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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

1 February 2011

Durian Durian

27th January 2011

In Indonesian words can often be doubled to emphasise their meaning, so for example “besar besar” means not just large but lots of large. I’ve had my first experience of eating fresh, ripe durian and it’s such an amplified fruit experience in every way that it really ought to be doubled. Durian Durian.

If you’ve now got “Rio” going through your head, you grew up in the 80’s.

So, the first thing about the durian is its size. It’s a massive spikey beast the size and shape of a rugby ball. The only way to get it open is to stand on it; if it’s ripe then it will split neatly down one seam. Maureen likes to tell an amusing incident about the first time I tried to open a durian back in England and I stood on it with bare feet. Lawks, how we laughed at me. On that occasion the durian had gone off and had to be thrown away, hence I was still a durian virgin until today.

Now we move on to the smell. It is solidly pungent, like ripe Epoisses cheese churned with Sauterne, bananas and cream. It fills any room, easily. There’s a reason why Asian hotels disallow them. The one we ate this morning was brought home in the car yesterday afternoon. This evening, more than a day later, when I opened the car to get our backpack out the stink of durian hit me anew.

Finally, we consider the degustory experience. The smell fills your mouth and nasal passage even as you take a bite, the taste joins in with a sweet drunken tang that increases the pungency of the smell. The taste can’t be compared or contrasted with any other fruit. In fact, it is more like devouring an overly rich confection than merely eating a fruit. In texture too. The texture is ineffably rich, like very thick clotted cream but without the redeeming freshness of dairy. Unctuous extremis.

And the whole ensemble of flavour and mouth-feel lingers on the palate for at least four hours. This evening, resting in the quiet seaside resort of Padangbai on the way to the east coast for a three day break from Denpasar, I can finally no longer taste the durian in my throat.

In case it isn’t clear, I enjoyed my durian and am looking forward to more.

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