The Durian Fruit Is A Highly Coveted Food – And It Smells Like Feet

Published March 5, 2018
Updated March 6, 2018

Anthony Bourdain warned that the durian fruit will leave one with breath that smells " as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother."

Durian Frut

Wikimedia CommonsA durian fruit still in its husk. The yellow part is the edible flesh, which encases an edible seed.

If you ever get bored with average bananas or run of the mill mangoes, you could always try the durian fruit – though be warned, its smell has been known to turn people off. After all, the smell of onions, rotting meat, raw sewage, turpentine, and dirty gym socks isn’t necessarily one you’d want emanating from your fruit salad.

Due to its unusual smell, the durian fruit has gained a cult following and has a huge reputation among those brave enough to try it. Either you hate it, or you love it, but everyone who’s tried it has an opinion on the durian fruit.

If you’ve never seen a durian fruit, it’s unlikely you’d miss it as you perused the farmers market. Even without the distinct aroma, the fruit is a sight to behold. Measuring between 10 and 12 inches long, six inches wide, and covered in a thick, thorny green husk, the durian is a hefty fruit.

However, if you’re perusing the fruit at a farm stand, you’d better be prepared to walk your two-to-seven pound purchase home. In several countries, including Thailand and Singapore, the durian fruit has been banned from mass transit. The smell is bad enough, but what’s worse is that it lingers, sometimes for hours, after the fruit is gone. On public transit, “no durian” are just as prevalent as “no smoking.”

No Durian Transit Sign

Wikimedia Commons
A no durian sign, as seen on public transportation.

Now, if you’re brave enough to overlook the smell and get your stinky fruit home, what do you do next?

The flesh of the fruit is actually extremely versatile. It can be eaten raw, though the flavor is often overpowered by the stench. It can also be cooked and used as a flavoring additive in many dishes. Possibly the most shocking, however, is its most common use – in candies and baking.

Those who’ve tasted the durian fruit describe it as sweet, and crème brûlée-like. The texture is custardy, further emphasizing its dessert qualities. The most traditional way of eating the fruit is to mix it with sugar and wrap it in a pancake. One New York City ice cream parlor mixes it with banana and turns it into a surprisingly popular ice cream.

Of course, you might want to have a toothbrush on hand. Though the cooking down of the fruit quells the scent enough to eat it, the pungent scent reemerges after you’ve eaten.

“Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother,” Anthony Bourdain once said.

So, if you ever find yourself in Southeast Asia, and can get over the turpentine/onion/rotting meat smell, and the dead grandmother breath, perhaps you should give the durian fruit a try. After all, the locals all highly suggest it – just so long as you’re not riding in the same train car as them.

Next, check out more weird and surprising foods, like the balut egg, and hakarl.

Katie Serena
Katie Serena is a New York City-based writer and a staff writer at All That's Interesting.