Are you ready to brave the spiky exterior and delve into the world of durian? If you love learning about exotic tropical fruits in Asia, then be sure to check out these other 12 fruits I recommend that you try! Included on this list is the rambutan as well as papaya. Not only do I love trying tropical fruits but I also cook with them! Such as this jackfruit popcorn chicken recipe, this papaya smoothie, and this jackfruit ice cream.
My Experience With Durian
If you don't know already, I am an Australian expat living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I have been in South East Asia for 7 years now (Singapore and Malaysia) and it wasn't until 1 year ago that I decided to dive deep into the world of durian!
Since then, I have gained popularity on TikTok for my durian vlogs. I love getting newbies to try it for the first time! If you too are new to durian, then keep reading as I dive deep into what durian tastes likes, what types you should try, as well as when and where to get it.
What does durian taste like? The origins of durian and the many different types
The controversial "king of fruits: has a pungent smell and a fleshy interior that is loved by some and reviled by others. The taste of durian is a complex mix of sweet, savoury, and creamy notes. In this article, we'll explore the origins and various types of this tropical fruit to uncover what makes it so distinctive.
From its Southeast Asian roots to its growing popularity worldwide, durian has earned a mystique that's as compelling as its flavour. It wasn't until I moved to Malaysia that I truly understood the hype of this fruit! It was also here in Malaysia that I learnt that there are many different varieties, ranging from the pungent but subtly sweet Musang King, to the more pungent XO and the rich, custard-like D24. Whether you're a durian aficionado or a curious taste explorer, understanding the nuances of this unique fruit promises an adventure for your taste buds.
So, if you've ever wondered what durian tastes like or are contemplating taking the plunge into trying it for the first time, join me as I slowly unravel the allure of durian and its myriad flavours during my stay here in Malaysia.
The Origins of Durian
The origins of durian can be traced back to the lush rainforests of Southeast Asia, particularly in countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. Revered as the "king of fruits" in these regions, durian holds a significant cultural and culinary importance. Its cultivation dates back to ancient times, where it was prized by local communities for its rich, creamy texture and distinctive flavour. The fruit's mesmerising allure has led to its widespread cultivation, with different regions producing unique varieties that showcase a spectrum of flavours and aromas.
The durian tree, scientifically known as Durio zibethinus, belongs to the Malvaceae family and can grow up to 40 meters in height. Its large, oval-shaped fruits, covered in formidable thorn-like spikes, contain edible, custard-like flesh that encapsulates a medley of flavours, ranging from sweet to savoury, and a hint of bitterness. This exotic fruit's evolution from a wild species to a coveted culinary treasure has contributed to its status as a cultural symbol and a source of fascination for food enthusiasts around the world.
Different Types of Durian
The world of durian is as diverse as it is captivating, with a myriad of distinct varieties that cater to different palates and preferences. Among the most renowned types is the Musang King, celebrated for its lusciously sweet and creamy flesh, which exudes a tantalizing aroma. Its popularity has transcended borders, earning it a reputation as one of the most sought-after durian varieties globally.
In contrast, the XO durian, also known as the "Black Thorn," offers a bold and robust flavour profile, characterised by its pungent aroma and complex, bittersweet notes. This variety appeals to connoisseurs who crave a more intense and multifaceted durian experience. Additionally, the D24 durian, prized for its velvety texture and rich, custard-like consistency, has captivated the taste buds of discerning enthusiasts seeking a harmonious blend of sweetness and creaminess.
Beyond these prominent varieties, durian encompasses an extensive array of cultivars, each distinguished by its unique combination of flavours, aromas, and textures. The diversity of durian types reflects the fruit's remarkable adaptability to various growing conditions and the meticulous efforts of farmers to cultivate exceptional specimens. Whether you prefer a subtle sweetness, a bold pungency, or a velvety richness, there's a durian variety tailored to satisfy your palate.
Knowing Which Type To Try
Are you planning a trip to South East Asia soon and want to try the durian? If so, then thats great! Trying durian can be confusing for the first time because you will need to choose which variety to try. Undoubtedly the most famous and sought after durian is the Musang King, however I would not recommend the Musang King as your first durian due to its extra strong pungent and creamy flavours.
Great Beginner Durians
If it's your first durian, then I highly recommend you skip the famous (and pungent) Musang King, and go for a more sweet and milder flavoured durian. Great beginner options include:
- Udang Merah
- Kampung Durian
- ioi / 101 Durian
- Red Prawn
The above are good beginner durians because they are known to be less pungent, creamy, and have more sweet flavours. I have personally tried the Udang Merah, D13, and the ioi durian. If its your first time I would highly recommend finding the D13, Udang Merah or the ioi (in that order of preference).
Moving onto the more experienced durian lovers, you may want to try the following:
- Black Thorn
- Musang King
Further Describing The Taste of Durian
Describing the taste of durian is a challenging endeavour, as its flavour profile is a complex interplay of contrasting elements. Durian is a symphony of flavours, encompassing nuances of sweet, savoury, and custard-like textures, complemented by a subtle hint of bitterness. It is this bitterness that I like to refer to as the "pungent" flavours.
The Texture of Durian
I personally would describe the texture of durian like baked pumpkin. It is this creaminess that many foreigners find extremely off putting about the fruit. I believe that as a westerner the expectation is for the fruit texture to be similar to a mango or a peach. The custard like creaminess can be quite shocking to some! As Dan shares in one of my vlogs "it's the creaminess that is the problem!"
The Smell of Durian
One of the defining characteristics of durian is its potent aroma, which has evoked polarising reactions among all! While some are captivated by its alluring fragrance, others find it overpowering and divisive. The scent of durian has been described as a blend of ripe, tropical fruits with underlying hints of onions and fermented notes, lending a distinctive and unforgettable olfactory experience.
