Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I came across this blurb today about Andrew Zimmern, the “full-figured foodie” who has his own Travel Channel show called “Bizarre Foods.”

"[Zimmern] has sampled a menu so hideous it makes the gross-out fare of "Fear Factor" look like a Happy Meal. He's nibbled on a beating frog's heart in Japan, slurped up cow's heel soup in Trinidad, sucked down mosquito eggs in Mexico, crunched some fried bees in Taiwan, and somehow gnawed through fermented whale blubber in Alaska. Not icky enough? How about the Malaysian durian fruit, its odor of rotten flesh so legendary that simply carrying one on Singapore's mass transit system is strictly prohibited? (Truth be told, Zimmern didn't quite get that one down, one of only three eats he couldn't swallow.)”

What a wimp! Prohibited in Singapore? So is chewing gum! (True.) The durian, which means in Malay simply "spiky" or "thorny," has been called the King of Fruits. I must admit, I did not like durian when I first encountered it in 1999, during my first year living in Bali (see the above photo I took on a recent trip to Bali -- although it was actually out of season at the time and I bought this imported from Thailand). But I took note of my Balinese friends who literally ran to feed on its luscious flesh pods when the opportunity presented itself.

And the opportunity certainly has a way of announcing itself, for the durian is one of the oddest smelling things in nature. I would characterize its texture and odor profile as somewhere between custard and feet. Let's call it "foot custard," if Baskin-Robbins were to inquire. And Zimmern, a "food daredevil," has apparently drawn a line in the sand at the foot of the mighty durian tree. Here's a photo of him eating a grub or something. (Note: Real daredevils don't wear plaid.)

Although I have already confessed that durian is an acquired taste, I hasten to add that I evntually followed my Balinese friends into being utterly obsessed with the unique funky, creamy sweetness of the durian. They claim it's also an aphrodisiac, but they say that about pretty much anything that tastes odd. Although I've heard there really is a Malaysian saying, "When the durians come down, the sarongs come off."

Now I make regular trips to Chinatown to buy one of these babies, expensive at over a dollar a pound, but worth every penny. Check out this wonderful site that sings the durian's praises, extols its high nutrition, and teaches how to choose and eat one (rather difficult tasks, actually).

What I can't understand is why this much-maligned and feared fruit is more repugnant to Zimmern than mosquito eggs and bat balls, or whatever else he is paid to consume.

Ah well, more for you and me!

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