The Durian: Symbol of Mystique

The common durian (Durio zibethinus L.)

Durian fruits are borne on lateral branches. An opened fruit showing the edible arils or flesh or pulp
Durian fruits are borne on lateral branches. An opened fruit showing the edible arils or flesh or pulp

Durian - The Mystical Fruit of The East

In Southeast Asia, the common durian is often regarded as a symbol of mystique because of its spiky and tough outer appearance, a pungent and lingering aroma that permeates everything around it, and an indescribable delicious flavour that ranges from sweet to bitter and a texture that's creamy and sometimes sticky.

You will only know what's inside the durian after you pried open the fruit and feast your eyes on the fleshy yellowish pulp. The magic begins as you take the first bite, gently swirl it in your mouth, chew it a couple of times and slowly swallow it to enjoy it's exquisite delicious taste.

To dream of a durian or eating a durian..

Dreaming of a durian or dreaming eating a durian has different contextual meaning than the actual act of eating a real durian
Dreaming of a durian or dreaming eating a durian has different contextual meaning than the actual act of eating a real durian

Dream Symbol of The Durian

If you dream of seeing or eating a durian, it often means that you should not judge others based on first sight for you will never know what you will find after you get pass the exterior appearances. This is similar to the English idiom "don't judge a book by its cover".

In the East, the durian dream can also mean that some unpleasant memories or obstacles are hindering your quest to self-discovery.

South East Asia - The Home Of The Durian

Origin of The Durian

A Perfectly Unique Tropical Fruit

What is the aura of mystery, power and awe that surrounds a durian that makes it so very different from the other tropical fruits?

Well, the durian is a perfectly unique seasonal fruit and there is no other fruit in the world that you can compare it to.

Most Popular Ancient Fruit

The durian is the most popular local fruit and it has been consumed in South East Asia since prehistoric times. The durian's origin is Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, and also probably the Davao region of the Philippines. Borneo Island is regarded as the centre of ecological diversity for durians as most of the wild durian species are found there. Presently, there are 30 recognised Durio species with about nine species producing edible fruit.

Almost all these edible durian species are collected from the jungles and sold in their local regions except for one species, Durio zibethinus L. which is known as the common durian and is the only species cultivated on a commercial scale and available in the international market.

East vs West

Durian - the most controversial fruit in the world
Durian - the most controversial fruit in the world | Source

Ancient Mystical Fruit Fom The East

The durian has only been known in the west for about 600 years. And, since that time many westerners are still confused and misinformed about this ancient mystical fruit from the east.

Most durian detractors have often describe the durian as malodorous or funky. But, many of them have not seen, smell nor tasted the real durian before. Even if they did sampled one, it's probably an imported frozen durian which had passed it pristine qualities and unsuitable for eating.

A Fruit In Disguise

A fruit  in disguise- tough and spiky outside, creamy and sweet inside
A fruit in disguise- tough and spiky outside, creamy and sweet inside | Source

Durian - The King of Fruits

Durian-lovers, on the other hand, fondly revere the common durian as the "King of Fruits", and no one describe the passion of eating durian better than an English man, Alfred Russel Wallace, who acquired the taste of the durian and candidly said:

"A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy. It is neither acid nor sweet nor juicy; yet it wants neither of these qualities, for it is in itself perfect. It produces no nausea or other bad effect, and the more you eat of it the less you feel inclined to stop."

Nowadays, with rapid globalization and modern communication, more and more westerners are eating the durian and getting fond of it. Once they get used to the smell, they love it. Some new durian-lovers compared the durians to "cupcakes with icing on top".

Soursop vs Durian

The soursop vs durian - the pretender against the true king of tropical fruits
The soursop vs durian - the pretender against the true king of tropical fruits

The Durian's Outer Appearance is Formidable

At first glance the durian looks awesome. There is no fruit in the world that you can compare it to. Westerners have often erroneously compared it to the soursop (Annona muricata) because of its similarity in fruit form. Soursop is a greenish fruit and has soft short thorns unlike the tough and spiky rind of the durian. Soursop belongs to the Annonaceae family which include the castard apple and sugar apple.

Durian's sharp thorns of different shape and sizes
Durian's sharp thorns of different shape and sizes | Source

Durians and Baobabs Are One Big Family

The durian is as big as a football and it's olive green or yellowish brown husk or rind is covered with short, sharp spines like a gladiator's protective armour. This spiky exterior looks impenetrable and protects the unripe durians hanging on the tree branches from being eaten by wild animals that find the fruits irresistible.

Durian belongs to the family Bombacaceae which includes around 30 genera with about 250 species of tropical trees including the baobabs. The baobabs or "bottle trees" (Adansonia spp.) are important icons in certain parts of Africa, Australia and Madagascar and famous for their immensely stout trunk development, a mechanism for enhancing water storage.

