Durian: How Bad Is It, Really?

Julia Bainbridge
Food Editor
February 26, 2014

This week, we’re taking a look at those international foods popularly thought of as “gross” and testing that theory. (Yay for us.) How bad are they…really?

Photo credit: StockFood

How can something so beautiful, so very Garden of Eden-looking (if the Garden of Eden were located in Chiang Mai), smell so awful?

A few years ago, I took a whole durian into a parking lot—I had been warned of the distances its powerful scent could go—and cracked it open with a hammer. (That wasn’t necessary, mind you, but it’s all I could find. And it added to the drama of the whole endeavor.) What emanated from its yellow flesh was a mix of rotten eggs, wet garbage, turpentine, and one thin, tired note of sweet melon.

It should be noted that the spiky fruit, which hails from Southeast Asia, is banned on mass transit there. At the same time, it is so prized that crimes are routinely committed over it.

How unfortunate for durian that it’s so stinky. The smell deters many people from tasting what another many say is a pleasant, sweet experience. But alas, taste and smell are inextricably linked senses; most humans aren’t so skilled at isolating them.

"I can’t get around its eggy odor,” said one of our editors at at our taste test.

Eggy is putting it nicely. Another editor found that it smells like “the kind of waste that would make even Olympians of dumpster diving back away” and it tastes like “gasoline and cantaloupe, mixed together.”

“The texture is unpleasantly gooey, too, which I was only able focus on by holding my nose as I chomped.”

On the Gross Scale (0 being the least gross, 5 being the grossest), another editor gave the fruit a 5: “It actually makes me feel ill.” She continued:

“Recently I was at a dim sum restaurant and I unknowingly bit into a glutinous rice dessert with a durian filling. It was one of those awful, panicked moments that becomes like a snapshot in your mind. The taste just fills your mouth, coating everything, and even once you spit it out and drink three glasses of water you still taste it, you still smell it.”

Durian: more haunting than that Stage Five Clinger with neon-laced braces you made out with under the bleachers in high school that one time. 

Overall, it gets a 4 on the Gross Scale; less gross than Marmite, grosser than natto.