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What does durian taste like was one question we had while exploring the local food specialties in Southeast Asia.
This infamous fruit inspires much debate, and people either love it or hate it.
In each country we visited, the presence of durian was widespread in dishes as well as snacks and desserts.
Durian taste is subjective. It’s been likened to rotten eggs due to its pungent smell.
Yet others describe it as a strange combination of whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, diced garlic, onions, cheese, and caramel all at once!
Here is our attempt to make you appreciate or at least help you understand what this unique durian fruit smells and tastes like.
What Is Durian?
Durian fruit is known as the “King of Fruits” in Southeast Asia. The name comes from the Malay word for thorns, “durio”.
This tropical fruit is characterized by its large size, strong odor, and thorned skin or rind.
Durian fruits are native to Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. We encountered this tropical fruit in many Southeast Asian countries on our quest for authentic food across the region.
Durian has a creamy flesh that people describe as having a custard-like texture. However, it’s the odor of durian fruit that is most infamous.
Durian fruit has a particularly pungent smell – they have been described as the world’s smelliest fruit.
Today, Thailand is the largest producer and exporter of this spiky fruit. However, durian fruit is popular across Southeast Asia, and there are a number of festivals that celebrate it as their favorite fruit.
In the Thai province of Chanthaburi, for example, they hold the “World Durian Festival”, and Malaysia also has a festival to celebrate this divisive fruit.
While traveling across Southeast Asia, we noticed a special reverence for the fruit in Malaysia.
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Different Varieties of Durian Fruit
There are a number of different types of durian fruit. Each of these fruits tastes slightly different, with flavors that vary in sweetness, creaminess, and seed size.
The exact number of durian varieties differs, but only around thirty are edible. Of these, the most popular durian types include Musang King and Monthong.
While all the varieties of different are different, they all retain the pungent smell for which durian fruit are known.
Spotlight on A Few Durian Varieties
Musang King or Mao Shan Wang is one of the most popular durian varieties.
This Musang King variety is the most sought-after and considered to be one of the highest in quality.
It’s creamy, rich, and one of the most profitable varieties of durian fruit to export. Malaysia dominates the market for Musang King durian fruit. And this particular variety is beloved in Singapore.
Monthong durian fruits are another popular variety. This spiky fruit has a sweeter taste than other durian varieties.
Monthong durian fruits are grown in Thailand and are widespread throughout the country. The taste of Monthong durian is sweet and mild with flavors of vanilla and caramel.
The pungency of the durian fruit is low, making Monthong perfect for those tasting durian for the first time. Monthong durian flesh keeps longer than others making it easy to export.
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Durian Tekka is also known as the “Musang Queen.” Discovered in Malaysia, this durian fruit variety has large seeds compared to other fruits.
Oval in shape, it is large in size with pale yellow flesh on the inside. It’s creamy with strong flavors and a strong smell. It is a rarer durian fruit than other varieties.
Discovering Durian in Southeast Asia
We saw durian fruit for the first time in the Philippines. We were visiting the local Legazpi Sunday Market in the Makati neighborhood and were mesmerized by the variety of durian fruit.
How To Open Durian
While walking around the laid-back market with an array of local Filipino specialties, we stopped at a stand and watched, amazed at how a local vendor broke into a durian fruit.
As a notoriously spiky fruit with a tough, thorned rind, it takes a lot of effort to eat durian.
- You will need a sharp knife to cut into the durian fruit.
- Gently push the tip of the knife into the durian fruit’s base. You are aiming to split the fruit into segments, as you would an orange.
- Use the knife to break the durian apart into these segments. You’ll probably need to apply force when doing so (safely).
- Once you notice the rind starting to split, turn the fruit upside down, so that it’s resting on its head, where the stalk is.
- Pull the durian fruit segments apart with your hands. The fruit should split into thirds.
Watch Our Video On How To Cut Durian The “King of Fruits”
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What Does Durian Fruit Smell Like
Durian fruit is known for its strong smell. In fact, it has a reputation for being the smelliest fruit.
Whether or not you think durian fruit smell varies from person to person. We personally didn’t find durian to have a smell that was so overwhelming as to be completely off-putting.
That said, it definitely has a strong and even unpleasant smell.
The smell of durian has been described as that of onions, cheese, and even rotting garbage.
The durian fruit smells so pungent because of its unique chemical makeup. It’s a specific rare amino acid that makes durian fruit so stinky.
What Does Durian Taste Like
Some people say that durian tastes like ice cream and is sweet, whereas others suggest that it’s more like eating cheese.
Durian fruit tastes different depending on a number of factors. These can include the specific variety of fruit, as well as its ripeness, and the conditions in which it is grown.
Whether or not you enjoy the taste and texture of durian flesh will really depend on your own personal taste preferences.
Tasting Durian For The First Time In Thailand
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If you are in Thailand and looking for a durian experience, Or Tor Kor Market in Bangkok is one of the best places to taste the fruit.
While shopping at the market, we saw several aisles of two different kinds of durian varieties.
