Durian Puff (榴蓮酥)
Category: Desserts & Sweets | Blog URL: http://www.redcook.net/2009/10/12/durian-blancmange-lavatory/
This recipe was entered in The Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook contest, a compilation of the world’s best food blogs which was published in Fall 2010.
If there’s one thing that everyone can agree on about durian it’s the odor. Not only is the odor strong and distinct, it permeates through layers of packaging and lingers interminably. Airlines and public transport authorities in Asia ban durian in the aircrafts, subway trains and buses. Hotels in the region similarly prohibit it in their rooms.
To foreigners not familiar with this fruit the odor is so foul that few would attempt to eat it. Durian is the only fruit that the host of Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel, Andrew Zimmern, simply couldn’t swallow. But to many other people the aroma, which becomes more pronounced as the fruit ripens, is the allure of the fruit. Therein lies the conundrum of durian: the stronger the odor the more desirable the fruit.
The large quantity of sulfur compounds in the rind and the pulp of the fruit contributes to the odor. Harold McGee writes in On Food and Cooking that similar sulfur compounds “are found in onions, garlic, overripe cheese, skunk spray, and rotten eggs.” So it is no wonder that durian pulp has been compared to many of these items.
But no one seems to be able to fully articulate the taste. In The Long Day Wanes: A Malayan Trilogy, the British novelist Anthony Burgess describes the experience of eating durian “like eating sweet raspberry blancmange in the lavatory.” Andrew Zimmern told his audience it tastes like “completely rotten, mushy onions.” Perhaps similar to garlic the existence of sulfur compounds results in the extreme affection or revulsion of durian.
It is, however, undeniable that the creamy custardy pulp is sweet and has a pleasant texture, qualities that are prized by many durian connoisseurs in Singapore and Malaysia. A variety known as D24, commonly available from Malaysia, is highly sought after for this very reason. The price of a four to five pounds D24 durian can reach as high as 20 U.S. dollars. Rather expensive considering that only around a quarter of the weight is the edible pulp.
Durian lovers go all out to find vendors that sell fruits with the best texture and aroma. During our tour of Asia in August we visited the legendary durian stall at the foot of Dempsey Hill on Holland Road in Singapore. The stall keeper has been setting up a temporary shack in the parking lot there during durian seasons for more than thirty years. He professes to personally select the fruits from the best suppliers in Malaysia. The fruits he sells reliably offer the most aromatic, sweetest and creamiest pulp. His customers agree and the consistency of his durian selection brings them back every durian season. Twice a year, from June through August and November through January, durian lovers flock to this stall and either consume the fruits al fresco, or bring them home to share with their families.
Unlike seasonal stalls the permanent fruit stores in the Geylang neighborhood of Singapore offer durian year round. Geylang, well known as the red light district of Singapore, is an area full of restaurants and bustling nightlife. Short-term hotels and brothels line the side streets while the fruit stores, always brightly lit to showcase their durian, innocently coexist with the restaurants and nightclubs. For those who can’t wait for the durian season this is where they’d go to satisfy their craving. Slight differences in growing seasons all over Southeast Asia make it possible to ship durian to markets throughout the year. Discriminating durian lovers, however, still prefer to wait for the peak season of Malaysian durian when the fruit is at its best.
In New York’s Chinatown one can buy durian from Thailand, which has become the largest exporter of this fruit. But the often-found Morn Thong variety from Thailand leaves much to be desired. Although the texture is creamy the aroma is very much lacking. I did however successfully make durian puffs with my purchase from Chinatown. You can follow my recipe below to make them yourself. Durian puffs are a relatively new creation that has become very popular among the dimsum crowd throughout Asia. They are made with a puff pastry like dough and are often served warm, which enhances the aroma. If you’ve never tried durian before, then the less offensive odor of the Thai durian may be the way to start.