It’s durian season. Would you try it?

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It looks like I’ve been in the mood for not-so-photogenic food.  There was that rather ugly, if delicious, salad, and now this.  Adding insult to injury (quite likely injury at that, can’t you see the thorns?) it also stinks to high heavens.  You know what I’m talking about here, yes?  It’s durian season!  I’ve been seeing those big, thorny, smelly fruits every time I was at a Chinese market, and I finally took one home a couple days ago.

Durians are one of those strong flavors that doesn’t inspire apathy: one either adores it or abhor it totally.  Ambrosia to some and, um, well, ass–as my friend Katy succinctly put it–to others.  Having grown up in Thailand, you can guess which side of that divide I belong.  Even if you haven’t tried it yourself, I’m sure you have heard of it.

When I lived in Thailand, the arrival of durian season signaled the
beginning of summer, the blissful end of long-suffered school year, and days on the seaside where salty air mingled with the sweet scent
of my favorite dessert, Khao Niew Durian, sweet sticky rice bathed in a custardy sauce
made with durian, coconut milk, and sweet palm sugar. 

Even in the best of circumstances–like having high-quality, fresh,
never frozen durians to eat–durians can be overpowering enough, but
these frozen ones can get worse.  The delicate flesh of the durian
fruits also suffer after having been frozen, turning into practically mush once thawed.  I
myself find frozen durians unfit to eat outright, but it’s just perfect for the Khao Niew Durian.      

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Sweet Sticky Rice with Durian and Coconut Milk Sauce

For the sweet sticky rice
3 cups sticky rice (Make sure you buy "sticky" rice or glutinous rice rather than
normal long grain or jasmine rice.)
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup sugar
1-2 tsp salt, to taste

Khaoniewdurian01_2

Soak the uncooked rice for at least three hours before cooking.  Put the rice in a large bowl and cover with water up to about two inches over the rice.

I’ve seen people use all kinds of special implements to steam sticky rice.  I’ve recently found the easiest and perhaps most perfect solution.  I soak the rice grains, drain on a metal strainer–one of those with a little hook on one end and a handle on another so you can place it on top of a pot with it falling in.  Then, place the strainer on top of a deep pot filled about a quarter of the way up with water.  Put the lid over the the pot, turn the heat on high and bring the water to a boil.  Continue to steam for 15-20, or until the rice grains are just al dente.

Make sure the boiling water doesn’t
touch the rice. You probably should start checking after about 15
minutes. The rice should be very nearly done, but not completely cooked
through–similar to the texture of al dente pasta.

While the rice is steaming, heat the coconut milk in a medium pot.  Add the sugar
and salt and bring to a simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Taste the mixture. The sweetened coconut milk should be a
little sweeter than what you want your finished sticky rice to be. You
should also be able to taste the salt. Add more salt
if needed. Keep this mixture heated, it must be hot when the rice is
ready.

When the rice is ready, add it to the pot with coconut milk.  Stir gently to mix well.  Cover and let rest for 15 minutes so the rice completely absorb the coconut milk before
serving.

For the durian and coconut milk sauce.

1 Durian
2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup palm sugar, chopped
1/2-1 tsp of salt

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Getting durian meat out of the hard, thorny husk is more daunting and difficult, really.  You first must understand the physiology of durian: it has hard, thorny husk covering segments of seed pods–think orange segments but replacing the bitter white pith with the thorny husk.  When you look carefully at a durian, you can clearly see the undulation on the patterns on the husk itself, with the shape of the seed pod clearly visible.  All you have to do is use a very sharp knife to cut along both sides of each one and just pull open the husk to reveal the sweet flesh inside.  This is easier done than explained, actually.  Try it once and you’ll understand perfectly what I meant. 

Keep cutting along the shape of each seed pod, pulling out the durian flesh from each one and set aside.  Once you have all the flesh out, you can easily separate the durian meat from the hard pits.  Just pull the meat off the pit carefully and discard the pits.

Duriancoconutmilk

In a medium pot, bring the coconut milk, salt and the palm sugar to a simmer.  Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Add the durian flesh to the pot and stir gently.  Bring the pot back to a simmer.  Check the seasoning, you may need a bit more sugar or a bit more salt.  Once done, remove from heat.

To serve, put a bit of the sweet sticky rice into a small bowl.  Spoon some of the durian and coconut milk sauce over to sticky rice and serve.

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  • http://www.saaleha.com saaleha

    My husband and I bought durian-cream filled chocolates during a holiday in Malaysia.
    The experience of eating them was insane, to say the least. I found the flavour to be quite a layered one, there were moments where I alternated between wanting to chew them down as fast as I could, while still reaching for the next chocolate in the box.

