Key Ingredient

Eleanor Nakama-Mitsunaga
Wednesday, May 12, 2004


This fruit is so notorious for its putrid aroma that several airlines have banned it from being brought aboard fresh. But in Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, durian is a delicacy that is said to be addicting.

Durian is sold whole and frozen in Chinatown markets.

The basics: Durian is a unique tropical fruit that grows on large trees that take approximately six years to bear fruit that averages 5 to 10 pounds. The flesh is housed in a giant spiny casing. Durian looks similar to breadfruit or jackfruit, but the spines are much more pronounced.

Several varieties are grown throughout the fruit's native countries and in Hawaii.

Ripe durian is greenish-brown and has a distinctive odor that is either loved or loathed. The yellow, custard-like flesh is surrounded by a thick, white pith. The fruit is divided in sections and contains several large beige seeds.

The flavor has been compared to sweet banana, mango, pineapple and a mixture of other tropical fruits. Durian is considered a good source of carbohydrates, vitamins and some protein.

Selecting: Fresh whole local durian is available sporadically throughout the year, so most durian is imported frozen, either whole or packaged with seeds removed. Frozen durian does not have such a pronounced smell, but takes on the distinctive aroma as it thaws.

Storing: Once thawed, durian should be eaten immediately, although it can be refrigerated for a couple of days. If left out, the odor will permeate and quickly disturb all members of the household.

Use: Whole, ripe durian should easily split in half once a sharp knife is inserted into the lower portion, away from the stem. Remove the yellow segments from the pith, then remove seeds.

The flesh is generally eaten as is, or used in shakes and sweet drinks that include cream, coconut milk or sticky rice. Durian is also processed into ice cream, cookies, cakes and candies and may even be pickled.

Where to buy: Durian season generally runs from May through August, but in Hawaii the fruit is sporadically available year-round. Frozen whole or packaged durian is found in Chinatown and some Asian markets, priced at $4 to $5 for a 1 pound package or $1 to $2 per pound for whole fruit.

Eleanor Nakama-Mitsunaga is
a free-lance food writer. Contact her
online through


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