How I ended up at, of all places, a durian restaurant, I don’t know. But yup, even the thorns must be laughing at me. While driving past one the other day, I recall my passenger having mentioned durians twice in the past week. She didn’t exactly say she wanted to eat them but in the Asian culture, many things are never said directly but often inferred from knowing someone well.
Oh yes, about the durian (pronounced dew-ree-ann). In case you’re wondering, it’s a fruit with a thick skin of thorns protecting the luscious seeded fruits inside. It’s a fruit like no other – you either love it or hate it. One whiff of that odor or fragrance (depending on how you view it) of rotten eggs is enough to put some people off forever and transport others to the edge of heaven.
I kinda think of it as an acquired taste. If you can get past the first 126 and a half possibly nauseatingly pungent mouthfuls, there’s a good chance you may just come to like it? Maybe even crave it? Thing is you won’t know till you try, and by then, it may be too late, your tastebuds may forever be doomed. Or captivated, who knows?
I used to like durians when I was a kid. But after returning from studying in the US, I was totally turned off it aka showed no interest, wouldn’t touch it for years. These days, I’m okay with it but it’s not a big deal to me. If it’s there, I’ll eat it. If it’s not, I’m not going out of my way, as is my attitude with most foods anyways.
So you could think of me as someone who wouldn’t normally give roadside durian restaurants a second glance. It’s too sunny and blazing hot to get out of the car, and frankly, I’m not particularly drawn to (to put it mildly) eating at places that offer scenic views of pails, garbage bins and yucky floors! Then there’s this thing about the sticky, messy business of eating durians in public which I’d rather not have to deal with.
Okay, so I turn to my passenger and asks if she wants durians for lunch, hoping she’d say no. She’s hesitant, but only because she knows me too well. Her answer isn’t clear so I infer it’s a yes. So I turn “excitedly” into the parking lot, hoping not to find a spot. But there it is, right there and I’m like, oh “lucky” us!!
I’m not sure if we’re there at the right time but it sure don’t look to me like there’re as many durians as I would expect. But that’s not the problem. One look at the laminated menu of the different varieties of the fruit and I’m stumped. A menu?! You gotta be kiddin’ me! I read and re-read the items. Apart from a couple of more famous varieties, I’ve no idea about the rest. Besides, all the fruits look the same so how do you tell?
Well, looks like we’re off to a great start already!
I discreetly try to blend in with the people milling around the glove-handed, knife-wielding sellers, hoping to glean some information to use in my own decision-making. Very quickly, it becomes apparent there’s not much information to be gleaned. Everyone seems to know what they want. So where does that leave me?
I look around at the sellers trying to pick one who looks the kindest and most likely to be patient with me. Ah yes, I see him! A skinny guy with glasses talking to a young man in front of me. Yes, this is the guy I want! He starts going on about the most expensive and raved about variety. And if you know me, you know I really don’t care about brand names.
I’m like, look bro, my brains are running on weekend mode so please spare me the 101 and just find me a fruit that’s bitter. and one that’s sweet for my passenger. and I don’t care which variety. Turns out to be a great decision on my part. He picks us some mighty fine fruits and soon, I’m flagging him down again for more.
What’s nice is that there’s a ready expert to select and open up the fruit for me. It’s definitely better than trying to pry them open yourself like we (not me) used to in the old days. Thankfully these days, the thorny work is part of customer service and a price you wouldn’t mind paying if you value your fingers.
Given a choice, I’d much prefer having durians drop from the sky like they always do but I’d say this experience has been somewhat bearable? Except for the ambiance, and the hassle of eating it in public (but at least plastic gloves and tissues are provided). Would I do this again? Hmm, I don’t know. Maybe, if I’m under duress. Unlikely, if there’s a choice. Probably not, if I can help it lol.