  • http://www.onfoodandwine.com andreea

    i remember seeing durian for the first time in singapore – wondering what it is and why it stinks? in the meantime, i regret not having given it a try. since, have never seen them here in europe

  • http://primitiveculture.blogspot.com/ Xander

    The first time I tried durian was in Laos, and I really had trouble eating more than a few bites. Thankfully I tried it again, and have developed a bit of a fondness for it. I even get a little bit of a craving when I detect its unique odor in a market. -X

  • http://lifeinrecipes.blogspot.com/ lifeinrecipes

    I will try this as I am in the not-ass camp side of durian. I am always taken aback by the almost organ-ness of the fruit in looks, taste and texture.

  • http://www.bounteous-bites.blogspot.com Evelin

    My fried who is half-Vietnamese had me try coconut-durian candies. Now THAT was an experience. It’s hard for me to understand why anyone would eat candies like that when the world is filled with GOOD candies…
    BUT they tasted interesting. There’s something curious about durian that awakens the senses.
    But then again…the candies tasted like puke flavoured with coconut to me.

  • http://www.kittalog.com Kitt

    Aha! I was just wondering the other day, after spotting durian at H-Mart, whether I should get some durian, and if so, how to prepare it. I was thinking ice cream, but I love sweet rice desserts. I usually use mango, but next time, maybe durian. Thanks!

  • http://www.teaandfood.blogspot.com Aaron Kagan

    I would definitely try this – who wouldn’t? If you like stinky cheese, really there’s no excuse to snub stinky fruit.
    Reminds me of a jackfruit I just saw growing in Florida: http://bp1.blogger.com/_Gtptj_8zF6U/R_7T1z-Cm0I/AAAAAAAAAWo/XkWovetoOiQ/s1600-h/P4060759.JPG
    http://www.teaandfood.blogspot.com

  • http://blog.daryn.net daryn

    I actually like the pre-shucked, frozen durian (especially since when I buy a whole durian, it has often been frozen anyway).
    I like to take a thawed but still very cold durian pod, and a frozen banana, and put them in the blender, then eat it with a spoon like ice cream.

  • http://www.helengraves.co.uk Helen

    I’ve never tried it although I have seen it in the UK. I found one in a Chinese supermarket in Oxford in the freezer section. I just stood there looking at it for ages! I wasn’t as adventurous all those years ago and so I didn’t buy it. I would be very tempted to now though, the curiosity would be too much! It doesn’t STILL smell when it’s frozen though does it? Does the smell get more and more noticeable as it thaws?!

  • http://www.helengraves.co.uk Helen

    I’ve never tried it although I have seen it in the UK. I found one in a Chinese supermarket in Oxford in the freezer section. I just stood there looking at it for ages! I wasn’t as adventurous all those years ago and so I didn’t buy it. I would be very tempted to now though, the curiosity would be too much! It doesn’t STILL smell when it’s frozen though does it? Does the smell get more and more noticeable as it thaws?!

  • http://www.sygyzy.com sygyzy

    Not only have I tried them, but I would eat some right now if I could get my hands on some. Hand me a ripe one anytime; I don’t need utensils. Or in a waffle cone as ice cream. Durian is the best. Those of you who haven’t tried it are missing out.

  • http://www.shoplittlegifts.com ShopLittleGifts

    First I have to admit, I love Durian. Second, very good recipe – I will definitely try. I’ve been experimenting with rice pudding and I wonder if the easiest way is to cook the rice in a rice cooker till about 80% and finishing it off with the milk mixture for the last 5 minutes.
    For those of you who haven’t tried – don’t let the na-sayers stop you. Durian has the texture of avocado and the amazing flavor of a rich, sweet fruit. I would group it with uni, foie grois and truffles – the taste is not something you expect, but I biasly believe that if you are a true foodie, open to the flavors of the world, you cannot miss durian.
    I totally agree with Chez Pim, the frozen versions are less than perfect. But living in the Bay Area, I don’t really have access to the fresh kind. So what I do is I bring back a whole one, slice it open (also use kitchen shears to help snip open the shell and wear gloves to extract the fruit). Then I portion size them in ziplock bags to freeze them. Once in a while, I get to enjoy a frozen icecream like treat.

  • http://www.thelivingkitchen.wordpress.com elarael

    Mad, mad love at first bite for me, but it was a fresh one. As with anything, that makes all the difference, esp. the first time. I’m counting the days for my dream vacation of a month in malaysia during durian season when I plan to feast on nothing but! Yum…

  • auco

    i LOVE durian. Even when I was a little kid. I love the smell, the taste, the texture, the LOOK.
    I think it’s perfect.
    the vietnamese have a che that’s made with durian and it’s to die for (if it doesn’t kill you in calories).

