Durian fruit is like the bad boy in town. His reputation is so bad that caution turns to intrigue. You start convincing yourself that it’s all just a case of being misunderstood. I mean, come on, can he really be that bad? Surely he has a sweet side to him, once you get past that rough exterior. I met Durian on a Les Dames d’Escoffier tour of The Eden Center, northern Virginia’s premier Asian shopping center. There, chilling out in the cooler of the Cho Saigon Supermarket was the King of Fruits; green, large, and bumpy. The warnings and lectures about not getting to close to Durian began. Durian smells awful, they are banned from public places in Asia. You can’t take them on subways, trains or planes. They ship them to America frozen to contain the smell. It’s an “acquired” taste — foodie code for it taste awful but I’m afraid to admit it for fear that I won’t seem very sophisticated.
“Please all, let’s move along, walk away from the Durian,” said our tour guide. “I have some nice, respectable, mushrooms and noodles to show you.”
The noodles, live tilapia, snails, pork blood and dried seaweed was all very nice but I found myself drawn back to the Durian. It doesn’t look so bad, I thought to myself and snapped a few pictures.
On to lunch of fried spring rolls, shrimp sour soup, crispy whole fish, pork in clay pot and green mango salad. After lunch a quick stop into a shop that makes fresh tofu and then onto Song Que Vietnamese Bakery and Deli for bubble tea. All afternoon I couldn’t get Durian out of my mind. Would I ever see him again? Would I ever have a chance to taste the bad side of fruit?
And then I saw him, sunning himself in the window of Song Que. Now was my chance to live on the wild side, to see for myself if all the warnings were true. Dismissing my companions who went the safe route and order strawberry and pineapple bubble teas I fearlessly ordered the durian.
It looked cool, just like all bad boys do. Thick and creamy with big balls of tapioca on the bottom. Eager I plunged my fat straw into the top and took my first sip. There is a reason bad boys have their reputation — they are bad. Imagine a garlic, onion flavored shake with tapioca balls the size of rabbit droppings mixed in. I took another large sip, maybe my palate hadn’t been ready for such a complex flavor. Nope. It’s just bad.
If your like me and don’t head warnings or, if you’re not like me and love garlic-onion milkshakes, I encourage you to try a Durian bubble tea. For less than $4.00 you can take a walk on the wild side of fruit.