Durian, do I dare?

By Colin Tom

I had just returned from shopping for fruit in the local market when I saw one of our Cambodian B&B employees at the entrance of the lobby.  I swung a big grocery bag in front of my face.

“You want some?” I asked.

He looked concerned momentarily, searching for the right words.  He politely informed me that I would have to be careful around the owner of the hotel.

“She hates durian.”

Durian is a fruit that generates strong responses from people in Asia.  Visually the hard, extremely sharp spikes are immediately uninviting.  Outside of its intimidating appearance, the fruit emits a pungent, fermented smell that slowly wafts into every corner of the room, declaring its entrance into any space.  Some could relate the smell to an open sewer while others might enjoy it simply as the smell of a tasty fruit.

That evening, the B&B employee approached the fruit with the precision and care of a de-mining squad.  Four kidney bean-shaped masses were extracted from four separate quadrants of the hard shell. While the meat of the fruits was placed onto the plates, the smell continued to assault the senses, offending some of the dinner patrons while stimulating a few others.

We all scooped small bits of fruit into our spoons, carefully inspecting the creamy yellow texture.  We sampled.  Many spoons were quickly placed back onto the plate.  The durian was all mine, and mine alone.

The fruit had the sweetness of a warm ripe mango, with the smoothness of an avocado.  It really wasn’t bad at all.  At least that’s what I thought.

There was a lot of durian to be eaten, but I was too full to finish the rest.

I approached another employee of the B&B.

“Can I keep this in your fridge until tomorrow, I promise I’ll eat it for breakfast in the morning?”

She held it away from her nose like a dead rodent and diligently wrapped the plate twice over with Saran wrap before putting it in the fridge.  She turned to me and smiled, and I nodded politely before walking out the door.

As I strolled back to my room in the swampy darkness, I heard an unbridled explosion of laughter coming from the kitchen.  My durian was the laughingstock of the kitchen staff.  I promised myself I would finish it off first thing in the morning.


1 comment so far

  1. Peg Higgins on


    Loved this durian tale. You’ve captured the essence of it perfectly!

    Enjoy your month in Cambodia. It’s a specail place in Asia.

    XXOO Peg

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