Thing Indonesians Like: Durian

Just like Jakarta, the big durian, you are either going to love it or to hate it. There is no in between.

Durian is being judged as the world’s smelliest fruit, it has distinctive odor and sometimes described to have the stench of old gym socks. The lovers of this King of fruit will argue that the spicy fruit has a sweet smell. The chewy flesh is so soft, like a cream cheese mix with custard.

This fruit is so powerful, it could divide a family into two, the haters and the lovers. The pungent smell would stop the haters from having them around the house, while the lovers would do anything to have them. The fight about durian in the family could be nasty, as durian haters feel they deserve fresh air, free from the potent stench of the fruit. While for the lovers, the smell is not really that bad.

I was once a durian hater, but I was converted by a former colleague. One evening, we were sitting in a durian place, not far from Hermes Palace Hotel in Banda Aceh.  My former colleague ate durian passionately, so passionate that I think she was having duriangasm. It’s the foodgasm caused by a delicious durian.

Not knowing the pleasure of eating durian (and obviously wanted to have duriangasm), I decided to try it. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and thankfully, it was one of the best durians I’ve ever had. The smell of the durian was not strong, perfect for newbie like me; they said it was fresh from the tree. Hence, less smelly. That night, we combined the durian with sticky rice, like a real Banda Acehnese, and it was a lip-smacking combination.

For Indonesians durian lovers, travelling around the country means tasting local durian. I traveled to different places in Indonesia to see the country and to taste durian, but the one place that I could never forget is Medan, a city famous for all-year round durian. A famous durian seller from the city, even claims, you haven’t been to Medan, if you haven’t taste Ucok Durian.

Durian Medan is so famous that Indonesians like to bring them back home as oleh-oleh (gift). Despite the ban from airlines to bring them to the cabin, people still find a way to “smuggle” durian. The seller will pack fresh durian flesh in a plastic box, wrapped with few layers of plastic, covered with a spoonful of coffee powder before re-wrapping it with another plastic. It is belief that the coffee would eliminate the smell of the durian. A former colleague tried it, but the flight attendants cannot be fooled.

Despite our love to durian, people hate the idea of having durian in a flight. Recently, a Sriwijaya Air flight was delayed as the passengers weren’t happy with the smell of durian inside the cabin. The airline carried three tonnes durians and some passengers claimed it as a safety hazard. They walked out from the flight and refused to fly. It’s either them or durian. The case of people vs durian was unfortunately won by the people.

Fearing of flying with durian came from the incident that happened in 2005, Mandala Airline crashed in Medan and more than 2 tonnes of durian was found in the scene. Up until today, there are still too many people who believe the crash was caused by the durians, not the engine.

What’s the best way to eat durian? Fresh durian would still be the best way to eat it and in Indonesia, we like them ripe. A combination of durian with sticky rice (like the one I had in Banda Aceh) is also good. There are also people who eat durian with rice, many of us would find this weird. Durian can also be processed “for a snack”, such as pancake, glutinous rice cake, ice cream, cheesecake, pizza and the list go on.

Durian is claimed to be dangerous for health, as it might increase cholesterol level. It is of course a myth. Turn out, durian has no cholesterol. People also believe that people could get drunk if they eat too much durian, as it contains alcohol. In Indonesia, we call it mabuk durian. Despite the myths, the smell and the hates we receive for loving them, our love for durian is undeniable. We love it so much that some of us bring it to the bedroom, as a durian flavour condom (okay this is too much!).

Do you love durian?