An Armour of Thorns

A durian is hard and heavy and covered with sharp thorns. It can be used as a weapon to dash out your brains.
A durian is hard and heavy and covered with sharp thorns. It can be used as a weapon to dash out your brains. | Source

Don't Judge A durian By Its Outer Skin

The durian has a tough outer layer covered with sharp thorns. It is not an easy task to open a durian as the sharp spines make the durian extremely difficult to handle with bare hands. Being prickled by a durian feels like a price you have to pay if you want to know what's is hidden beneath this formidable armour. Actually this encounter with the durian is just the beginning of a truly intriguing adventure of discovery. Remember the idiom - "don't judge a book by its cover" - you won't know what you'll find until you open it.

The unskilled and uninitiated will try all sorts of ways and use all kinds of tools to pry or cut open the thorny fruit. And it's hilarious watching some of these videos on Internet or reading about them on blogs. The following video shows you how easy it is if you know how.

How To Open A Durian The Easy Way

The Infamous Durian Smell

As the durian ripens in its natural state on a tree, it drops to the ground.

Ripe durian emits a strong and pungent odor that permeates far and wide. And this aroma or smell is what makes the durian so mystical and alluring.

Fruit scientists found a mix of volatile compounds including esters, ketones, and different sulphur compounds but could not pinpoint the primary compound responsible for the distinctive odour.

Durians from different species or clones have significantly different aromas; for example, red durian (Durio dulcis) is apparently so vile and pervasive that they can be smelled for miles but has a deep caramel flavour with a turpentine odor which many local people love. The red-fleshed durian (Durio graveolens) emits a fragrance of roasted almonds and is a firm favorite with the local people.

No Durians Allowed Here

The Lure of The Durian Genetic Diversity

The species Durio zibethinus L. is known as the common durian. It is planted in durian orchards and commercially managed. This durian species has hundreds of different cultivars or clones which are commonly called varieties. The many varieties in the market vary in size, shape, smell, colour, texture and taste.

This great tendency towards genetic diversity has contributed much to the durian’s appeal and mystique among durian enthusiasts.

Some durian varieties are of very good quality and are fervently sought and savoured with great passion by durian lovers who do not mind paying fantastic prices or going the distance for these delicious fruits. For them, it's a never-ending adventure of seeking out new variations of aroma, appearance, texture and flavour found in the many durian varieties, and from one fruit to another even though they may come from the same tree.

The Art of Eating Durian

The aura of mystery, power and awe that surrounds each fruit has make the durian a big success among its loyal fans. You can never know what you will find inside the fruit even when you have gotten pass the tough spiky exterior and the strong pungent smell. This is especially true when you have a big pile of durians that just arrived from the orchards for you to choose from. For the common people it's like a lucky dip.

But for the seasoned durian-lovers it's like a treasure hunt worthy for the "King of Fruit". The art of picking out a good quality durian and eating it makes them similar to the wine tester of the West. As a durian connoisseur he can determine the ripeness and quality of the inner fleshy pulp just by assessing the exterior, shaking the fruit, listening to its sound, and smelling the fragrance. The fruit's size, shape, colour and freshness of the thorns and peduncle all tells a story he only knows how to interpret. Once the selection ritual is over, the fruit is pried open and he becomes the master of the nuances of its taste.

Eat Your Durian Within 3 Days From Fruit Drop

The durian is best eaten a day or two after fruit drop because fermentation sets in quickly and the flavour change perceptively with time. After three days the fruit has lost its freshness and flavour and nobody likes to eat it after that. The fruit spoils after a week.

The Many Varieties of Malaysia Durian

Some of Malaysia's popular durian varieties. Those registered with the Department of Agriculture has a prefix D follow by a number
Some of Malaysia's popular durian varieties. Those registered with the Department of Agriculture has a prefix D follow by a number | Source

Thai vs Malaysian Durian Varieties

Thailand and Malaysia are the two main durian producers and exporters.

In general, Thai varieties are sweeter in flavour and less odourous than Malaysian ones. The Thai Monthong is the most commercially exported durian fruit because of its thick, creamy, sweet and buttery taste with soft and fine texture, and relatively moderate smell.

The Chanee has golden yellow flesh and is sweet and make up 32% edible portion.

The Kanyao's flesh is thick, creamy, firm, sweet, golden-yellow with a pleasant aroma which is not strong.

Whole ripe durian fruits used to be exported and can be kept frozen at -23.2o C. However, after thawing, the durian skin turned black and soft.

Nowadays, ripe durian pulp units can be quickly frozen to -60o C and then stored at -18oC. This can be stored for a year without affecting its quality. To serve frozen durian, the pulp units can be thawed in a microwave oven for 3-4 minutes at moderate heat. Thawed durian pulp units look just the real thing but they are not as tasty as fresh durian.

Thailand's Popular Durian Varieties

Thailand's popular durian varieties - Monthong, Chanee and KanYao
Thailand's popular durian varieties - Monthong, Chanee and KanYao

Malaysian Popular Varieties

Malaysians like to eat ripe durians that naturally drop from the tree. Any durian that is not consumed after 3 days is processed into local delicacies such as lempuk, tempoyak, dodol etc.

The most popular Malaysian durian variety is the D24 or Sultan which has flesh that is yellow, thick, firm, smooth, sweet and nutty with a slightly bitter taste.

