Sunday, 17 May 2009

That's a what ? Can I eat it now ?

I bought this fruit I'd never seen before at an Thai food store despite it's high price ( 15 Euros for a kilo). The internet tells me it's a durian. I can eat the pulp and the seeds should be cooked or fried.
Hm! But when is it ripe enough to eat ? Plenty of recipes and what to do with the pulp, but WHEN IS IT RIPE ?

It is smelly, but not very. If I inhale the smell very deeply, it feels as though I'm becoming a bit short of breath.
I can see a crack on one side that opens when I force it open a bit and shows a clearer interior .
When I shake it, the inside clearly rattle as one solid block.
Do I keep it in the fridge or out in the open or do I eat it all at once?
Questions,questions. Anyone out there that can give me a few pointers ?


Priscilla said...

Oooh durian!! My heart beat faster when I saw the picture haha! The durian is very popular at home, and is kind of our national fruit. I grew up eating this fruit, and it's my favourite after strawberries, cherries, mangoes and dragonfruit. I've heard that people who are not used to it usually think it's smelly, but to me it smells like home!

I haven't had that since the summer :D There are certain seasons for it, like strawberries in summer, white flesh peaches in spring, etc, so I only ever get to eat it in the summer. I can't wait to go home and eat more!! Haha, for 15euros, we would be able to buy a large basket of 10 to 15 durians! But tropical fruits are always so expensive in this part of the world :(

If you bought it, it should already be ripe enough to eat. This is because the durian fruit falls off the tree once it is ripe, and the durian farmers will collect durians from the orchard floor every morning. It's kind of dangerous, and all farmers have to wear helmets, because there's always a danger of a durian dropping on your head when collecting the fruit!

But, I've heard that for exporting, farmers would cut it off the tree instead! I don't know how to check how ripe it is, in that case :/ Usually we smell the durian to see how good it is, and check for cracks and the stems to see how dry it is. From the sounds that it makes from when you shake it, as well as the crack in the side, I think it's alright to eat already :) If it's a little less ripe than I'm used to, then the flesh would have a little less taste and would be softer. When it's a little more ripe, the flesh would still be soft, but the outside would be a very little bit more solid, like it has a "skin". This is my favourite type! The taste is also stronger. Depending on the species of durian, the taste can either be sweet or slightly bitter, so bitter flesh doesn't necessarily mean it's unripe.

This is a tropical fruit, so keeping it in the fridge before opening it isn't a good idea. (For most tropical fruits like longans, langsat and lychees, putting them in the fridge would actually make them spoil faster!) Once you have opened the fruit, you can put the flesh in plastic tupperwares with tight lids and keep it in the fridge. That would take away alot of the smell :) I'm not sure how long it'll keep that way, but usually we don't have enough leftovers to warrant keeping in the fridge :P Even if we do, it disappears within a day or two anyway!

To cut it open, usually we use a cleaver and make a small cut about 4 or 5 inches long at the "top" of the durian, where the stem is. Then we make another similar cut so that it makes an X. Then we put our fingers into it and force it open. Once it's open that way, there should be flesh already waiting to be eaten.

When the sections are still large, you can open other sections by pressing your palms on opposite sides of the durian, kind of like this:
( I )
Palm->( I )<-Palm
( I )
Sorry about the bad image ^^;;; The "I" is the center of the durian where it will split. When the sections are smaller, you can open them further by using your cleaver to make a 1 inch cut on the top of the "wedge", then prying it apart with your fingers.

To eat a durian, simply pick up the yellow seeds and eat :D It has a soft, creamy covering around the actual seed. Once you've eaten the yellow flesh, you can boil the seeds and then peel off the harder outer skin and eat the insides, which are like nuts. My family always has jackfruit seeds cooked that way as well :D

Oh! I forgot to mention that depending on the type of durian you got, the flesh can be any colour ranging from very pale white-ish yellow to an almost orange shade of yellow.

My favourite way of eating it is fresh and straight out from the fruit! But other ways that are really nice is durian cake (like butter cake, with a durian taste), durian pancakes (thin crepes made into little springroll-like parcels and filled with a mixture of fresh cold whipped cream and yellow durian flesh), and various other Malaysian puddings :) Durian ice cream is also another favourite that I haven't eaten in ages!! I must get an ice cream maker and make my own...

You can also add it to other desserts. For alot of Malaysian puddings, we also have durian variations of them! For something different but nice, try having it with shaved ice, thinned coconut milk and a sugar syrup called "gula melaka", if you can find it. Gula melaka is made of palm sugar :) If you can't find gula melaka, I've heard that you can use dark brown sugar syrup instead. If you like, you can also add cubes of Chinese grass jelly to the dessert.

Eating a durian can be rather cloying, so I recommend having alot of water nearby! In Chinese culture, we believe in "heaty" and "cooling" foods (like the yin and yang thing). Certain types of food heat your body up and other types of food cool it down. Durian is a "heaty" type food, so in Malaysia, we usually eat mangosteens at the sametime, because mangosteens are a "cooling" fruit and is in season the same time the durian is. Most durian stalls sell mangosteens as well. If you can't get mangosteens, what we used to do is put water in the emptied durian section and drink it out of the skin. I don't see the difference from drinking water out of a glass, but it makes for a fun game :P

Sorry for the long post, but I really miss this fruit :P The ones being sold in England are usually too mild in both smell and taste for my liking, not to mention too expensive, so I don't eat them here. Please do enjoy the fruit, and post an honest comment on how you like it XD

Priscilla said...

Oh, I forgot to mention :) My sister's blog has a couple of posts about durians!

This one has pictures of fried chicken wings that had been marinated in durian. There's an idea to try! It was really really delicious :)
(It's the first picture)

In this one, the dessert I mentioned with shaved ice is number 5, but that one has red beans and cendol (a pandan-flavoured jelly) instead of durians. Usually, we have the red beans and cendol with durians for a variation, but the basic component is always shaved ice, coconut milk, and brown sugar syrup :) Pictures under number 7 also show open durians and my niece enjoying them! In the picture, we're having it with sweetened barley water (a cool, refreshing drink).

:) Enjoy!

Walter said...

Aha! Priscilla : thanks very much for the long posts. I'll give it a try right away. I found a few videos ( Youtube ) of how to open them.
The crust is like very hard and spiky , you need leather gloves to keep from getting scratched.
I'll post the result.
I kept it in the fridge overnight, but I left it outside today at 19-20 °C to see if the smell would get stronger , haha!

Petrina said...

Hi Walter, I'm Priscilla's sister. Just wanted to say that I'd strongly recommend against keeping it in the fridge because the smell permeates everything! Especially if it's really strong. A lot of hotels in Malaysia do not allow durians because it is really difficult to get rid of the smell.

However, I've noticed that the durians that are exported, esp to Europe, don't seem to smell as strong. The durians I used to see in London Chinatown were never as fragrant as the ones back home.

Best way to eat durian: as it is! Looking forward to your durian experience. (You can tell we Malaysians are obssessed about it.)