There is a curious practice involving durian seeds here in Sri Lanka, although it's hard to get the full story from the winking old men who talk about it. They'll tell me about half of the story, and then giving me a strange look out of the corner of their eyes, the old men draw Rob away and in very serious whispers convey this manly secret.
I, the wife, of course hounded Rob to tell me what the deal is with the durian seeds. All the old men would tell me was that many villagers in rural areas, particularly the elderly, make a habit of slicing up durian seeds and soaking them in water overnight. It will turn into jelly, our story tellers promised, and should be drunk (or slurped) upon rising.
Our friend and voluntary durian guide Weera also told us about this practice. "Why do they do it?" I asked. "It will make you strong, give power," he explained, and giving me a sly glance, threw an arm around Rob and walked him about 10 feet away. That night, I demanded to know what was the big secret.
Rob shrugged and said I should have guessed. In Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, we'd come across the belief that the durian flesh acts like a viagra for men. The saying "When durians fall, the sarongs go up," is a common saying in both Malaysia and Indonesia for a reason. As it turns out, this study shows that durian flesh really does give men a boost, although maybe not as much as Weera claimed. According to Weera, slurping durian seed goo allows a man to last for 2 hours straight.
I don't know if the soak water from durian seeds really has that effect. As a woman there's no way for me to really experiment, but I at least had to see this goo effect for myself. The recipe calls for two durian seeds, diced into 8 to 10 pieces, and then left in one glass of water. The next time we ate durian, I saved two seeds and cut a plastic water bottle to make a cup. I left the seeds overnight just covered with water, to give it a better chance to get gooey.
In the morning, the water had turned a milky grey and the cup was emitting a harsh sour odor. Rob refused flat out to taste the stuff. Tentatively, I took a sip. It tasted bitter with a hint of poison, like biting into some inedible seed (which it is). I decided not to discover what the female version of 2 hours is, and dumped it out. As I poured the water down the sink, I noticed that it moved very slowly, in thick gelatinous waves. When I righted the cup, a string of ooze clung to the rim. I realized with distaste that in texture and color the durian seed goo was really a lot like...something else. Is this ironic or just gross?
I've never heard of people drinking durian seed water in any other country. No one mentioned it being so disgusting, so maybe I did it wrong. If you've heard of this, or have given it a try, please share your experiences below!
Update: Maneesha Humphrey, a Sri Lankan living in Ratnapura, informed me that I did indeed do this experiment wrong. I should have taken two durian seeds, chopped them in half, and placed them in an entire jug of water. This would have prevented the drink from becoming so slimy and unappealing. She says it's an Ayurvedic recipe for general good health because the seed water acts to cool the body after eating durian, which has heating properties.