Exotic Fruits in China – Durian

As it is already the middle of summer, in Landing East we are thinking about the “true” meaning of summer? Is it the hot weather? Ocean breeze? Or maybe fresh fruit? In most of the western countries, we have the same available “set” of fruits, which we usually eat during its season. When you moved here and went to a fruit and vegetables market (especially for the first time), I guess you had many questions in your head, like: “What is there? Is it eatable? Why is it looking so weird and unusual?” So, here, and in several further posts, we want to tell you more about some exotic fruits, which you probably haven’t heard of before coming to China.

To start with, we’ve chosen the most provocative (if only this word can be used for the fruit) one – durian. If you have travelled to Southern Asian countries before you came to China, you probably know it already – it is the one with very strong unpleasant odour. Everyone, who saw this fruit, can be divided into two groups: the first – who loves it and the second – who hates it (there is no neutral opinion in this question).

Before you choose the side, let’s learn more about this fruit and find out why locals say that the odour makes the vision of hell, and the taste – paradisiac delight.

Durian is native to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, but is mainly exported by Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. This fruit got its name from “duri” which is translated from Malay-Indonesian language as “spike” – a reference to the shape of the fruit. Guess you did not know, but there are 30 recognized Durio species, at least nine of which produce edible fruit, and over 300 named varieties in Thailand. Nevertheless, so-called Durio zibethinus is the only species available in the international market – the rest you can find only on its local markets. Durian is a seasonal fruit, usually growing from June to August (so now it is the best time to try it), unless it is frozen. For most of the people durian’s smell evokes intense disgust (yes, there’s still someone who doesn’t think so) and the fruit suffers from this. For example, in Singapore you will find such stickers (as below) in most public places – hotel’s lobby, mass transit and so on.

No-Durian-Sign-Singapore

So, why does this fruit have such a strong odour? The group of scientists from the German Research Centre for Food Chemistry did some researches and found the answer: the fruit is not a single chemical compound but it includes 50 (!!!) different compounds, such as cooked beef, yeast extract, dried squid and leeks. Somehow, the combination of these 50 chemicals produces the powerful scent that we all know from the fruit markets.

The other “consequences” of the big amount of different chemical compounds were discovered by the other scientists, who found that durian is a very nutritious fruit rich with fiber, B-vitamins, vitamin C and various healthy plant compounds. All mentioned above can be a reason at least to try it.

From ancient times, all parts of this fruit were used in traditional Malaysian medicine to treat a variety of illnesses, including high fever, jaundice and skin conditions. Our-days-research found plenty of advantages of durian. First of all, it reduces cancer risk, as its antioxidants may neutralize cancer-promoting free radicals, or even that durian extract prevents a strain of breast cancer cells from spreading. Secondly, it prevents heart disease, as several compounds in durian may help to lower cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries. Also, it fights infections – the rind contains antibacterialand anti-yeast properties. And finally, it can lower the level of the blood sugar, as durian has a lower glycemic index than other tropical fruits, meaning it may lead to a lower blood sugar spike. It may also prevent some glucose from being absorbed and stimulate insulin to be released.

But be careful! Don’t mix durian with alcohol. According to some studies, this fruit contains compounds that may prevent alcohol from being fully metabolized, causing symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.

There are no exact ways to choose the “right” durian, as it depends on person’s taste. “If the durians are relatively young, the flesh inside will be crisp in texture and the flavor will be mild (which may be preferable if this is the first time you’re trying durian). The fruit is ripe when the husk begins to crack open on its own, and some people let it ripen beyond that until the flesh is creamy, slightly alcoholic, and strongly aromatic. Overall, look for a big, strong stem to indicate freshness, and make sure you can hear the seeds inside when you shake it” (wikihow.com).

If you decided to try it, the next question would be – how to open it, as the fruit is rather big. The easiest way would be to ask the seller to open it for you, but then you might have problems to take it home – remember that in many Asian countries, it is forbidden to carry durian in public transport.

If you want to open it by yourself here are two ways:

  1. Use a long sharp knife and make a deep cut inside. Then try to pry the hull apart with fingers, after that you should have two halves. With the knife, make a deep cut into the fibrous divider along the center of the half. If the durian is very ripe, you will not need to do this. Put the halves apart. Scoop the edible flesh out of the husk and repeat with the other half.
  2. The second method is safer, but you will need one shoe with thick sole (probably not a new one). Carefully step on the durian and apply some force to break it open, while holding onto something. They say it is easier than staying on the ball, but still be careful. When you think you cracked the fruit enough, you could cautiously put your finger between the crack and open the fruit along its natural divider.

When you finally open durian and want to enjoy it fresh – hold the flesh in your hands and eat it, avoiding the pits. You can also find many recipes on the Internet if you want it cooked.

Who have already tried durian? We would like to hear your opinions and will be happy if you leave a comment below describing your experience! Not to miss further articles about other exotic fruits (we bet there will be something you’ve never heard about) and other posts – follow us on WeChat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or visit our blog page – http://www.landingeast.com

Written by Inna Mironova

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