I have no idea why I’m writing this post actually. For these are two fruits that I’ve never been a fan of!
Perhaps it’s because they’re not a common sight in North America. They’re tropical, common in Singapore (and the rest of Southeast Asia) and rather, well, pungent. Stinky really. It’s a taste that needs to be tried to be believed. There are plenty who will extol the virtues of that “king of fruits”, the durian. It can be a bit of a passion in Singapore, an event of sorts, something that people relish and delight in. Just not me. I haven’t eaten a durian since I was a kid but I can still remember how the smell wafted through the house, how no matter how hard I brushed my teeth and tongue, the taste still lingered in my mouth hours later.
But the other day, we were at Lion supermarket, which as Asian supermarket chains in the San Francisco Bay Area go, is more Southeast Asian in variety, with plenty of Filipino, Malaysian and Singaporean, and Indonesian products.
And there were the jackfruits. Big as a baby jackfruits.
So he’s no longer a baby but some of those jackfruits were nearly two-thirds the size of my almost-2.
How does one describe a jackfruit? It’s a strong taste, Serious Eats calls it “somewhere between pineapple and a banana, with hints of mango; the texture, depending on the ripeness of the fruit, can be mildly chewy like a soft gummy bear or as juicy as a succulent scallop”.
It’s definitely chewy and well, ‘ripe’-tasting. As in, it’s a very strong, bold, in-your-face (and all over your mouth and lips and nose) kind of taste. I did not know that the seeds could be eaten though.
You can get jackfruit in many versions in Singapore – in desserts like chendol (an icy, jelly and fruit-filled sweet dessert), as jackfruit chips which apparently even Trader Joe’s had last year (don’t remember seeing it at mine though).
But if jackfruit tastes ‘ripe’, then what does a durian taste like?
Durians are found in the freezer section. It’s rare to find fresh durians here. And they don’t specify the type of durian, unlike in Singapore where there are many different types, like D24 and Mao Shan Wang. Check out that link for photos of 10 different types of durians, it’s amazing how the flesh ranges from pale, almost whitish, to a deep orange-red. The article even tells you how to pick a durian.
Apparently British naturalist and explorer Alfred Russel Wallace described the durian as such:
“A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy. It is neither acid nor sweet nor juicy; yet it wants neither of these qualities, for it is in itself perfect. It produces no nausea or other bad effect, and the more you eat of it the less you feel inclined to stop. In fact, to eat Durians is a new sensation worth a voyage to the East to experience.”
How funny to hear it described as ‘flavored with almonds’. I would never put almonds and durians together. Then again, it’s been years since I’ve eaten it, so I’m not the most trustworthy of sources. The Husband is rather fond of durian desserts, like durian puffs and durian moon cake, but not so much of the actual fruit.
And if cracking open the spiny shell puts you off, there are packaged shelled durians available too. I’m not sure how “fresh” aka stinky this would be though.
Sadly my absolute favourite tropical fruit, the mangosteen, is something I’ve yet to see here. I did spot it once in a freezer. But the price was ridiculous and thawed mangosteen didn’t sound very appealing. It’s all about its creamy insides, cracking open that thick purple shell, spitting out the big fat seeds and getting your fingers sticky and stained in the process.
Ah mangosteen, I sure miss you!
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