My First Time Eating Durian
By Mikkel Gisle Johnsen
After discovering the benefits of eating a raw food diet back in 2011, my brother Mads and I were instantly intrigued by tropical fruits. With their incredible colors, shapes and aromas, their natural appeal to our senses was undeniable. One fruit in particular seemed to reign supreme over all the others though. Durian.
After several months of drooling over pictures and YouTube videos showcasing this absurdly delicious looking fruit, we decided to head over to Thailand to get a taste for ourselves.
The Meeting For the first month of our eastern journey, we found no Durian at all. This was expected though, since we were on a small island in the southwestern part of the country, way early in the season. We ate mangoes like it was going out of style and got acquainted with the tropical environment!
Our preparations for the trip, as well as some of our experiences – including tips on how to go fruit hunting in places like Thailand – are detailed in my book «The Way of The Fruitful Traveler».
Eventually, we headed on over to Chanthaburi and the island of Koh Chang in eastern Thailand. We had learnt – from watching Durianrider videos on YouTube – that this province was the place to be if you wanted good durian.
The myth of an unbearable stench was quickly debunked during our first encounter with the King of Fruit at a market in Chanthaburi, late March 2012. An intensely sweet and delicious aroma immediately made us desire the fruit. It was reminiscent of caramelized onions mixed with tropical fruit somehow.
We were intent on our first Durian experience being in a more tranquil environment though, so we left the market with some mangoes and headed back to our hotel to eat dinner and get a good nights sleep before leaving to the island of Koh Chang the next morning.
The First After moving into a nice bungalow on the southern tip of the island, we were ready to buy our first ever batch of Durian. They were of the Kradumthong variety, which means «Golden Button». After several days of leaving them to ripen in our hut, marinating our sleeping space with the most amazing scent, one finally split open. We had read that we should wait until they split open before eating them. This is more a general guideline than it is a rule we’ve later learnt, and it applies only to early picked durian, not tree ripened!
The moment of truth was upon us. Would we love it or hate it? Durianrider says it should be «supersweet». Here we go! «Blah! Noo!!! What is this? It tastes like raw onions!»
The disappointment was huge. Durian was disgusting! Not sweet at all! After a few moments of denial, we agreed that it was indeed very unpalatable.
We were skeptical though. How could this be? Durian is supposed to be very sweet! We decided something wasn’t right and that we would have to give it another try, another day. Maybe it was over ripe?
The Second A couple of days later it was time to give Durian another chance. We were probably more excited than the first time. Same variety. Same setting. Same view of the ocean. Same smell.
«Oh yes! Mmmmmm! This is good. This is different!»
A strong sense of relief came over us as we realized it was actually good! Not only good – it was really good! Sweet with nutty undertones – just like we had heard people talk about! Finally we get to learn what the fuzz was all about!
It was obvious to us that the first durian we had must have been over ripe and somewhat rotten. Now, years later, we can confirm this to be true. Every durian is different, but the Kradum variety especially, goes «raw onion» on you if you leave it too long past peak ripeness. It also loses its sweetness. If you catch it right at the perfect time though, you’ve got yourself a glorious meal of what we like to call «Butter of The Gods».
The Third A day or two after our second, and first real Durian experience, we were back at it wanting more. Let’s face it – we went to Thailand because of Durian alone. Sure, we wanted to experience the tropical climate and all the wonderful fruits there, but the real attraction was Durian. Prior to seeing, smelling and tasting the fruit, we were both worried about whether or not we would like it. There was so many expectations. People talk about this fruit as if it’s from another planet! Like nothing else!
Needless to say, we were disappointed after our first try. When our second Durian hit the spot like no other fruit had ever done before, we were in love – but it was not until our third try that we really entered that deep state of complete and utter «Durianosis».
Same setting. Same Durian Variety. Different batch though.
The celestial objects were in alignment. Our lives approaching the point of no return. Hand with Durian moving towards mouth. Impact.
No words at first. But then:
«This is insane! What is going on? How can something taste this good?»
Heads shaking in disbelief we started laughing…or crying. I’m not quite sure what was going on to be honest. Third time’s a charm they say and that’s exactly what happened to us. It was the most intensely delicious gustatory experience I had ever experienced. Superb aromas mixed with a super sweet taste, complete with infinite levels of subtle nuances in between. Words always fail me when I want to describe Durian.
The texture is creamy, like ice cream or a mix between avocado and banana. It’s like a dense version of whipped cream, encapsuled within a thin skin that bursts when you put it in your mouth. Like the best dessert in the world – just way better! There are hints of onion for sure, but that’s quite enjoyable now that it comes in concert with all the other flavors and sweetness. Some people say that it’s «too sweet», but as a former heavyweight candy consumer I beg to differ. The nausea that accompanies the consumption of too much refined sugar has nothing in common with the feeling of satisfaction that comes from fresh fruit.
So there we were. In a blissful state of Durian ecstasy. On a cliff, on an island in the Gulf of Thailand, looking out at the sunset, satisfied that the King of Fruit had blessed us with his presence. An obsession was born.
Read more: Why You Should Go Traveling Sooner Rather Than Later