One of the aspects of travel I enjoy most is trying new foods, in particular, new fruits and veggies. Just back from Southeast Asia, I’m still dreaming about the amazing tropical fruit and veggies my nephew and I enjoyed while there.
Let’s be honest, the selection at a lot of stateside grocery stores is predictable and homogenized. It wasn’t until I started traveling that I realized how broad the spectrum of fruits and veggies truly is, and how little of that spectrum actually makes it to our plates here in the States.
So as far as I’m concerned, it’s important to really enjoy exotic fruit when you have the chance. And because it was his first trip to the region, my nephew was game to try the bounty, as well.
Near the top of our list was the notorious durian. Enormous, spiky, smelly durian.
If you’ve never heard of durian, you should know that it is famous for its smelliness which is so pronounced, durian is often not allowed in hotels or on public transportation. Its rather farty scent and flavor is what makes it so polarizing. Some people absolutely hate it. But there are also people who absolutely love it.
BackpackMr and I have tried durian once in the past, but I wanted my nephew to have the experience for himself.
So we ate our way through fields of fruit. At one point I even went to the market before my nephew was awake, and bought a bag full of fruit so that he and I could share it over breakfast.
We had several of my favorites: mangosteen, which is small and adorable and has a purplish, fibrous exterior which you peel away to reveal the most beautiful white lobes of fruit. Rambutan, which looks spiky and red from the outside, but holds a white eyeball-like fruit with a seed and longan, with similar fruit but a smooth, brown exterior. Custard apple which is smooth and filled with black seeds, and my absolute favorite fruit the world over: passion fruit. I seriously love the stuff. You wait until the outside is wrinkled looking, which indicates that the fruit is ripe. It’s runny like an egg yolk and peppered with little crunchy, black seeds, and the flavor is unlike any other fruit I’ve ever tried. It is so bizarre and so good. There are a couple of varieties of passion fruit and some are more deliciously tart than others, which makes them great in fruit shakes with another sweeter fruit or a sweetener of some sort.
But that day at the market, there was no durian to be found. For that, we had to wait until we got to Thailand. In the meantime, I enjoyed more fruit shakes. Oh, and of course, MANGO STICKY RICE!!!!
At last, after smelling it in trucks that passed on the street, catching a whiff from stores as we walked by in countries all around Southeast Asia, we were ready. We found a durian lobe that was small in portion-size (we didn’t want to buy and waste a bunch of it–we just wanted to try it) and steeled ourselves.
It. Was. Time.
Right there, at the market in Chiang Mai, we dove in.
My nephew was a trooper. I tried to capture both of us on film eating durian, but with no luck.
Trust me, he took a big bite of that stinky flesh and was no worse for the wear. He didn’t mind it.
And, it was exactly as I remembered. Not horrible. Not awesome. An interesting texture, sort of custardy with stringy bits and a couple of big seeds. The stringy-ness is what doesn’t work for me. The flavor doesn’t bug me a bit. And the smell, well, it’s kind of intriguing to me.
I think I like it?
Come to think of it, I bet durian would be better blended. Perhaps in a fruit shake.
Charish Badzinski is an explorer and award-winning features, food and travel writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, Rollerbag Goddess Global Communications, providing powerful storytelling to her clients.
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Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.