Durian are huge delicious fruits known mostly for their smell, and the durian pulp inside; which is creamy and sweet depending on the variety.
“Durian” comes from the Malay word for thorn, ‘duri’ 1. Which makes sense because they are indeed thorny, and durian is native to Malaysia, as well as Indonesia and Brunei. It has only been known to the “west” for the last 600 years. 2 But in Southeast Asia however, it has been long known as the King of Fruits 2.
Today there are so many variations of durian, and 10 are registered at the Philippine National Seed Council 2. One of them is Duyaya, a Philippine variety known for its large pulp and less potent aroma. It was named using the words durian and the Tagalog word for blessing, biyaya 3.
The smell of durian, like everything else in the world, comes from different molecules released into the air from the fruit. Chocolate has a unique smell to us, but it is actually a smell that is made up of dozens, if not hundreds, of organic compounds floating in the air and into our noses 4. It is our noses and brains that organize these smells into certain perceptions and even memories 5.
In one study, a variety of durian was found to have 44 odor compounds. Some of those compounds included molecules associated with roasted onion and soup seasoning. While others included honey and caramel. Of the 44 compounds, 3 were found to be the first discovered coming from a natural product 6.
Unfortunately, haters gonna hate. In many places in Asia durian isn’t allowed on public transport 7. In Singapore durian isn’t allowed on all sorts of public transportation.
In Davao however, it’s a different story. It is a top producer of durian in the Philippines making 6,600 kilos per hectare 8; it makes up more than half of the overall national production of durian in the Philippines 9! Visit Davao and you’ll find durian being sold on the street, and transported everywhere for everyone to see (and smell).
Durian varieties are as diverse as those who love them. If you haven’t tried it, give it a taste! And if the smell and flavor deter you, give it another try or have it in ice cream form. Chances are you’ll fall in love with durian in no time.
Here are some tips on choosing the best durian!
- N. A. Husin, et al. 2018. A review on the nutritional, medicinal, molecular and genome attributes of Durian (Durio zibethinus L.), the King of fruits in Malaysia.
- Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry, Davao National Crop Research, Development & Production Support Center. DURIAN (Durio zibithenus Murr.).
- L. Gasik, 2016. The History of Duyaya, a Philippines Durian Variety. YouTube. Last accessed July 7, 2019.
- J. Gottfried, et al. 2006. Dissociable Codes of Odor Quality and Odorant Structure in Human Piriform Cortex.
- C. Molnar, et al. 17.3 Taste and Smell. BC (British Columbia) Campus, Open Education. Last accessed July 7, 2019.
- J. Li, et al, 2012. Characterization of the Major Odor-Active Compounds in Thai Durian (Durio zibethinus L. ‘Monthong’) by Aroma Extract Dilution Analysis and Headspace Gas Chromatography–Olfactometry.
- P. Ghosh, Culture Trip. 8 Things You Need To Know About Durian Fruit: The World’s Smelliest Snack. Last accessed July 7, 2019.
- Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry. Durian Production Guide. Last accessed July 7, 2019.
- L. Mellejor, 2018. Davao City remains top producer of durian fruit. Philippine News Agency. Last accessed July 7, 2019.
- A cool video on taste and smell by user CrashCourse on YouTube.