How to Eat Durian for Newbies

The fruit is mostly grown in Mindanao, specifically in the fertile, volcanic soil of Davao, Cotabato, Agusan, and Sulu. The season begins around August up until early November. When I saw durians in SM at the 99php/kilo price point, you know the season is in full swing and can expect better rates and produce in Divisioria – If you know where to look.

I know of many friends who are not very agreeable to the creamy, yellow fruit and it’s easy to understand why. If you live in the city, durian is difficult to come by. There are no stalls that specialize in selling the produce, and it’s rare to see a shop who advertises the variety of durian they are selling. It can also get pricey, even at 100PHP/Kilo, a decent piece will weigh around 2-3KG and even then, there’s no guarantee you get a good piece that’s the perfect ripeness.

But you see, it need not be a hit or miss. There is a certain way to enjoy or at least learn to appreciate the delicate flavors hiding underneath all that stench.

Here are 5 things you need to know when attempting to eat durian or are trying to learn to appreciate it

Be Warned: The Spikes HURT

A couple of weeks back, I found myself hastily heading home with a small ripe piece of durian I picked from the nearby market. The small plastic bags containing an assortment of fruits and vegetables swayed to the rhythm of my steps. As did the durian fruit which then punctured the coconut water I bought, spewing sweet, sticky electrolytes on the walk home. Now had to walk faster and that damaged the frail plastic holding the spiky little thing that fell an inch away from my big toe. Of course, I still got injured while excitedly prying open the husks. Murphy’s Law.

So TL;DR: Be careful of the spikes, they fucking hurt.

Ask a Knowledgeable Friend or a Trusty Fruit Vendor

I think the biggest thing you miss out on when you live in the city is getting the really good fresh produce. I read somewhere that the best durians are the ones that have fallen off the tree, they’d be what we call “hinog sa puno” or ripened on the tree. As with any fruit that should yield the sweetest of fruits BUT that has a very short shelf life and will not survive long trips. We city folk will have to make do with under ripe pieces that are forced to ripen under harsh conditions with the help of chemicals. That significantly raises your chance of getting bad pieces that can be overripe and under ripe in certain areas. Ask a professional you trust whether it’s your suking vendor or a weird friend who likes the stuff for help in choosing your durian.

Too Overwhelmed? Go for Manibalang

I love that word, manibalang. As a tropical country, I believe one of the best things we can all understand is how a fruit that is almost ripe can be really enjoyable. Think green mango with bagoong (sautéed shrimp) but it’s not quite green. Hints of yellow have begun to spread from the top part giving you a hint of sweetness to go with the sour along with the satisfying crunch. If you feel that ripe durian is too much, go for a manibalang piece, probably a day away from being ripe. This way you can taste the flavors without the stench being too overpowering or sickly sweet.

Treat it Like Black Coffee or Beer or Kimchi

Remember the first time you had a sip of beer or black coffee or  bite of kimchi and you had that disgusting “BLEUAGHCCCKK” gag face? You know what I’m talking about. The first time will most likely NOT be good. The second probably will be as bad or worse because you’ll be anticipating the smell and the other pungent memories associated with it. Once you get over the strong outer flavors, your taste buds can begin to understand and recognize more subtle, intricate flavors. It took me a while to recognize notes in the coffee and I’m still learning to appreciate hints of oak or earthiness in my wine.

Go for Products

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Still too much? Try out durian products like candies, cream, or tarts. Other flavors that may not be so obvious are able to shine when combined with other ingredients. Plus, most of the stench is lost during cooking or baking. I personally love making durian crepe mille. The creamy texture of durian mingles well with heavy cream and buttery crepe. While the overall smell is toned down, the ingredients result in a decadent dessert that goes well with coffee and some great conversation.

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There you go! I’m not telling to learn to love durian. If everybody did that, I’ll have to fight for the supply and that won’t be pretty. I’m saying, like many other food items, the fruit is an acquired taste. And only in being open with our taste buds do we open opportunities to savor and enjoy the best flavors out there.
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