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Indonesian Fruit Installment 1: An Ode to Durian

Before I begin writing about the strange/crazy/interesting/challenging/different/familiar city that Jakarta is, I wanted to introduce everyone to the durian. Jakarta is nicknamed the “big durian” because it is a big city that in parts does smell and some people really love it while others really hate it. I like this comparison a lot.

I had never eaten or seen a durian in the States. I had heard stories and when you Google durian tons of information comes up with some describing the smell of the fruit as onion and cheese-like while others are head-over-heels in love with it. My host family in Jogja knew I was intrigued by this fruit so one night they told me they had left some in the mud room of their home (otherwise their whole home would have smelled).

Durians are large, heavy, and the spikes are actually sharp. People have been killed by having durian fall from trees on them. Durians, like I am starting to realize with most tropical fruit, come in numerous varieties, so here I can only speak about the Jogja variety. And they smell. I don’t think it’s a bad smell; it’s just incredibly powerful. Once you have smelled it, for the rest of your life you will know if you come within a half mile of the fruit. The other day I went to Carrefour (yes, the French grocery chain has stores here) and as soon as I got near the fruit section I knew there was a case of durians to be found somewhere.

To open the durian my host family used a large butcher knife and then by hand you pull the halves apart. There is something really rewarding about this because I don’t think I’ve ever worked this hard to get at a fruit.

Once you’ve got the durian open you’ll need to scoop out the bits you’ll be eating. You want to eat the creamy layer covering the large pits.

So what do these layers on top of the pits taste like? Well, that’s an interesting question. They are creamy. I didn’t agree with the onion and cheese descriptions at all. To be honest, I think trying to describe the taste is impossible. It’s really a unique flavor. To me, it did taste a bit fruity. Did I like it? Yes. I guess the full answer is that it didn’t bother me and if it was offered to me again I would eat it.

This is what the pit looks like when all the fruit has been eaten. Durian is like the garlic of the fruit world. Once you eat some, the rest of the day the taste will be with you every time you burp or hiccup.

I’m sure you’re wondering what I think about Jakarta after all of this. To be honest, I’m not sure yet. More to come soon.

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