The GlobePreneur lifestyle can be very stressful. But we have the opportunity to savor exotic foods around the world. Our GlobePreneurs Love series brings you a ‘taste’ of some of the amazing experiences, fruits and cuisines from different corners of the globe.
First in the series is the durian. The durian is a unique tropical fruit, popular in Southeast Asia, where it is known as ‘the king of fruits’ (despite its strong aroma). Durian has more nutrients than most other fruits and been used in traditional Asian medicine.
Appearance: Durian is a tropical fruit distinguished by its large size and spiky, hard outer shell. It has a smelly, custard-like flesh with large seeds. The fruit’s flesh can range in color, although is usually yellow, white or golden. Durian grows in tropical regions around the world, particularly in the Southeast Asia.
Use: Durian is used in sweet and savory dishes. Both the creamy flesh and seeds are edible, although the seeds need to be cooked. The flavor is described as tasting like custard, cheese and caramel combined. Some popular food preparations of durian fruit include: smoothies, crepes, soup, candy, ice cream and other desserts. It is also used as a vegetable side dish, and some are dried/dehydrated as chips. The seeds can boiled or roasted. The durian is used in traditional medicine and has some medicinal properties that are currently being studied.
Nutrition: Durian is very high in nutrients compared to most fruits.It is also rich in healthy plant compounds, including anthocyanins, carotenoids, polyphenols and flavonoids. Many of these function as antioxidants per the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health.
Health Benefits: All parts of the durian plant (leaves, husk, roots and fruit) have been used in traditional Asian medicine to treat a variety of illnesses, including high fever, jaundice and skin conditions per US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health.
Studies have shown that durian fruit may have the following health benefits:
- Reduce cancer risk. Its antioxidants may neutralize cancer-promoting free radicals. For example, studies show durian extract prevented a strain of breast cancer cells from spreading.
- Prevent heart disease. Several compounds in durian may help lower cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries.
- Fight infection. The rind contains antibacterial and anti-yeast properties.
- Lower blood sugar. Durian has a lower glycemic index than other tropical fruits i.e. it may lead to a lower blood sugar spike. It may also prevent some glucose from being absorbed and stimulate insulin to be released.
While these studies are promising, many of them have been done on animals or in test- tubes, not humans yet.
Care: Consuming durian and alcohol at the same time as can cause problems. It’s suggested that the sulfur-like compounds in durian may prevent certain enzymes from breaking down alcohol, causing increased alcohol levels in the blood. This could lead to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and heart palpitations, according to some studies. To be safe, it’s best to avoid eating durian and drinking alcohol at the same time.
How to Eat Durian: Opening a durian’s hard, spiky shell often requires gloves to protect your hands, per video. The shell needs to be cut with a knife and then you can open it with your hands. Then, gently remove the sections of durian flesh.
You can then eat it fresh on its own, paired with sticky rice or prepared. There are many recipes on the internet. The flesh is also sold frozen, which slightly changes the texture and flavor, making it looser, more stringy and less aromatic. You can also find durian in prepared foods, such as candy, smoothies, yoghurt and ice cream.
Aroma: The aroma and taste of durian fruit may be an acquired one. Some people love it, others hate it. The smell is very strong and has been described as a combination of roasted and rotting onion, sulfur, sewage, fruit and honey. Hence, it’s forbidden from many hotel rooms and public transport systems in Southeast Asia.
Conclusion: The Durian’s smell and taste is definitely not for everyone, but worth a try. For the adventurous connoisseurs and/or cook, you never know, you may end up loving it! So next time you are in Asia and/or near an Asian market, why not try some durian… it can add different flavors to your life!