t’s Durian season, but why do the locals go Loco over Durian?
Known as the King of Fruits in Thailand, Durian is commonly eaten alongside the Mangosteen, the Queen of Fruits. This big spiky, sometimes intimidating fruit, has people waiting frantically for the season to commence.
Why is it so? Generally, non-Thais know only 3 things about Durian:
You really do know when durian season is at its peak as you will see pickup trucks and roadside vendors appearing all over Thailand. The markets are also teeming with vendors selling them. All the vendors seem to have a real passion for the fruit and they would never sell you one that is not right. They are extremely meticulous.
There are around 234 different varieties of Durian, however there are 3 main types that you will most commonly see in the markets, street side vendors or on the back of a pick up truck.
- Monthong (ทุเรียนหมอนทอง) • Golden Pillow (50 to 100 THB per kilo) This is the most common variety. It is normally less pungent in aroma with a more subtle flavour; the pieces of flesh are quite big and dense. The fruit is large and has large triangular spikes as well as a cone-shaped point on the bottom; this is a good place to start your durian taste test.
- Gaanyaao (ทุเรียนก้านยาว) • Long Stem (80 to 150 THB per kilo) This is the most expensive; high-class durian if you wish. This is a more rounded, spikey ball and looks like something from Game of Thrones, though the flesh is very sweet and even creamier than the other varieties. If you don’t like mushy fruit, buy this one just-ripe.
- Chanee (ทุเรียนชะนี) • Gibbon (50 to 80 THB per kilo) This is stronger than the Monthong in flavour and odour, however, it has a softer, more subtle texture and is very creamy to eat. The flesh is a darker yellow and when it ripens, it becomes more pungent. The fruit itself has a flat bottom, unlike the monthong.
Buying a Durian
It is really fascinating to watch a Thai Durian aficionado picking and choosing amongst the piles of the spiky fruit. The seller will tap each one gently, listening for the right tone; whether it has a hollower or deeper sound. One the vendor has determined the right tone and you are happy this one is the right size, they will skillfully slice into the skin so that the buyer can gently press on the flesh and also smell it. The smell at this stage should not be too strong; if it is, the fruit may have gone past its prime. The flesh should feel like a medium to well done steak; with a little give. This is where you decide whether you are going to outlay anywhere from 50 to 150 baht per kilo for the pleasure.
The vendor will then cut it down the seams so that you have the pleasure of unpeeling it at home, or you can get them to segment it for you, flopping the large segments onto paper that is then placed inside a plastic bag. If you’d prefer, just buy a piece that has already been split up and put on a tray with plastic film over the top of it.
Do try it once and not just in an ice cream or sponge cake.
Do learn about the 3 varieties and match their characteristics with what you think may be your preference.
Do eat it outdoors, as it can have a strong odour if left inside.
Don’t talk yourself out of trying it because of the little voice in your head saying, “I don’t like the smell”. The only way a Durian can kill you is if it hits you on the head from the 20 to 50 metre trees that they grow on, so don’t go picking one yourself.
Don’t eat too much of it as it may give you a stomach ache.
Don’t combine the pleasure of trying Durian with alcohol, as it can heat up the body and raise your blood pressure; this is a big no-no.
Don’t let any of the above stop you from trying it, as it it a joyous pleasure.