Thursday, March 19, 2009
Stinky "Durian Fruit" Food Adventure In North Minneapolis ("Smell bad," he said. "But eat good!")
One great thing about my neighborhood has to be all the ethnic food stores, some featuring incredibly exotic and obscure stuff. Since coming here, I've been able to experience culinary adventures I had only previously read about, and within a frugal budget.
This is the "Hawthorne Lifestyle." Great home ownership and great food is way cheap, plus we're all part of something fun, eco-sustainable, and very meaningful as we transform our neighborhood into urban utopia.
Just the other day I was taking a bike ride on Broadway, heading for the trails along the Mississippi River, when I went past a little hole-in-the-wall Asian store near the 4th Street Bar and Grill....
Inside was an odd assortment of stuff--lots of utensils for sale, Chinese cookbooks printed in the 1980s, decorative items like grinning monkey heads carved from coconuts. The food items in the store were...odd. Some of the items appeared to have been there for quite a long time. There was a fridge stuffed with what appeared to be fire sprinkler components.
But right away I spied a durian fruit. Oh-my-word. I hardly ever see these things for sale anywhere, and when I do, the price is usually way out of my range. I asked how much for the durian fruit. (Another odd aspect of the store was NOTHING had a price tag I could find) They were only $1.59 a pound.
"These are stinky, right?" I asked the store owner. "I've read about these."
"Smell bad," he said. "But eat good!" He suggested I should pry it open with a screw driver at the split. The fruits are about the size of big coconuts, and the husk is hard and pointy, actually painful to hold. I've read there are places in Singapore--like train platforms--where it's actually ILLEGAL to eat durian fruit because of their odor. (But people do it anyway. "Smell bad, but eat good!")
The other clerk told me to try the durian fruit with some ice cream, and I would like it.
I ended up stuffing the durian fruit in my backpack and carrying it to the 5th Ward DFL Credentials Committee meeting, then later that night I had it over at Kip Browne's house while shooting vodka and tequila. My friend Megan Goodmundson dubbed it the "horny fruit."
This morning I went to Cub Foods to get some ice cream; vanilla, of course, no intense flavors to distract from the pure durian fruit experience. I managed to pry the durian open with a combination of a big kitchen knife and my bare hands. Inside, I found a hard fibrous interior which held soft, custard-like inner pulp. The inner pulp was shaped like a chicken drum stick, and hid big brown inedible seeds.
The smell is not nearly as offensive as the hype had led me to believe, but maybe frozen durian doesn't smell nearly as bad as fresh durian. The stench is a sort of a fruity putridness, but it also has a kind of "harsh plant sap" smell, sort of chemical-like, but natural rather than manmade.
I thought I could detect two separate and distinct layers of stench, the fruity part and the chemical stench part. Also, the smell has a tendency to LINGER, whether it's in your kitchen or your fridge.
Like Limburger cheese, durian tastes better than it smells. In fact, it tastes amazing...it is like the most delicate fruity custard, but with a strong, musky ambiance.
One must slice into the fibrous part of the pulp, and pull it away to reveal the soft and pudding-like drumstick-shaped portions of the durian fruit. One large durian yielded a heaping bowl full of the "custardy" portion of the fruit. And, yes, it was a lot better with ice cream than just by itself.