Durian Belanda was first offered to me as a sweet white smoothie while Rob and I were traveling in Java. It didn’t smell, taste, or look anything like a durian smoothie, and I wondered just what exactly I had just sipped. Always being curious about durian things, and hoping I hadn’t just tasted something gross, I went home and looked it up.
Durian belanda is a fruit of absolutely no relation to the durian that is widely cultivated in Southeast Asia. In the west, we call it Soursop. Recently Rob and I have been enjoying it here in Sri Lanka. It’s a large, green, and thorny fruit with a white interior, but the relation with durian ends there. Soursop has more in common with a fragile peach than a durian. The thin skin tears easily, the flesh bruises at the slightest touch, and when perfectly ripe it’s a juice bomb, not a stink bomb. While it does have thorns, they are soft and short, often more like nipples than dangerous barbs. So how did such a mild and nonthreatening fruit become confused with the durian?
The Soursop arrived in Indonesia on the ships of the Portuguese, who were the first Europeans to land in Indonesia and who, together with the Spanish, discovered the Soursop in Central and South America. However Belanda actually refers to the Dutch, who were to dominate the islands for the next 300 years. The word Belanda is simply a slaughtered version of the Portuguese word Holanda, referring to the folks from the Netherlands.
Durian Belanda is actually a little used title, possibly because of its questionable P.C.-ness. Overtime, belanda became a slang word meaning any light skinned foreigner. Urban Dictionary and other sources hint that the term is sometimes used derogatorily, although usually in a playful manner. Since durio is the Indonesian word for thorn, Durian Belanda can be very very loosely translated as “the thorny fruit of those bastards who invaded us.” A nicer translation is simply, “the thorny fruit of the Dutch.” Given the history and multiple takes on the word belanda, even in Indonesia most people just stick with sirsak, derived from the Dutch word for the
fruit, Zurzaak, from which we get the English word Sour Sop.
The name of the fruit seems to be a thornier issue than the fruit itself, which has is actually quite pleasant and mild. One might even call it bland in comparison to its punchier, more vivacious second cousin thrice removed, the real durian. The flesh is a series of snowy white capsules encasing large, slippery black seeds. The texture varies a lot depending on the quality of the fruit. A bad fruit is dry and mealy, while a good fruit gushes a sweet and cool liquid that tastes like a combination of strawberries and pineapple mixed with whipping cream and sugar. It’s odor, if it has any, is a pleasant fruity fragrance, acid mixed with sugar. There’s nothing offensive about this durian at all, except possibly, its name.
So maybe you don’t like the smell or bizarre savory nature of the durian fruit? Try it’s tamer cousin, the white person’s durian.