A Whiff of Change for Asia’s Forbidden Fruit

The primitive durian fruit is one of the most complicated things you can put on your plate. It paradoxically tastes of custard, sweat socks, pineapple, onions, ripe cheese, and a number of other slightly varying subjective scents that combine for a culinary experience unlike any other.

It’s rank enough, in fact, to be banned in many public places in Southeast Asia.

Having tried durian just last week, I can attest that it’s an acquired taste a rational person may choose not to acquire. When your Thai-native waitress informs you that she can’t handle durian, you know you’re dealing with something that transcends cultural boundaries. The stuff is smelly. But interesting.

The New York Times reports that controversial change is afoot in the fast-paced world of durian eating. A Thai government scientist has come up with a version of the fruit he says smells as mild as a banana.

But the durianophiles are deeply offended. The smell, they say, is key to the taste.

‘To anyone who doesn’t like durian it smells like a bunch of dead cats,’ said Bob Halliday, a food writer [in] Bangkok. ‘But as you get to appreciate durian, the smell is not offensive at all. It’s attractive. It makes you drool like a mastiff.’

Or something. It’s definitely strong.

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