The foul-smelling King of Fruits,
the durian, is in peak season here!
For some, the durian’s pungent odor is fragrant and sweet, but to others, its smell is closer to old gyms socks, turpentine and onions, sewer gas, or rotten cheese. It’s a beautiful, yet mean looking fruit and it is truly tied to Thai identity!
There is an art to picking a good durian. I often watch people hunting for their perfect durian. Similar to a car accident or NYC breakdancers, it’s hard not to notice the frenzy and excitement that happens around durian stalls. People intensely inspect the stems and character of its outer layer. The spikes are felt for firmness, the skin mustn’t have dark spots, the smell must be sweet… When one knocks on it, the sound must be right. And then, the fruit seller will split it open very carefully. It’s inside flesh must be somewhat firm, not too mushy or yellow.
Finding the perfect (or not-so-perfect) durian can mean love or disgust for this fruit – am I am on the prowl!
Airports, hotels and other public places sometimes ban the fruit because of its strong odor. A Thai scientist has even invented an odorless durian!
*This post was inspired by SLA’s community task, to find a food that is unique to Thai national identity.
Quick summary of the week:
- I was able to read 4 things on the Thai menu and ordered one for lunch!
- Flipped through a beautiful book on the Ramakien, a mythological epic of higher beings influencing mortal life. (When I was growing up we had a large wall hanging of one of the scenes and I never knew anything about it until now.)
- Sat in the front seat of a songtaew (pick-up truck bus) and spoke Thai with the driver who gave me a bracelet for good luck!
- Double meaning incident – At the stationary store, the checkout cashier asked “Saai toong?” I knew it meant bag, so I said no thanks. I asked her to repeat it because the verb sounded familiar. I had just learned this verb meaning to “put on.” There was a strange look between the 2 checkout cashiers and she repeated the phrase. I then went to my lesson and without mentioning what had just happened, the teacher explained that this phrase can mean “put it in the bag” OR “put on a condom.” Hmmmm.
- I attended a great international language exchange event and made new friends! Few days later, invited to a house gathering of natives and expats. (Thai, English and French spoken – all my languages!)
- Reading “Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind” by Carol Hollinger.
- As the sun was setting, I ate rambutan on my balcony. The book I am reading (link above) describes เงาะ as “an improbable fruit that tastes like a grape and looks like an aged strawberry equipped with porcupine quills.”