To put it more bluntly, those that hate the smell describe it as a "sewerage smell". Although, after living in Asia for some time now, I no longer find the smell like sewerage and would rather describe it as an overripe fruit smell. Nether-less, even those who love durian will often agree that the smell is not pleasant. Strangely enough, when you hold the durian flesh up to your nose it does not smell!
Where to Find Durian
While durian is deeply rooted in Southeast Asian culture, its popularity has transcended geographical boundaries, leading to its availability in diverse markets and culinary landscapes. In regions where durian cultivation is prevalent, such as Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, visitors can immerse themselves in the vibrant durian culture, exploring local markets and plantations to discover an array of varieties and flavours.
In non Southeast Asian countries, you are likely to find during in asian speciality groceries stores or potentially even at durian fesitvals or culinary experiences during the durian season.
Where to find durian in Malaysia
Malaysia is believed to be the country of origin for this famous fruit and that is 100% what any Malaysian will tell you too! Therefore, finding during in Malaysia is EASY! especially if you are travelling through the capital city Kuala Lumpur.
Finding Durian in Kuala Lumpur
As a tourist visiting KL, the easiest place for you to try some durian is on food street aka Jalan Alor. Otherwise, if you really want to experience durian as the locals do, I would recommend checking out Durian Man in SS2.
Durian season is different each year but it is generally around July to October. During these months there will be durian pop up stalls all over the city too! If you are visiting Malaysia outside of these months the best place to go is Jalan Alor Food Street. Just remember that because it is outside of durian season the selection will be smaller and the durian may not be as fresh or delicious as ones you get during the season. However, do not let this deter you. If you are a beginner durian taster, then it is unlikely that you will notice such a difference!
Nutritional Value of Durian
Beyond its polarising taste and aroma, durian boasts a remarkable nutritional profile that adds to its appeal as a wholesome indulgence. This tropical fruit is rich in essential vitamins and minerals, making it a valuable addition to a well-rounded diet. Durian is notably high in vitamin C, an essential antioxidant that supports immune function and promotes collagen production for healthy skin and tissue.
Moreover, durian is a good source of dietary fibre, which aids in digestion and contributes to a feeling of satiety. Its natural sweetness is derived from a blend of simple sugars, providing a quick energy boost without the need for added sugars or artificial sweeteners. Additionally, durian contains beneficial nutrients such as potassium, B vitamins, and healthy fats, making it a nutrient-dense fruit with diverse health benefits.
While durian's rich and creamy texture may suggest a high fat content, it's important to note that the majority of its fat content is in the form of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which contribute to overall well-being. When enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, durian offers a wealth of nutrients that align with a holistic approach to nutrition and wellness.
Durian in Culinary Uses
The versatility of durian extends beyond its role as a standalone fruit, as it is also celebrated for its culinary adaptability. In Southeast Asian cuisine, durian is a prized ingredient that features prominently in a diverse array of dishes, ranging from traditional desserts to savoury delicacies. Its rich, creamy texture and distinctive flavour make it an ideal component for creating indulgent treats that captivate the senses.
One of the most iconic durian-based desserts is durian ice cream, renowned for its velvety smoothness and intense fruitiness. This frozen delight showcases the lusciousness of durian while offering a refreshing and satisfying experience. Additionally, durian is often incorporated into pastries, cakes, and confections, elevating these creations with its unique flavor profile and creamy consistency.
In Malaysia, during durian season you will lots of different durian flavoured treats! One of the most popular durian flavoured desserts in Kuala Lumpur is a durian cendol.
In savoury cuisines, durian finds its place in dishes such as durian curry, where its creamy texture and subtle sweetness complement the aromatic spices and savoury components. The versatility of durian as both a sweet and savoury ingredient underscores its culinary significance and the boundless creativity it inspires in the kitchen. Embracing durian in culinary endeavours unlocks a world of possibilities, inviting culinary enthusiasts to explore its multifaceted role in diverse gastronomic traditions.
How To Eat Durian
The best way to eat durian is fresh! Therefore, eating durian that has been just opened is my recommendation. When buying a durian at a popup stall in Southeast Asia, they will open the durian for you so you can enjoy the fresh durian!
Trying Durian Vlogs
@simplegreensoul Who knew the smelly fruit would be so tasty?! #durianmalaysia #durianlovers😍😋 #malaysiafoodies #malaysiafoodie #veganmalaysia #veganinmalaysia ♬ Clair de Lune - Flight Facilities
@simplegreensoul My family try durian for the first time! 🤣 #durianmalaysia #durianlovers😍 #malaysiafoodies #musangking #durianlovers😍😋 #malaysiafoodie #plantbasedfoodie #aussieinmalaysia #fruiteating #tryingdurian ♬ Aesthetic Music (Remastered 2022) - Bepo
@simplegreensoul My niece tries durian for the first time! I’m trying so hard to recruit everyone to team durian 😂 #durianmalaysia #durianlovers😍 #malaysiafoodies #durianlovers😍😋 #malaysiafoodie #aussieinmalaysia #fruiteating #tryingdurian #udangmerah #udangmerahdurian ♬ Aesthetic Music (Remastered 2022) - Bepo
@simplegreensoul Replying to @farrizrhmn actually I’ve got to disagree with you on this one! Those who are inbetween must surely eventually love it though 🤣 Which one are you? #durianmalaysia #tryingdurian #durianlovers😍😋 #durianlover❤️ #udangmerah #musangkingmalaysia ♬ Funny - Gold-Tiger