Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Durian is the large, thorn-covered fruit of a tree, Durio zibethinus, that’s a native of Southeast Asia and cultivated mainly in Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Durian is notorious for its very unfruit-like aroma, a powerful smell that can be reminiscent of onions, cheese, and meat at various stages of decay! At the same time many people prize it for its delicious flavor and creamy, custard-like texture. The armored mass of fused ovaries, each containing a seed, can weigh more than 13 lb/6 kg, and apparently evolved to appeal to elephants, tigers, pigs, and other large jungle creatures, which are drawn to it by its battery of powerful sulfur compounds, including some found in onions, garlic, overripe cheese, skunk spray, and rotten eggs. These compounds are mainly found in the outer rind, while the fleshy segments surrounding the seeds are more conventionally fruity and savory, with an especially high content of sugars and other dissolved solids (36%). Durian is eaten as is, made into drinks, candies, and cakes, and incorporated into rice and vegetable dishes. It’s also fermented to make it even stronger-tasting (Malaysian tempoyak).