One of the questions I ask Flushing food tour groups—besides is it too early in the morning for tripe—is, “How do you feel about durian?” Canvassing opinions about the spiky king of fruit, which Anthony Bourdain once described as smelling “…like you’d buried somebody holding a big wheel of Stilton in his arms, then dug him up a few weeks later,” is as good a gauge of adventurousness as any.
On one tour a guy told me about how an over-ripe durian landed on his head while he was taking a nap under a tree in Southeast Asia. He was supposed to go to a wedding later that day, but was forbidden to attend because he was “unlucky,” and, no doubt, stinky.
Most truly odiferous durian varieties never make it to the United States. Usually I’ll buy my tour group a bag of freeze-dried durian at a Malaysian market. As durian goes it’s pretty benign. It’s crunchy and sweet, though it does have a somewhat funky after taste. Last Sunday though I purchased some dumplings at Golden Shopping Mall called “ice durian.” Each tiny purse was filled with a mixture of cool custard topped by some really pungent durian. I rather liked it, so much so that I’m thinking of eating some today. My tour group did not feel the same way. Here’s what I’d like to know: Do you dig durian? Tell me in the comments or hit me on the Twitter, @JoeDiStefano.