As promised, this entry will be about the elusive durian. Well, it’s not really elusive, it just tends not to be available prominently in the tourist areas since, well, it tends to smell bad.
So, yesterday, I head to Na Thon, which is the largest city on Koh Samui and where most people arrive by ferry. The lady who cooks at my bungalow said I will find a huge market there with lots of durian. Like most everything here, of course, there is no direction, no landmarks, just that it is there.
I mention to Johann, one of the Germans, that night, that I am going to find a durian the next day, and he asks if I have ever had one before. I say no. He says, well, it smalls like fresh piss, tastes OK once you get passed the taste, and then makes you feel warm all over. He said he was getting one soon to share with the other Germans, as they had never had one, either.
Fresh piss or no, I get on the truck and head for Na Thon. Of course, I go on the map to where it says “Giant Supermarket,” but of course, there are no durian. I was just hoping that was what my landlady meant. I keep walking around, and I keep going past where the tourist stuff is, because I figure I won’t find Durian there. I end up in a street that is all Thai, I see no other tourists. And then, I see, at a stand in the distance, about 8 or 9 durian.
I go up to the woman running the stand, and ask her how to pick a fresh one, she just says no, no, and makes some gesture that indicates she doesn’t speak English. Some guy from the back comes up and knocks on one, and nods that I should take that one. The woman, however, says no, and points to another.
The are speaking in Thai, of course, and I have no way of knowing whether one is trying to give me one that is going (and will smell) bad, or one that is nice and fresh. The woman wins out, and he says I should take the one she indicated. In front of the durian, they had other durian already cut up and ready to eat. As the durian is a little sketchy and I’m not sure how I’m going to open this thing up anyway, I decide to take one intact and one cut-up, although the cut-up ones looked a bit old.
I point that I will take this one (pointing to the intact durian) and that one (pointing to the cut up one). He starts yelling to the woman in Thai, and I wonder what this could possibly mean. He takes my durian to her 30 feet away in the back of the store, and they are talking. Both cost 40 baht, so I am ready to just pay 80 and leave. Finally, the old woman comes up front with a large knife and my durian, and starts chopping it up, finding seams that I can’t even detect in the fruit, and letting its perfect pods of flesh fall onto a styrofoam dish. Apparently, my indication to buy both was interpreted as make this one like that one, the whole fruit nice and ready to eat. This is a fine language barrier, as I am getting a fresh durian expertly prepared for me.
Once I buy my durian, of course, there is durian everywhere I look. Every store seems to have durian. And, as I look between two fruit stands, I see what the lady at my bungalows meant. When you walk between them, there is a whole farmer’s market filled with everything you would ever want, and a lot you wouldn’t. Most of the Thai women running the stands are asleep on platforms in the middle of their goods, which are everything from seafood to spices to veggies to fruits…
On the way back to the trucks, I pick up some lychee, and some other fruit. I can’t really say what it is, as I don’t know. It looks like a bunch of small russet potatoes (in color) all clinging to a branch. When you peel off the thick skin, it is separated into large clear pods, and tastes like lychee with a citrus kick to it. Some have small seeds, but most dont have any. Good stuff whatever it is.
So, I head home with my durian find and the other random fruit.
When I arrive home, I of course, open up the bag containing the durian. I take a big whiff, prepared for the worst, and find it odd-smelling, but not necessarily unpleasant. If Yankee made a candle of it, I would probably never buy it, but it isn’t awful. I tear off some of the flesh and eat it, and it starts chewy, but then forms a sort of pudding, silken tofu texture in my mouth.
Most things that are acquired tastes, I typically don’t like. I expected to just be repulsed by this, eat some for the sake of it, and tossing the rest. But, that isn’t the case, I probably eat one of the pods in its entirety, which is the equivalent of downing a yam, and go for a swim.
My stomach does feel slightly warm, but again, it’s hard to tell how much is the fruit and how much is my anticipation that my stomach should be warm after eating it. It’s not as obvious as doing tequila shots and getting that obvious glow burning inside you. But, as I swim, it does seem to make my body warmer. Either the durian or the fact that it is mid-afternoon and I’m swimming in the tropics. Or both.
I called Johann over as he passed, and had him try it. He said it smells much better than any durian he has ever had. He said they bought one the same morning, but it is still intact, so he said if it is horrible when they open it up, he will bring me some.
Now, here where the durian is only a buck or so, it is a mild amusement for me. When impotred, I think it can go for as much as eight dolars in San Francisco. So, while I didn’t have any negative experience with the durian, I wouldn’t say it was positive either. It was just there.
But at least I know now the taste of durian.