My Great Durian Challenge
Ever have one of those moments when you tried something new and wondered why the hell you did? Not only was it likely to be as awful as you'd heard reports say it is, but you tried it anyway, like you're on some super cool reality show challenge, and you wanted to test your nerve? Enter durian fruit. (Drum roll, please!)
Hailed as the King of Fruits, in part because of its massive size and thorny spikes, this (beast) demands respect and is highly revered for its wealth of nutritional benefits. It is high in calcium, potassium, folate (folic acid), Vitamin C, and is touted as well an anti-aging, anti-cancer wonder fruit. A native of Malaysia and Brunei, but commercially produced in Thailand for export, a fully grown durian fruit can reach up to 3 kg (7 lbs), inside revealing five large pods of highly messy and famously
putrid stinky pudding-like flesh. The smell is so bad that some hotels forbid guests from bringing it inside their rooms and taxi drivers refuse to ferry it in their cars, yet daring newbies continue to seek it out, willing to risk odor for beauty or good health, while most locals consider it a delicacy.
My first durian encounter came at the Go Raw Café in Las Vegas last year, where I jumped at the chance to try the durian smoothie on their menu.
"Have you ever had durian before?" I was asked, as the three colleagues lined up behind the counter to review my answer.
"No, but I've heard so much about it, I just have to try it," I chirped. I could hear crickets as the three exchanged knowing glances, telepathically deciding whether or not I was nuts.
With a heavy sigh, the chef/manager acquiesced and agreed to add more orange juice to the smoothie if I couldn't handle the taste, and gave the nod to begin making the shake. I secretly did a little happy dance and I gave the rest of my order - delicious portobello collard wraps - then took a seat at a nearby table. I was going to try my first durian!
Wait... Hold on... Back it up. Did she say she'd add more orange? In the words of Julia Roberts in 'Pretty Woman', "Big mistake. HUGE." I have since learned the innate creaminess of durian blends well with anything but citrus. Better to enhance its flavor with fresh coconut, almond milk or cacao, and subtle spices. Not to knock the valiant efforts of the staff at Go Raw to get me to like one of their favorite foods, but as I gagged my way through their concoction, determined to fight my way through to the finish of what tasted like a garlicky orange creamsicle, I did not have a pleasant experience. (NOTE: The friendly folks at the restaurant felt they were doing me a favor in attempting to mask the initial smell of the fruit with orange, but as I grew more and more hesitant in the challenge, the drink thawed slightly and became harder to swallow with every quiff. This was attributed to the common knowledge that the frozen fruit is more odoriferous than its fresh counterpart.)
So why did I make a second attempt? Because if the virtues far exceed a minor (okay, major flaw), then it's worth a second look, and because I binged shopped while out with a visiting friend. ;-) I spied it in the frozen foods case at one of the local Asian markets, chucked it into my basket with a squeal of joy at my find and not an ounce of sense. I kid you not. And now, as I'm moving soon and have to clean out the fridge, what better time is there to try?
Enter durian, Take Two.
Countless YouTube videos extol the miracles of eating durian from younger looking skin to never catching colds to it being a natural aphrodisiac. Smoothies seemed to be the best way to go, but if I was going to get past my bad memories, I had to do some research and come up with a more palatable recipe. I settled on the Sexy smoothie - why not? - and if I got past that, I'd try a simple fudge. Reportedly, cacao powder and vanilla help mask the odor, so much like stinky cheese, the finished product tastes better than it smells. Alas, since everything tastes better with chocolate, I defrosted my precious purchase and peeuw!!!
But I digress....
The recipe* by Summer Sanders is as tempting as her name is cool, and she presents a mighty fine argument for sexy longevity. I whipped up a pitcher full (*substituting 12 oz of coconut water plus 1C shredded unsweetened coconut for the young Thai coconut) and tucked in. Not bad! I could get to like this durian stuff. The odor was still there, but greatly
mellowed improved as I left the rest to sit in the refrigerator while I read for a bit and did a mini trampoline workout. I finished my second glass and felt energized and a little er... sexier. Could I be hooked at last?
Feeling bold and in need of something sweet to make from what I had on hand, I next decided upon Johnny Freesh's Raw Coconut Durian Fudge. The recipe is amazingly simple to make, sets up beautifully, but is also IMHO one for durian lovers, not us newbies. Or perhaps, I should have gone with the rule above that everything tastes better with chocolate and added a healthy dose of stress-relieving cacao. At any rate, when I get back home I'll pull the fudge out of the freezer and invite a few friends to try it with me. Maybe we should film our responses, just like on one of those super cool reality show challenges!
Maybe I'll just eat the jar of leftover coconut butter, instead. Yum! Now that's delicious.
Get out there and explore new things, then challenge yourself!
A tout à l’heure...