Of all the things that would be banned from a hostel and clearly posted (twice) for everyone to see, I never thought I'd see a fruit. When I took this photo, I had already tried durian and understood why these signs are necessary.
While wandering around Malaysia, occasionally I would get an overwhelming waft of the most pungent, indescribable odour. At first, I had no idea where or who the smell was coming from. Following my nose, it wasn't difficult to discover the source of the stench.
The King of Fruit aka The Durian.
The smell is so horrible and complex that it is difficult to describe. Imagine putting your face inside a sweaty and unwashed sports equipment bag that is full of onions, garlic, cottage cheese, and burned rubber tires. That pretty much describes the smell. I met a Malaysian dentist at one point and asked her what it was like to work on people's teeth if they had just eaten durian. She laughed and smiled, her face looking like she was about to discuss her non-life threatening chronic physical pain, and said: "If it's really bad, I wear nose plugs."
What's really interesting is that, to some people, they think it smells sweet and savoury. Some people love it, some people hate it, and it is a part of many foods and dishes served in Southeast Asia.
Beyond the stench, durian is pretty weird looking as far as fruits go. About the size of a watermelon with the spikes, it weighs about a kilo or two. The fruit inside is a processed butter colour and appears to have the texture of semi-hardened playdough. When I saw it for the first time, I thought I could safely poke it for fun, but probably shouldn't eat it.
I ate it.
I was offered a piece (lump?) by my hiking guide in Malaysian Borneo. As he passed over the durian, stuck to his finger like a lump of pasty uncooked bread dough, his eyes glittered with excitement to watch our reactions. The first initial taste of durian is actually not that bad. Sort of like creamy almonds in a paste. Then, moving it around and chewing, the initial 'I'm okay!' becomes 'What have I done!' The texture is a combination of raw, fibrous, stringy pumpkin mixed with a cheap custard that has the density of toothpaste. Oh, and that nice creamy almond taste? It quickly turns to an aftertaste of rotten sour onions and garlic stuck to your mouth and lingers on your breath and gums for hours.
I'm happy I tried it and even happier I will never have to try it again. Discovering the King of Fruit was an unexpected adventure that continues to linger in my memory, but thankfully not in my mouth.