  • http://eatingasia.typepad.com Robyn

    You may love it or hate it, but it *is* possible to develope a taste for it. Also depends on the variety of durian – I prefer the smaller creamy, buttery ones that are easy to find here in Malaysia. I have heard that in Thailand durians are picked whereas in Malaysia they’re allowed to drop from the tree (ie. they’re riper). Not sure about that but I do know my durian conversion occured in Penang.

  • QQ

    This is the only fruit my husband eats. since is in season in hong kong. we like having it every week.

  • http://www.zenkimchi.com/FoodJournal ZenKimchi

    Freakin’ love durian! We’re starting to see more of it in Korea. It’s considered more exotic here than it is in the U.S.

  • http://www.drewvogel.com Drew Vogel

    Last spring, we bought a durian from our local amazing grocery store, Jungle Jim’s (http://www.junglejims.com — check it out!). We brought it home and, on our back deck, tried it.
    It looks like something from a science fiction movie, and cutting it was enjoyably strange. The flavor was quite nice, and the smell was …considerable.
    Am I a convert? Probably not. But I’m glad I tried it. I would eat it again.

  • http://www.lizzieeatslondon.blogspot.com/ Lizzie

    I’ve had durian many times – I keep trying to like it, but I just can’t! My family all love it though. Stinky stuff…

  • http://onefoodguy.blogspot.com one food guy

    I’ve only seen durian a few times in the asian markets in Boston’s Chinatown. I’ve never tried it, but am intrigued by and and want to give it a go. Soon enough…

  • http://theendivechronicles.com/ Erin

    I almost bought one in Seattle last week, but was a house guest in the some rather picky eaters. I can imagine the reaction I would illicit after slicing into a ripe durian!

  • http://thai4real.blogspot.com Thip

    I can’t wait to have fresh durian in Thailand soon, Pim. It is one of my favorite fruit. I haven’t had it for a long time since my husband couldn’t stand the smell. You know how bad the smell is if you’re not the one who eat it, right.

  • http://foodietahiti.canalblog.com La foodie

    Bonjour Pim. J’aime beaucoup ta méthode pour cuire le riz gluant, je l’adopte ! c’est tellement simple ! Le durian, j’ai du mal …la premiere fois que j’en ai mangé c’était sous forme de glace il y a 10 ans au Vietnam, ma tete avait beaucoup faire rire le vendeur ! Je lui avait demandé sa meilleur glace …

  • Jacob

    You surely meant “anatomy” and not physiology. The pictures are nice.
    I love durian
    Jacob

  • kudzu

    My ex is a photojournalist and I still giggle when I recall his story from decades ago about the signs at Southeast Asian airports prohibiting the transport of durian fruit on tiny planes during their season. I have tasted it only once, in a dessert, and my jury is still out!

  • chepdaoNYC

    I still remember the first time I tasted durian at the age of 7 or so. It was the “Gaan yao” or “long stem” variety, and it was better than chocolate!! (and I was a choco-crazy kid.) On the many trips to Thailand these past years, I could not find this variety anymore. I still love the other breeds of durian but nothing tasted like Gaan yao. My signif other (an Ital-Irish white boy from NY) was brave enough to try it once. He did not hate the taste but could not stand the smell, saying it smelled like “poop mixed with gasoline”. So I guess it’s one kind of food that elicits that love/hate relationship. By the way, Pim, I love your blog. Yours is one of the best food blogs around. For a foodie growing up in Thailand like me, your blog makes me so feel at home (and hungry all the time!).

  • Charlie Sommers

    Durian that has been frozen is certainly not as good as fresh but it is better than no durian. This
    wonderful fruit needs no fancy recipe to make it eatable, just dig out the flesh (mushy if it has been frozen) and enjoy.

  • susanne

    Help – how long does it keep?
    Hi, I bought a durian yesterday from a chinese supermarket and it looks pretty ripe. I bought it for my dad’s 80 th birthday and it cost a fortune. however, my dad lives in the north of scotland and I am not visiting him until next monday (8 days) – will the durian keep till then or should I de seed and freeze it?

  • http://www.ifantabulous.com Lil

    i love the durian from malaysia, but then again i’m biased since that’s where i’m from… and in general i do find malaysian durian smaller and creamier, but hey, now living abroad, it’s near to impossible to buy good durian so any type would do quite nicely to me… :D

  • http://jeremyskitchen.wordpress.com/ Jeremy

    Unfortunately, my first taste of durian was in a durian milkshake. I had the cream of durian burps for three days. That aftertaste stuck with me a little too long for my liking. My poor wife is so understanding, but she claimed my breath smelled like gasoline. No kisses for me!
    I’m sad to report that I won’t be eating durian again anytime soon.

