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  • Writer's pictureAlex Fear

Durian Selection Platter

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

I had a day stopover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Rather than going and seeing any sights, I decided to just eat durian products. Durian is a massive spiky fruit held in very high regard in East Asia, despite smelling like putrefying raw sewage.

Kuala Lumpur seems to be the meeting place for the world faiths. More so than Jerusalem. In a short journey through the city you can see Islamic, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, and Taoist religious buildings. I was going to go see a large Hindu shrine in a system of caves to the north of the city, but I woke up too late. So instead I went to a massive hut dedicated to Durians next to my hotel. The place was plastered with smiley faced cartoon durians and a giant sculpture of a durian flavoured waffle. I asked for a menu and the lady said there wasn’t one, you either had a whole durian or a black rectangular plate with little haute cuisine slugs of durian on it. I’ve noticed this penchant in some parts of Asia for serving up really fucking disgusting little things as haute cuisine, like a rotten egg or a birds nest or some still writhing hacked off squid legs.

I’d actually tried durian once before, and it was horrible. But I did buy it from the reduced section of a low-end supermarket in Taipei where they would happily sell things in the latter stages of decomposition. I told the lady that maybe raw durian wasn’t appropriate for breakfast, and she stuck a durian flavour crisp in my mouth, and said,

'You like.'

So I bought a little box of what they called ‘XO Durian’, the term ‘xo’ having transmigrated from Cognac to connote a high quality product. A man gave me a plastic glove so my hand wouldn’t smell after eating it and after the first bite said,

‘You like.'

I couldn’t tell if it was an interesting flavour or just completely rancid. It was both creamy and sweet and sewagey. I asked the man who gave me it if this is how he would eat durian, and he said he doesn’t like durian.

In the airport they gave me samples of durian tea, dried durian, durian chocolate, and durian truffle.

‘No, no! Too strong for him,’ One hijabed Malaysian shop assistant said to another, who was poking a durian filled chocolate in my direction.

But I ate it, and I think I enjoyed it. Later a lady was offering me fruit scented soaps to smell. I asked her if they had a durian scented soap, and she laughed. But I had seriously thought maybe they liked durian enough that a soap smelling like putrifacting sewage would be desirable for the warm memories of durian-eating it would evoke. The love affair didn’t extend to the smell, which was strange to me because the smell was most of the flavour. In my hotel there was a sign in the window that said ‘no smoking and no eating durian.' I told the lady in the durian restaurant that I thought this was funny and she said,

‘It isn’t funny, because it does smell very bad.’

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