Did we want the sweeter, lighter version of the fruit with the odor of "pig-shit, turpentine and onions," or were we up for a more intense experience? "The Malaysian's got more flavor," Jay Fan, Chinatown's most famous "durian man" told us. "It's more complex." I looked at my two friends, who shrugged. So we strode boldly into Flavor Country, which happens to smell a lot like Dead Bird Rotten Applejuice Egg Cream Country.
Corey Kilgannon's profile of Fan in this weekend's paper (Fan had already mounted a laminated copy of it to his stand) signaled that it was time to experience the fruit that is banned in many public places throughout southeast Asia. Trying durian was like getting that wall-mounted bike rack for the apartment, or switching hair conditioners: pedestrian, yet life-changing.
Splitting the fruit is the way to go: a small one with enough for three of us to taste was $18. Fan boxed up our purchase and wished us well: "Go try and get a seat on the subway with this."
Instead we opted for Sarah Roosevelt Park, and began scraping the fruit off the giant seeds.
Durian off the seed (Gothamist)
The first thing you notice is the texture: it feels like wet scrambled eggs, buffeted with thin layers of film. But wait, it's chewy. Eggs are not chewy. Eggs do not laugh at your teeth and condense into a ball of pungent cud that taps its watch impatiently before you shoo it down your gullet.
Caramel is a word that may be used to associate the taste of durian with something our minds can comprehend, but it's deeply insulting to caramel. The word "egg cream" was also used—a lactose element cannot be denied, nor can the cloying, sulfuric tang of fermenting something. Fruit? Skin? How could durian not be hallucinogenic?
Yet if you kept chewing, kept tasting, kept breathing, you could understand wanting to eat this strange, bracing thing all the time. You can almost see durian's syrupy burn waft out of your mouth like cartoon stink waves and back into your nose, like some ancient, occultist feedback loop.
Two beers and some french fries numbed the taste from my mouth, but each time I felt I had banished it, a burp would send the spirits roaring back. Nature is amazing.