Depending on where you’re staying you might see signs in your hotel / hostel lobby in Singapore saying, “No Durian.” Some look like this and even carry fines!
Well, I can’t think of a better way to get me amped to try something than to tell me not to, so I was pretty excited when Iris, my guide said we were going to the Geylang area, Singapore’s red light district (which is the most harmless red light district that I’ve ever seen), to try durian from a fruit stand. I’d heard a lot about this polarizing fruit as my mom frequents Chinatown to stock her United Nation’s-esque fruit bowl. Nicknamed the King of Fruits, the durian is banned from a lot of public transportation and hotels; many people are absolutely revolted by it, calling the stench reminiscent of garbage, rotten onions, vomit or any other vile thing they can think of. Bizarrely enough, others find it sweet, pleasant to the taste and are connoisseurs. While a family ate next to us, I even saw a woman use her empty durian shell as a water gourd! In researching, I found that this is common practice in traditional Chinese medicine thought to counteract the warming effects of the durian. See the video below for which camp I fall under!
Prices vary depending on the species, cultivar and quality of the fruit. I saw as high as $50 per durian depending on the kilo and my guide Iris assured me that they could go much higher. There are even odorless varieties! I must say, in a country that can read as sterile as Singapore does, sitting roadside eating durian as I swatted away flies and bugs in the almost suffocating heat, felt pretty real. I loved it.
By the way, Andrew Zimmerman of Bizarre Foods couldn’t finish it!