No, I'm not lying - the smell of durian has been described as that of turpentine and onions, gym socks, civet, sewage, stale vomit, skunk spray, used surgical swabs, garbage, moldy cheese, rotting fish and dead cats. Even where the fruit is popular in Southeast Asia, it is actually banned from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports. The scent is so strong it can be picked up by animals half a mile away. The husk is incredibly spiky and dangerous to handle - mine was wrapped in newspaper before bagging. And I am not particularly enamored with the look of the flesh, which has been described by some as custardy in consistency - that's being generous. Click here for photos of the fruit cut open and its flesh.
The fruit is still relatively unknown in America where it is found primarily in Asian markets - I purchased mine in Chinatown for $7 - it is not inexpensive. Durian is strictly tropical, originating from Indonesia and Malaysia with Thailand now the primary exporter. In Asia, where it is hailed as the King of Fruits, the smell is prized - the smellier the better. Many eat it every day. Durian goes back to prehistoric times and is the subject of legend and myth. There is a virtual world surrounding this fruit - click here for an in depth article.
I've planned on writing about this fruit for sometime - yesterday I finally purchased one and brought it back to the office for all to share. I can still see and taste this thing this morning but I'm really giving it a second and third chance, hoping it grows on me. The first time I tried to eat durian, I was absolutely revolted, so this time I was better prepared - for those not used to it, Durian is truly an acquired taste. I'm going to try some again today. Wish me luck ...
Footnote: In an interesting twist, a no-stink variant was developed in 2007 in Thailand by scientist Dr. Songpol Somsri. After working for decades and crossing 90 varieties of durian, he has created Chantaburi No. 1. It reputedly has an odor as mild as a banana.