdict: We'll pass. Might we recommend Pho 79's avocado milkshake instead?


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Location Info

Pho 79

2529 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant


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32 comments
wtongen
wtongen

Great post! Durian is definitely an acquired taste. Here is evidence that I know what I am talking about. 


Personally, I enjoy durian on my plate and encourage my fellow mid-westerners to open their minds and palates to exotic food. Try it before you pass on it. 

Maybe this will help - The Thais believe durian is an aphrodisiac and there is some scientific evidence that supports this idea. "When the Durians are falling the sarongs are rising." as they say. @BenWallace believes me.

Brian Hutzell
Brian Hutzell

I avoided it for years - mistake! It's delicious!

marc275
marc275

Uff Da!  Why eat something with odor and flavor akin to an untended septic system?  I've tried it several times.  I wonder what the first person to eat durian was thinking at the time..."This smells like burning toenails.  I think I'll put it in my mouth."

tastyfrzz
tastyfrzz

I've had it in Singapore.  When it's in the stores there it's bright green and they crack them open on the street.  I swear it smells like a dirty milkhouse drain on a hot summer day.   The smell makes me gag  and sticks to anything around it.  And it tastes just like it smells with sweetness.


They say if you eat it 5 times you'll be hooked.  Only if it's got a really strong narcotic as far as I'm concerned although I am able to walk through the market now without gagging.

Helder Francisco Vieira Gomes
Helder Francisco Vieira Gomes

There's an ice-cream shop in Vancouver that sells over 200 flavours of ice-cream, one of which is durian-flavoured. Despite them offering a sample before buying, I decided to be hardcore and just get a scoop of it (as well as something more innocuous just in case). I had a taste, but couldn't figure out what it tasted like. After another taste, the answer was clear: natural gas. Like the stuff that heats homes. So I took that scoop and whipped it into the garbage and enjoyed the remaining scoop of super chocolate montenego.

Ran Dazzle
Ran Dazzle

wretched.but I am sure trenders hipsters will claim they love it

Angela Salzl
Angela Salzl

I tried it about a dozen times. I mean I don't dislike or like it..... if offered I would eat it again. but I'll never order it or look for it anywhere!

Diane O'Saurus-Rex
Diane O'Saurus-Rex

Your column is seriously "reviewing" a very traditional, popular non-western dish - not one meal, but the ingredient in general - and suggesting that it's not worth your readers' time to try it? What is this?

Sebastian Galdames
Sebastian Galdames

I can see how the people that love it love it....however I'm on the other side of the coin. Pass.

Ellie Rivkin
Ellie Rivkin

It's a little bit weird at first, but some people like to think of it as a fruit version of vanilla pudding. It's pretty good though!

David Kay
David Kay

I prefer it fresh and over ice cream. Mmmmmmmmm

Dee Finkelson
Dee Finkelson

Ha! Im Indonesian so I ♥ durian eventho its been 11 yrs I havent eat it. Hubby is Minnesotan & kids were born here so they r not used to this fruit...lol.

Sam Ziemer
Sam Ziemer

I had some. It was an appearance thing for me. Maybe we went at out wrong, but opening it up reminded me of the inside of a big bug. The fruit treated like garlic custard/pudding to me.

Srey Ung
Srey Ung

Yes I have some in my fridge right now. The smell makes my mouth water. Love it!

Matthew Anderson
Matthew Anderson

Looked one at Sun Foods. Purchased a package of durian flavored cookie wafers: they tasted awful. From what I've read, durian is an acquired taste, but I'm not sure it's worth spending precious life trying to acquire it.

Debi Jacovetz
Debi Jacovetz

"For us, durian was like the evil ex-lover of the exotic fruit world -- it made us queasy and filled us with regret, but we kept returning for more, thinking the next bite would be better. It never got better. The durian wants to make you suffer." You have summed up EXACTLY how I feel about durian, but have been unable to describe in words before now.

Greg A. Joelson
Greg A. Joelson

I have heard that this fruit is very stinky--but it is really tasty--just plug your nose while you eat it

CF_MN
CF_MN

Can't wait for the hakarl and balut segment.

tastyfrzz
tastyfrzz

The thing is it is so popular overseas we just don't know what we're missing. So I can see why they covered it.

tastyfrzz
tastyfrzz

bought some back from Singapore.  My mom took them to the senior citizen's coffee bar in Bemidji so they'd have something to talk about.  One guy explained it this way.  "Took three doughnuts to get the taste out of my mouth!"

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