Photo: Late boat at Waecicu near Labuan Bajo.

What is a durian?

The magnificent spiked durian -- duri is the Malay word for spike -- is considered to be the king of fruits, but is just as much loathed for its invasive smell as worshipped for its flavour. The fruit, infamous for its heady odour, grows on a tree that can reach up to 30 metres tall and is indigenous to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. Watch out for falling durians if you're walking under a tree, as they snap off of their own accord when ripe. The fruit becomes slightly alcoholic during the two days it takes to ripen.

A decent specimen will have the texture of creamy custard or a soft buttery cheese and a unique flavour, with hints of banana, mango and pineapple. Its odour is so strong that many hotels and airlines in Asia ban guests or passengers from carrying the soccer-ball-sized fruit with them. The smell has been compared to sewage and stale vomit, among other equally vile things.

The skin of the durian is thick and covered with sharp spines which turn from green to yellow as the fruit ripens. You can buy durian already taken out of its skin and split into its sections from streetside vendors, particularly in Bangkok, as well as supermarkets. Within the white walls of each part are several seeds, each enclosed in flesh ranging from pale cream to bright yellow. Durian is considered a heating food, and those in the know recommend following a feast of it with mangosteens - the queen of fruit - which are supposed to be cooling. Don't drink coffee or sweet drinks with durian - many Asians believe the effects can be fatal.

Durian is particularly yummy in ice cream.

Fruit in Asia FAQ

A bit of history, perhaps a taste-test and an idea on just what some of those Asian fruits really look like.

Asian fruit FAQ

What is a banana?
What is a cantaloupe?
What is a guava?
What is a jackfruit?
What is a longan?
What is a mangosteen?
What is a papaya?
What is a pineapple?
What is a rambutan?
What is a soursop?
What is a starfruit?
What is a watermelon?

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