  • Grace

    I grow jackfruit in my backyard. I eat this first and foremost but I admit that it wasn’t until my Vietnamese taught me how to cook Durian PROPERLY that I actually enjoyed it.
    I have travelled throughout southeast Asia and find that, on the whole, not many people know how to utilise it properly hence the mass dislike.

  • http://www.gastronomicguesswork.com kindageeky

    Thanks for the great post Pim. I saw these at the H-Mart last week and had no idea what to do with them. I’ll definitely give your approach a shot!

  • http://profile.typekey.com/tingtan/ CTT

    If you were in US or Canada, you can find freeze dried durian on http://www.asiansupermarket365.com

  • foureight84

    I think a lot of people dismiss this gem solely on its distinctive smell. Never judge a book by its cover! The subtle sweetness with a buttery delicate texture makes it a great treat. It is especially pleasing to eat on a hot summer day if you freeze it.

  • http://www.womenlearnthai.com cat

    I love Durian. Durian anything!
    The first time I tried Durian was when I moved to Brunei (Borneo), in ’94.
    Even though the western male offering it said I’d hate it, from first bite it was amazing to me.
    Then on my first trip to Bangkok (the same year) I discovered a small restaurant around the back of the hotel I was staying at – ‘The Professors’.
    On the menu is a wonderful Durian ice cream. And no matter if I’m on a diet or not, if I’m at The Professors, it makes its way to my plate.
    I’ve love the recipe if you have it… or can think one up… or just want to share your experiences with Durian ice cream.

  • Em Tee

    This dessert just reminds me of childhood — I’m sort of craving it now that I’ve read this post. It definitely beats sticky rice with mango for me — I’ll take the durian custard or even an egg custard instead. I’ve actually never had a problem with the smell, mostly because I think there are worse smelling yum foods in this world; sa-om comes to mind.
    Anyhow, I also like it frozen. I have two boxes in my freezer, actually. It’s kind of perverse after having it fresh — there really is nothing like digging out the flesh with your fingers and taking that first bite, is there? — but its texture reminds me of gelato after a fashion.
    Mmm, thank you for the nostalgia. I might have to go home and try to make this now.

  • Em Tee

    This dessert just reminds me of childhood — I’m sort of craving it now that I’ve read this post. It definitely beats sticky rice with mango for me — I’ll take the durian custard or even an egg custard instead. I’ve actually never had a problem with the smell, mostly because I think there are worse smelling yum foods in this world; sa-om comes to mind.
    Anyhow, I also like it frozen. I have two boxes in my freezer, actually. It’s kind of perverse after having it fresh — there really is nothing like digging out the flesh with your fingers and taking that first bite, is there? — but its texture reminds me of gelato after a fashion.
    Mmm, thank you for the nostalgia. I might have to go home and try to make this now.

  • Leng

    I absolutely LOVE durian and this is one of my all time favourite desserts. My grandmother in Sydney (I’m Chinese and grew up in Australia though currently working in London) used to make this for me cos she knows how much I love it and I can’t wait to try and make this myself!!!!! I know durian is not for everyone – but don’t diss it just because your palate can’t handle it!
    Thanks for posting this xx

  • Ilana Bergman

    I love Durian and am so happy reading so many people’s comments about the much loved and much disliked fruit. I first time I tried durian was when I was working in a health food store and this boy brought it in for us to try. Of course my boss made him take it outside cause of the stink. But I liked it sooo much I bought my own. When I lived in Thailand, I was in absolute heaven walking through the markets, having fresh durian right at my fingertips. I was sad to find out it had only one season.

  • http://sbssinavi2009.blogspot.com/ sbs

    what a impressive article. last days I didn’ t read post like that. I am now your blog’ s follower thanks for this useful blog. you are now in my bookmarks.

  • tneveca

    Last summer I purchased a fresh durian that had an excruciatingly complex odor of caramelized bananas, roasted pecans, and rotten corpses. It was my first fresh durian, and I loved it with the passionate fervor of a religious ecstasy. The fruit had the paradoxical quality of a deviant fetish. I relished its difficult tension of opposites–its flesh-piercing thorny husk and delicate lush pulp; its morbid, sulfurous stench and subtle, aromatic fruity undertones. It was my first, and my face blushed with love as I consumed the brute beauty of the gift it had given me of itself.

  • http://www.tiffanyfree.com/tiffany-pendants.html Tiffany Pendant

    I remember the headcheese on the charcuterie platter anywhere. And it helps that I was there 9 days ago.

  • pookiroo

    I enjoyed reading your post.  Thanks.