When I first got home from Asia and was invited to several durian parties, I was actually shocked to see my fellow durian-loving Americans saw into a side of a durian like it was a Thanksgiving turkey.
I had forgotten that this was how I used to open a durian back in my
pre-durian-obsessed days (Okay, can I really claim to have ever been
not obsessed with durian?). I’ve never seen a durian opened this way in Asia, but I admit that this technique is actually a pretty efficient way at getting at the good stuff. Now that I’m home eating the frozen Thai stuff again, I’ve come full circle. Pass the knife.
I don’t actually know for certain that this method is restricted to America. It may just be a general durian noob move employed by those who don’t know much about durian, and who are clueless of durian’s magical seams. In any case, I’ve seen this technique demonstrated a lot on American cooking and eating blogs. So why not explain it on my blog too?
I like this technique because it allows me to open and eat one section
at a time without exposing the rest of the durian flesh to the open air.
Monthong durians are huge! With an average 6-7 pounds, a 30% edible
portion (that’s a lot!), and a family that won’t partake, I better have run 5 miles before tucking into a
whole one. I’ve also become addicted to making durian salad dressing, which
needs only one section of durian per salad.
It’s also incredibly useful for those times when you just can’t wait for
your frozen durian to thaw completely. The exterior walls may have
softened just enough for a knife to hack through, but that core is still
frozen solid as Antarctica. The downsides is that by not waiting, you
risk losing your fingers to frostbite and frozen durian shards.
Thawing is not an issue in Southeast Asia. You will probably never see someone in Asia
open a durian this way. If you try, they will either think you are funny or kind of stupid (or both). The reason this technique works at all is because the
particular variety shipped to the United States, Monthong, has a
relatively thin, pliable skin (compared to other durians). When it is
frozen and thawed it further softens, making it possible to easily slice
and wedge open. Fresh durian shells are as hard and pliable as cement.
Good luck hacking into the side of that thing.
The Typical Set Up
Tools: Bowl, knife, newspaper
In America, durians are usually opened on newspapers, paper bags, or something disposable, and usually in the garage, patio, or somewhere it won’t offend everyone else in your household.
The only durian currently for sale in America is a frozen Thai Monthong, a large bulbous object always encased in yellow netting. Why yellow and not purple or red (hey, durian is a royal fruit) I don’t know. You can purchase a durian at your local Chinese/Asian Grocer in the freezer section.
The Durian Opening Process
*Remember to Let the Durian thaw at least 6 hours!*
1. Set your durian on the newspaper and place a bowl nearby. The durian should have five swollen, protruding lobes of different shapes and sizes. Identify the lobe you want to open.
2. Make an incision down the center of the lobe from the stem to the point. This may require a sawing motion unless you have a very sharp knife. Try not to drive the tip of the knife too deep, or you will slice your durian flesh too. It won’t effect flavor, but may make the rest of the process messier.
3. Place your fingers on either side of the gaping wound and pull wide. Am I the only one who thinks this part just looks wrong?
4. Stick your whole hand inside, clasp the seed, and pull out the flesh. Have the bowl very nearby, as this can get very sloppy.
5. Scrape around hoping to get every last morsel of delicious pudding. You will have durian ALL OVER your arm, fingers to wrist. Deposit in the bowl, which will ultimately look like a slimy mass of very delicious brains.
6. Repeat for each lobe, and lick your hand clean.
7. Dispose of the hollowed out alien shell in your neighbor’s trash can. Let them wonder what the hell it is.
The result is not nearly as pretty as the more popular pop-and-twist technique, and you will get durian ALL OVER your hands. So if you don’t like durian odor, wear gloves (or just give your durian to me). Or better yet, thaw your durian properly and open it the RIGHT way, which you can read about here.
By the way, I managed to take all of these pictures by myself with sticky durian fingers. Now that is some skill. Anyone want to guess how I pressed the shutter button?