At the time, the two predominant varieties were Monthong and Kanyoa.
Curious about trying durian for the first time, we bought two portions, one of each variety.
As they say, the taste of durian depends on your personal taste profile, and we each had different opinions of the durian fruit taste.
While we each had different opinions of the durian fruit smell, we both liked the Monthong variety. We specifically liked the creamy flesh and soft texture.
It’s no wonder Monthong is described as a good durian for a first taste of the fruit.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Taking a food tour in Bangkok is a tasty way to discover the local food specialties. See our recommendations for 7 of the Best Bangkok Food Tours You Want To Try
Does Durian Taste Like Bananas?
Durian fruit does not taste like banana, but its texture is not dissimilar. To some people, it tastes sweet but slightly bitter, whereas others find the combination of sulfurous overtones too overwhelming.
How To Store Durian For Freshness
Given that durian fruit is known for how it smells, it’s worth storing it correctly to keep it fresh.
You should store durian in an airtight container in the fridge. This will prevent either air or moisture from getting to it, which will reduce the chance of it stinking up your fridge and house.
Durian can also be frozen for a maximum of two months. Just remember to defrost the fruit thoroughly before eating.
Where To Buy Durian
While durian fruit is most popular in Southeast Asia, it is also gaining popularity internationally. If you live in the US and want to eat this “King of Fruits”, your best bet is heading to a local Asian or Chinese grocery store.
Other Ways To Try the Taste of Durian
Durian is used to flavor many sweets and desserts in Southeast Asia. If you are too skittish to eat it raw, you might want to try it in one or more of the following treats.
Durian Ice Cream
Durian is definitely less intimidating in the form of ice cream. You will find Durian ice cream or popsicles in Malaysia and a few other Southeast Asian countries.
We found the Durian ice cream to be quite mild and not too sweet, making for a refreshing treat.
Durian Sticky Rice
In Thailand, you can find durian sticky rice or Khao Niao Toorien along with the famous Mango sticky rice.
With durian sticky rice, the fruit is sliced ahead of time and then placed in a container on top of the sticky rice for you to enjoy.
Durian candy is a popular snack in Southeast Asia. You’ll find many different kinds of durian candy, which are made by blending or pureeing durian fruit and combining it with sugar and other ingredients.
The resulting bite-sized candies are sweet with notes of the durian fruit’s unique aroma.
Durian MoonCake and Stuffed Pastries
In Vietnam, you will find soft durian cakes made with egg called Bánh Dau Xanh Trung or Bánh Pia. These soft eggy cakes are deliciously sweet and filled with durian paste.
Meanwhile, in Malaysia, you will find Tambun biscuits, a Penang delicacy, stuffed with durian.
Made from wheat flour, sugar, green bean paste, fried onions, lard, and salt, these pastries have an interesting salty and savory combination.
In Thailand, we found Durian Mooncakes in Bangkok Chinatown. The taste of the durian is definitely made milder because of the sweet cream inside.
Durian Health Benefits and Nutrition Facts
Durian fruit is amongst the most nutritious fruits in the world and has many health benefits. They’re bursting with healthy plant compounds and Vitamin C.
The fruit also has medicinal properties that have been used in traditional medicine across Asia for centuries.
Durian fruits are recognized for their health benefits, which include helping to regulate blood sugar levels, managing high blood pressure, preventing heart disease, and supporting overall heart health.
It is these health benefits that helps to explain why people eat durian, despite its overwhelming smell.
Fun Facts About Durian Fruit
If the taste of durian is not bearable to you, know that you are not alone. Durian is the only fruit that is banned by airports, hotels, and many public transportation spaces across Southeast Asia.
You will find signs reminding you not to transport this pungent smelly fruit with you. And if a hotel finds out that you had durian in your room, they may fine you for that.
Needless to say, if you’re looking for a durian experience, it’s safer and far more enjoyable to have it at a market or a fruit stall vendor.
That way, the fruit will be properly prepared so that you can taste it in its best conditions, and it will keep you out of trouble!
When traveling through Asia, you’ll undoubtedly hear a lot about durian, the king of fruits.
This celebrated fruit is worth experiencing at least once in your life.
If you find yourself wondering what durian tastes like, don’t be afraid to try it yourself.
Pick the raw fruit or whatever snack or candy form you can muster and try this pungent yet healthy fruit.
Be warned, durian is an acquired taste, and it might be one you will grow to love.
Do you know what durian tastes like? Have you had it before? Let us know what you think of it in the comments below.
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Claire is co-founder of Authentic Food Quest and a lover of simple and exquisite cuisine. Since 2015, with her partner, Rosemary, she has been traveling the world as a digital nomad, creating content about local food experiences.
Her advice from visiting 45 countries and more than 240 food cities has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post. She has also co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
An ex-mechanical engineer, Claire is responsible for SEO, keeping the website running, and the fun food & travel videos on YouTube.
When Claire is not eating, she can be found running or cycling. Find out more about Authentic Food Quest