A new favourite is the D197 also known as Raja Kunyit, Musang King, Mau Shan Wang or Cat Mountain King which has a thick, golden yellow flesh, very smooth with little or no fibres and a sticky and creamy texture. It has a sweet and bitter taste.

Malaysian Popular Durian Varieties

The 2 most popular durian varieties in Malaysia - D24 and D197 populary known as the Musang King or Mau San Wang
The 2 most popular durian varieties in Malaysia - D24 and D197 populary known as the Musang King or Mau San Wang | Source

Nets and Strings

Did you know that many durian farmers erect nets beneath the lofty trees to break the durian's fall so as to minimize damage to this remarkable valuable fruit?

Durian fruits, when fully matured dropped naturally from the tree. Since many of the durian trees are very old and very tall, nets are erected beneath the trees to catch the ripe fruits and prevent them from splitting on impact with the hard ground.

And, some enterprising farmers tie the ripening fruit to the branch so that when it ripens or get detached by strong winds or rains, the fruit does not fall to the ground and can be harvested by hand.

Durian "is like cupcakes with icing on top"

Durian tastes "like cupcakes with icing on top".
Durian tastes "like cupcakes with icing on top".

Durian Is A Very Nutritious Fruit!

Durian (Durio zibethinus L.)

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)

  • Energy 615 kJ (147 kcal)
  • Carbohydrates 27.09 g
  • Dietary fiber 3.8 g
  • Fat 5.33 g
  • Protein 1.47 g
  • Water 65g
  • Vitamin C 19.7 mg (33%)
  • Potassium 436 mg (9%)
  • Edible parts only, raw or frozen
  • Refuse: 68% (Shell and seeds)

Source: USDA Nutrient database
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.

Durian fruit contains a high amount of sugar, vitamin C, potassium, and the serotonergic amino acid tryptophan, and is a good source of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. It is recommended as a good source of raw fats by several raw food advocates, while others classify it as a high-glycemic food, recommending to minimise its consumption.

The Natural Viagra - Elephant Dung Aphrodisiac

The durian elephant dung -  a new gastronomic delicacy with aphrodisiac properties
The durian elephant dung - a new gastronomic delicacy with aphrodisiac properties

Durian Aphrodisiac Qualities

The durian's tough spiky exterior and delicately delicious interior has spawned many beliefs among the locals in the southeastern Asian region. Many local durian lovers believe it also has mystical aphrodisiac properties besides the high nutritious qualities the durian is so well-known for.

The Indonesians have a popular saying regarding this belief that goes like this "durian jatuh sarung naik" meaning "when the durian falls, the sarong comes up",. The sarung is a large tube or length of fabric, often wrapped around the waist and worn as a kilt by men and as a skirt by women.

Recently, it was reported in the local newspapers that timber tycoons in Malaysia are paying fantastic prices for durian fruits found in elephant dung. It is believed that passing through an elephant’s digestive tract can convert the durian into a new gastronomic delicacy with aphrodisiac properties. Anyone fancy eating elephant dung?

Oh Durian!... Your smell is awesome, your taste delicious....and I love you!

Dream analysts interpret the dream of seeing or eating a durian as not judging others based on first sight or that some unpleasant memories or obstacles are hindering your quest to self-discovery.

So, the next time you encounter a durian in one of the street-stalls in some major cities of South East Asia, remember not to judge it because of its pungent smell and tough spiky appearance. Get some one who is a durian lover to help you discover the mystical qualities of this unique tropical fruit the locals revered as the "King of Fruit". You'll love it! Go for it!

A Blog Dedicated To The King of Fruits

A blog about durians. Everything about this tropical fruit from the hundreds of different cultivars or varieties to how it is planted and managed on a commercial scale.
A blog about durians. Everything about this tropical fruit from the hundreds of different cultivars or varieties to how it is planted and managed on a commercial scale. | Source

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Comments 3 comments

zeng profile image

zeng 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

Welcome to the club!


zeng profile image

zeng 4 years ago from Malaysia Author

Lucky for you to be living in Penang where there are so many durian clones or varieties.

Don't just throw away any surplus durian. You can make great-tasting durian paste by frying the pulp in a wok over a low fire. Keep stirring so that the pulp won't stick to the wok. After about half an hour or so, the pulp would have turned into a gooey paste.

Place it on a sheet of food wrapper or plastic and roll it like a sausage. Keep it in the fridge and you can have durian anytime for the next few weeks. Mine kept for three months and they tasted just as good as the day they were prepared. Have fun and enjoy!


steveso profile image

steveso 4 years ago from Brockport, NY

I live in Malaysia and happen to love durian. This evening I enjoyed eating quite a bit of it. Durian is a fruit that you either love or hate. Many of my Malaysian friends cannot eat it, while many Western friends love it. I used to eat it back home in the US and even brought it to work (I worked in the pathology department of a large hospital) for colleagues to try. They all hated it, even Asian born friends. I had to dispose of the uneaten portions in a biohazard bag, as people thought it was decomposing flesh. But for me I have no problems with it.

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