Ah, the durian, a mighty fruit that leaves consumers divided between love or hate though it should be granted that there are also those people who do not see what the fuss is about and view the durian as just another fruit. These people should be appreciated as they simply have a more logical stance when it comes to the durian, unlike us impassioned peasants whose feelings may get the better of us. No matter which side you stand on, it should be safe to say that the durian, like blue cheese, is an acquired taste.
While some may claim that the durian’s buttery texture is to die for, others may agree to disagree. The texture of butter is smooth and creamy, it is nearly elegant in all its greasy grace. However, the durian’s texture borders on being grimy. Even with the durian’s regal title of the ‘King of Fruits’, that does not excuse its decidedly unroyal appearance. Some may argue that its outer appearance is spiky, great, and mighty, but as most of us have been taught, do not judge a book by its cover. It is the inside that counts. The durian’s slimy insides simply does not do justice to its remarkable title. Going back to its spiky, rather unapproachable exterior, it may have been a warning in plain sight all along. Based on its appearance, what is the appeal? Where is the charm? Although I have just mentioned not judging a book by its cover, it could be fair to consider it from a consumer’s point of view. It has been found that visual aesthetics play an important part in promoting consumer loyalty. With the durian’s unappealing appearance, especially factoring the glutinous insides, perhaps it is no wonder that some shudder whenever they think of the durian.
Moving on to the durian’s infernal smell, it is possible to liken the scent of durians to a multitude of distasteful odours. Durians can smell like pungent sweaty socks, sewage, and other unpleasant stenches. It is simply an insult to other fruits when one describes the durian’s smell as “fragrant”. Here is a scenario: Imagine going out on a date with a person you have been crushing on for what seems like an eternity. The setting is perfect. Stars in the sky, soft music playing, dim lighting that is just enough for you to gaze into the eyes of your significant other. You have had a wonderful dinner together, the atmosphere is intimate, and both of you are getting closer and closer. It is a scene right out of the movies. As your date leans closer, you are hyper-focused on everything: their eyes, their smile, their lips which are oh, so charming… until they open their mouth. The potent stench of rotting corpses drifts forth from the slick wet cavern that is their mouth, of which the slimy durian fruit had most undoubtedly passed through sometime earlier in the day. At this point, there is no such thing as backing out. Your fate has been decided. You must accept the kiss of death.
That aside, the variety of durian products out there is terrifying, more so since we accept the existence of the durian as part of life. It is a part of nature so there is nothing much we can do about it, and we need to understand the importance of giving leeway. If people enjoy it, they enjoy it. Even so, do we really need to be bombarded with the horrifying choices of durian crisps, ice cream, coffee, and even mooncake? What monstrosities! There are other fruits out there far more deserving of the hype, like the rambutan, mangosteen or any other fruit that is not the durian. Imagining the strong flavour of durian tainting innocent food items like these is enough to make one cry. This is contamination if nothing else and the final products should certainly not be gracing (or rather defacing) any grocery store or supermarket shelf!
As mentioned, durian is one of those foods that you may love or hate due to personal preference or various other factors (like many other foods, actually). If you are someone who enjoys the smell and taste of durian, then this world and its many durian-related products has been exceedingly kind to you. Rejoice and have a good time while you can. However, if you happen to be someone who does not enjoy the smell of durian, then it does take possibly a large amount of courage to try it out in the first place. If you have managed to do that and you find yourself enjoying the taste of durian, then I’m happy for you! No doubt you will be able to find a large community of fellow durian enjoyers or absolute durian fans. Even so, if you cannot stand durian — whether the smell or taste, then rest assured that you are not alone.
– Jia Xuan, who is wondering why I came up with such a detailed romantic scene that has to do with durian of all things
I remember the first time the taste buds on my tongue completely embraced the savoury, sweet, buttery swirl of the Musang King. You see, this moment was memorable to me for it was a preposterous thing to do in my household of durian-hating family members. I first experienced the joys of savouring this piece of “contraband” at my aunt’s place at the tender age of 13, hidden away from the prying eyes (and sharp noses) of my mother and father. It was like I understood the taste of first love. That one bite was filled with such a striking flavour, its intensity and purposeful disposition was purely, and undeniably completely overwhelming. It was a giddying experience and I am certain that it was not some angsty teenage rebellion phase that had sparked it .
If by now you aren’t already convinced with the power durian has on anyone who tastes it, enough to cause familial discord in my case, perhaps you need to consider the nutritional value behind this famed spiky, divisive fruit that many people look past because well, appearances (and stenches) are deceptive. Recent studies have shown that like chocolate, durian contains a specific amino acid called tryptophan that converts into serotonin when broken down. This could very well explain the high I certainly get from enjoying a couple of durians myself. If you think about it, few fruits can boast about how they can chemically alter how happy and relaxed you feel. Sure, they all contain fibre and a variety of vitamins. But, serotonin? Biological ‘happy drug’? Sign me up for a lifetime supply of durian if it means beating those Monday blues. Not only does tryptophan encourage serotonin production it also is an integral amino acid in the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep patterns. This means indulging in more durian flesh could give you the best sleep you have had in ages! It seems that the more I delve into the science behind durians, the more it sounds like an ideal prescription for sleep deprived and stressed out college students. I mean, who wouldn’t want to feel more at ease AND sleep better, in these trying times?
While my fellow counter writer speaks about how the very appearance of the durian influences how well-liked it actually is, I pose a particular argument in challenge of that. There actually do exist thornless durians that are completely natural variations due to genetic mutation. Such durian trees may produce brown fruits with tiny thorns or none at all. These usually resemble coconuts however the sweetness and creamy texture remain unaffected as they taste just like their thorny siblings. However, in particular praise of the durian’s spiked skin, you could use these fruits as weapons in desperate times. In the middle of a robbery and you’re being lunged at? Just throw a durian. On the run from rapists and stalkers? Fling a durian in their direction. Being kidnapped? Chances are, you might be able to blind your kidnappers by throwing a durian at their faces. This will give you just enough time to make your grand escape. Of course, this is also dependent on your decent arm-throwing skills, aim and if the fruit’s stem is long enough to hold because let’s face it, you don’t want to be the one with thorned hands in such circumstances. In any case, if you do have a durian in hand and are simply unable to throw it at anyone, just open it. Your attackers will (hopefully) be too distracted by the stench to notice your disappearance. Tell me, how many fruits can boast such versatility?
As if I haven’t already tipped your senses in the direction of the closest durian shop, as fellow Malaysians I think we should consider how hating the national fruit is such a big reflection of our feelings towards true Malaysian culture. How can we truly call ourselves Malaysian if we do not come in solidarity to at the very least, tolerate (love is a strong word) this mighty fruit? Come to think of it, the durian is basically an allegory of Malaysian culture: distinct, rich in flavour, and largely misunderstood. How can we hate the one thing we should all be identifying with? Of all things to popularise in our culture, perhaps the most well-known is the King of Fruits himself. Visitors from all over the world hear about the mighty durian and can’t help but wonder what an exquisite fruit it is. Only locals would disregard and overlook the wonders of durian. The King of Fruits really does define the Malaysian experience and completely enchants people from all walks of life with its unparalleled nature.
– Hannah, who has most definitely found her twin flame in the Musang King
By: Hannah and Jia Xuan