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Hanna Butler Journeys

The Durian Den

MALAYSIA | Thursday, 5 July 2012 | Views [2997]

Like a drug den, people can stay on the premises waiting for a knock on the door to be told their hit is ready. But is not a drug, it is not even a stimulant of any kind. It is an unadulterated natural fruit, revered across Malaysia.

Durian. The name of the infamous Southeast Asian fruit even has a strange sound to it. Durian.Stranger though than it sounds, is how it smells and tastes. Love it or hate it, it’s a food phenomenon. It is Durian season in Malaysia and roadsides and markets are full of the smelly, ugly fruit. Families and friends congregate late at night just to gorge on it. But to get the best Durian I travel across Penang to the Bao Sheng Durian Farm.

The owner is known as the Durian Seng, grew up on the farm. He loves Durian he tells me, it is his life. He places three fruit on the table and we taste in a specific order, paying close attention to the different  flavours. I don’t hate Durian, but I definitely don’t love it. I love the texture creamy like custard or soft French cheese, but the taste is just indescribable, and while I don’t find it offensive, it is not something I would seek out.

While it seems excessive  that we taste the fruit and look for notes of wine, dark chocolate and sugar - they are there! But the best is yet to come, as we wait for a Durian just fallen off the tree. The farm even provides accommodation for devotees to get the freshest Durian hit possible.  The fresher, the better, and for lovers of Durian, getting the best becomes addictive.

It arrives, and the Durian Sen throws the fruit on the ground to release its chi. Then, we wait. Every few minutes The Sen checks the fruit by smelling it. The scent has to move throughout the fruit for it to be ready to eat he says. When it is ready, he demonstrates how we need to eat it to get the most out of the numbing feeling fresh Durian should leave in your mouth. He mimes holding a bit of Durian and pushing it in and out of his mouth with his lips pursed. “You must get the fresh in the mouth.” It looks strange, but everything here kind of is.

A local company brings their 50 staff for a reward for all-you-can-eat Durian.  It is a feeding frenzy, they are animals and all you can hear is sucking and eating. No talking. Everyone has Durian in their mouth. It’s like five o’clock drinks in New Zealand.

It is ready, the Durian Sen tells us and he cuts into the fruit like a surgeon. I rub the fruit into my mouth, to get the fresh into the mouth. But by now Durian is Durian. It’s sweet, it’s bitter, it’s creamy, but mostly it is utterly indescribable. I burp my way back into town. Every burp, a reminder. I won’t be back for another fix,  I am not an addict. 

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