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How to Choose a Durian and Open it

September 28, 2011

Whole durians available in the U.S. are often wrapped in netting so you can carry them without hurting yourself!

The durian is one of my favorite fruits, although at 357 calories and 13g of fat per 1 cup serving, it isn’t exactly as nutritious or as good for you as say, an apple. Hence, I don’t have it very often.

Plus, I can’t finish an entire durian by myself, at least not anymore. When I was younger, I could never have enough. I always wished my dad would buy me an entire fruit to enjoy all by myself.  How things have changed. Now, I need company and that company isn’t my husband, although he claims that he really isn’t a durian wuss (that’s his opinion , of course). I have to give him credit though, he has actually eaten two seeds worth of durian at one go, and without scrunching his face up into a still-life-in-origami.

So when my folks were visiting last week, we took a trip to an Asian market and bought me some durian.

In Southeast Asia, durian stalls are ubiquitous. And if you eat on-site, the durian seller will usually select his best specimens for you. Some places explicitly offer a money-back guarantee but most of the time you can try the fruit first and have the option to deny it.

When we were in Asia last spring, we visited a durian shop in Bandung, Indonesia where several different varieties of durians were available. We bought one "bitter" and one "sweet" durian

Here in the U.S., you can only find durians at Asian markets where the durians come frozen whole or already popped from their shells and prepackaged in plastic containers. They are usually of the Thai Mornthong variety. My mom prefers durian-in-the-box (as I call the prepacked ones) because for one, there’s no need to open the durian up and risk poking yourself, and two, she says they are fresher and have a more full-bodied fragrance.

While we were at the market, I asked my dad how to choose a tasty durian at its peak. If the fruit is too ripe, the flesh may be overly bitter or have a taste that is too “alcohol-y.” Unripe, and the seeds will be covered in leathery, chewy flesh that is often tasteless. Here are some tips:

    1. Look for slight irregularities in the shape of the fruit
    2. Seek out thick thorns
    3. Take a whiff. Assuming the odor doesn’t already put you off, learn to distinguish the smells. A docile “raw fruit” smell that is so mild you have to sniff several times means the fruit isn’t ripe; if the smell is overpowering even to a durian lover, then it is probably too ripe. With practice, you’ll be able to identify the just-right, sweet but not sickly sweet, fragrance of a perfect durian. Note: The previously-frozen whole fruits available in the U.S. have lost most of their pungency so this pointer may be moot.
    4. I’m skeptical but it seems you can shake the durian to see if it’s ripe too. Read about it here.

Backing up a little to point #3 about smell, I don’t find the frozen durians available here in the U.S. very satisfying because of their lack of fragrance. To me, the fragrance and the flavor go hand-in-hand and without the latter, durian tastes bland and flat. That being said, if you want to give it a go, tasting a frozen durian may not be as much of a shock to your system as a fresh one.

With years of experience, the durian seller easily splits the durian and removes the seeds. Note the bolder, brighter colors of the fresh durian shell compared to the previously-frozen durian we bought locally in the U.S. below in the video

In this video below, my mom demonstrates the technique for opening a durian. If you are not as brave as she is, do wear a thick glove on the hand that is not holding the knife.


P/s we later discovered a fifth pocket! So be sure to explore the entire fruit to find all the seeds.

Here are some yummy durian recipes:

Sweet Sticky Rice with Durian and Coconut Milk Sauce
Durian Puree Cheesecake
Durian Ice Cream 
Durian Puffs

Chime in if you have more durian tips or have an experience to share!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 5, 2011 12:50 pm

    The HMart in our area (Baltimore) sells whole durian in the produce section.

  2. October 5, 2011 12:58 pm

    Hi! I live in Arlington and I’ve been to the Grand Mart and El Grande and they both have whole durians too. They were all previously frozen though. Are you a fan?

  3. November 10, 2013 9:52 pm

    Great post! Shaking the durian doesn’t work when it’s been frozen because the freezing process breaks down the cells and turns the flesh into mush. I run a website dedicated to the durian fruit and the research I’ve done while writing a book about it. Please stop by our site http://www.yearofthedurian.com and give us your feedback. Thanks!

  4. November 26, 2013 9:37 am

    Thanks, Lindsay! I love durian although I don’t eat it as much now and I’m excited that you have a site dedicated to one of my favorite fruits!

Trackbacks

  1. People Monday – The little durian seller. « Anthonli PhotoBlog
  2. Christmas in Shanghai: It is coming and we are All getting fat (not just the goose!) « Ni hao Shanghai!

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