Durian is, in my opinion, the milk-chocolate of the fruit world. It’s got
that deep earthy, bitter roundness of flavor along with a cloying
sweetness and creamy melt-in-your-mouth smoothness. It’s so good, many
people even say it’s even better than chocolate, cheese, wine, or
crack-cocaine (okay, I only know a few people who say that).
For Valentine’s Day this year, I decided to explore the science of pairing durian and chocolate by making a luscious batch of raw vegan durian chocolate truffles. I’ve shared the recipe at the end of the post. I had a little leftover, so I made some raw durian chocolate sandwich cookies too.
Durian and chocolate have a lot in common, which according to food pairing experts is the reason why they are a perfect match. Food pairing is an art, and recently has become a science with the advent of foodpairing.com. You want to balance flavor, weight and intensity and have at least some common element that binds the two foods together.
Durian and chocolate are natural allies because they have so much in common. Once upon a time, chocolate was the food of the Mayan and Incan kings,
so precious it was used as currency and only consumed by those rich
enough to essentially eat money. Like our King of Fruit, it was a symbol
of status and an object of desire. Mildly addictive, chocolate is
another subject of fetishes and
obsessions. Anyone who’s seen the movie Chocolat knows what the
true face of chocolate addiction. Likewise, anyone who’s seen this guy
knows what durian unabashed durian addiction looks like.
|The full Valentine’s Day Package|
For those of us who have romantic intentions, durian and chocolate could be a double whammy love potion. Traditionally, both are considered aphrodisiacs in their respective culture of origin. Both are said to boost seratonin levels, putting both interested parties in a good mood, in addition to an assorted cocktail of happy-happy-joy-joy chemicals. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), a feel-good, relaxing chemical that is naturally released when people fall in love or have good sex. Durian is said to be a good source of tryptophan and oestrogens, and at least one study suggests that durian may have a similar effect as viagra, confirming the rumors we heard while eating durian in Sri Lanka.
Coincidentally (or not) cacao is actually a close botanical relative of the durian, belonging to the same taxonomical family; Malvacae.
According to foodpairing experts, chocolate is a fairly difficult food to pair well because it’s an intense flavor that easily overwhelms other ingredients. That’s why it’s most commonly combined with strong-tasting cheese, coffee, or wine. As many can attest, durian is also a powerful flavor which actually is usually compared to cheese, coffee, or wine. Can you see where I’m going with this?
The next step is to pair the perfect kind of chocolate with the perfect kind of durian. As any chocolate snob will tell you, not all
chocolates are equal. There’s milk chocolate, dark
chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, bitter-sweet chocolate,and baking
chocolate. This durian snob will tell you that durian has different
flavors, textures, and sweetness levels too;
from the sugary cakiness of Ganyao to the bitter silk of Musang King.
Based on general food pairing rules, here’s what I suggest:
1. Bitter, dry durians
Chocolate: Baking or very dark, think 80% and up.
Varieties: Mao Shan Wong (Musang King), Greenskin, Tekka
2. Semi-bitter, very wet durians:
Chocolate: semi-sweet dark chocolate.
Varieties: Red Prawn, D24, Chanee, Arancillo
3. Fruity or light Durians:
Chocolate: Milk chocolate or a semi-sweet dark. May be flavored with fruit, such as orange chocolate, or include nibs of dried fruit.
Varieties: Puangmanee, Kun Poh, Little Red, Puyat
4. Very sweet, frosting like durians: Sweet chocolate – sweet durian.
Chocolate: Milk Chocolate, White Chocolate, or fudge
Varieties: Ganyao, Monthong, Ri6, D101
When trying to come up with a recipe for my own durian truffle experiment, I decided to try to follow these food pairing rules. Since all that’s available to me here in Oregon is frozen Thai Monthong, I made my chocolate extra sweet and vanilla-ey. Milk chocolate would probably be the most appropriate for this kind of durian, but I don’t ever eat milk chocolate. To quote my mother, “If it isn’t dark it’s not worth the calories.”
As much as I would have liked to use pure durian flesh for the internal cream, it was too wet and soft so I used almonds as the base. My thinking was that since durian is often described as having a nutty, almond-like flavor, the almonds would accentuate the durian flavor while adding enough dryness to make a firm center. It seemed to work! The center tasted very strongly of durian, while the almonds lent an airy and slightly chewy texture. Perfect.
|Raw Vegan Durian Truffle|
Raw Vegan Durian Chocolate Truffles
- 1/2 cup durian flesh
- 3/4 cup almond flour (soaked, skinned, and dehydrated)
- 1 vanilla bean, scraped
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder (carob may be substituted)
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 7 large medjool dates
1. Blend the durian flesh with the almond flour.
2. Roll into balls using the palms of your hands. Set on a plate and chill.
3. Blend vanilla bean, coconut oil, and dates.
4. By hand, mix in cocoa powder until mixture is thick, cookie-dough like texture
5. Remove durian cream balls from fridge. Pat chocolate around the ball, rolling in your palms to smooth
6. Powder with cocoa powder and chill.
7. Lick your fingers and Enjoy!
Alternatively, you can form the truffle ingredients into these little oreo-style durian chocolate sandwich cookies. These were actually a bigger hit with my family than the truffles. Aren’t they cute?