I’ve often smelled the notoriously STANKY durian fruit on the stands outside the doors of markets on Stockton Street in San Francisco’s Chinatown, but I’ve never had the opportunity to try a bite. It IS uniquely off-putting stuff, that’s for sure. People liken it to everything from gym socks to rotting meat to skunk spray. Geez, who WOULDN’T want to belly up to a serving of that?! You can’t even carry a fresh durian onto a bus or into a taxi, the smell is so obnoxious and overpowering.
But I’ll try most anything once, so I’ve been looking for a chance to sample this Southeast Asian “king of fruits.” My opportunity to get an idea of what it tastes like came this weekend in Thai Town when I ordered durian ice cream. It was at the same time both delicate and assertive. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten anything with that self-contradicting characteristic. It had a soft, fruity flavor with a sulphuric back taste you sometimes get with garlic or onion that has been cut and then left sitting on the counter for a while. It’s oddly both appealing and repellent, sort of like Mick Jagger.
Would I order it again? Sure, I might. Or I might try another flavor that doesn’t show up in my local ice creamery. It’s great having the opportunity to visit a sweet shop in an ethnic neighborhood and discover flavors that are as basic and beloved to its citizenry as vanilla and chocolate are in my own neighborhood. You never know when you’ll find something you love so much you’ll get it again and again—like that avocado shake I order every time I go to a particular Vietnamese restaurant back home in Memphis.
As I’ve said ad nauseum, I like to keep an open mind and an open mouth. If I don’t like what I’m trying, at least I’ve made an informed decision. And I can always keep a tin of Altoids with me, just in case!