By Wynter Holden
Recently, a boba-loving girlfriend recommended the durian shake at Lee's Sandwiches in Chandler. Great, I thought, but what the heck is a durian? I didn't know what I was getting myself into.
The durian is a prickly fruit that's native to Southeast Asia and has a rather dubious reputation. It's got sharp thorns on the outside that will easily draw blood if you handle the fruit with bare hands. If you slice one open, you'll see a large orange or yellowish fleshy sac inside that contains several golf-ball-sized seeds. This is the edible part. Kinda reminds me of a shriveled preserved organ, maybe a kidney.
So, it's not pretty. Big deal.
Looks are the least of the durian's problems. When you crack one open, the smell rivals a corpse flower. We're talking absolutely revolting...
Some describe the scent as reminiscent of raw sewage; others say it's like onions and bare feet. But unless you have severe allergy congestion or you singed your nasal lining in a freak cooking accident, you'll likely want to vomit if you slice into a durian.
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Don't believe me? In most of Southeast Asia, it's illegal to bring durian onto public trains. No smoking. No drinking. No durians. As for taste, that's where the critics differ. Half the population seems to think durian's flavor matches the scent. The other half claim it's sweet and delectable, somewhere between honey-infused peaches and slightly sour raspberries.
I know you're wondering whether I trusted my friend and tried the durian boba at Lee's. Hell, no! Yes, I'm adventurous enough to drink irish moss or try aloe jelly, but I'm not putting anything in my mouth that the Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods guy Andrew Zimmern describes as "completely rotten, mushy onions." Even he wouldn't eat it...and I get paid a lot less.