Monday, April 20, 2009

Durian - Friend or Fowl?

Photo by Pleasure Palate.

In the Asian world, much ado has been made about durian. Some gripe that one whiff of its smelly, "pungent" odor causes immediate lack of appetite. Others rave that its complex, creamy sweet flavor and smooth texture hit the spot. Whom to trust?

I think it's all a matter of upbringing. Most Westerners can't stomach the strong scent of durian because they have not acquired a taste for it. Durian is one of the familiar fresh fruits offered in Indonesia and Cambodia. Cambodians, in general, like their food to be a medley of sweet, bitter, sour and salty. They adopted Thailand's fermented fish paste (pra hoc), India's curry, France's long bread (baguette) and China's stir-frying.

Tropical fruit is indigenous to Cambodia, and durian is no exception. Along with mango, lychee and a host of other aromatic fruits you've probably drank in the form of bubble tea. But I bet you haven't tried a durian bubble tea. Wait - does that even exist?

Unfortunately, New York isn't exactly known as a hotbed for Cambodian restaurants. Brooklyn-based Cambodian Cuisine closed its doors in early 2008. And Kampuchea Restaurant has received lackluster reviews, deriving from its bland, non-traditionally authentic Cambodian fare. Ah, well. I guess that means another Los Angeles trip is in the works. Pleasure Palate has successfully whet my appetite for (yes) durian.

Happy chomping!

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