Thursday, June 02, 2005
Notes from Singapore, Part 1
When talking to the natives in Singapore, I and a friend (Terry) heard about Durian ("Stinky fruit"), which is a local fruit. I always ask about local foods from the natives to see what I can try that I haven't had before. It is against the law in Singapore to take a durian on public transport. And it is forbidden to take the fruit inside most buildings. However, several locals at the table said they really liked it. My new mission: try some durian. We ate one night at Newton food court, which had fresh durian, so we got one. Tom, who lives in Bali , is a big fan, so he would eat it if we didn't care for it. Well, they cut it open and Tom insisted that we eat it essentially holding our nose -- the flavor and the smell are only loosely related. So I tried it. Frank said it best -- it's like a mixture of vanilla pudding and onion, with a kind of fruit-flesh/fishy texture. I tried it. It was durian-like. OK, I've tried it. The problem is that, even though I only had a bite, I kept trying it -- the taste would not go away. I ate some other stuff. Still there. Drink water, beer, whatever -- durian. After a while you can sort of get rid of the taste until you have the misfortune of burping. Durian. Stronger than ever. It keeps growing. It was well into the next day until I could taste something else. It took Terry even longer. In fact, he developed a semi-permanent association between Tiger beer and durian taste. He may never appreciate Tiger beer again. The other interesting aspect of this fruit: it smells. And it gets stronger and stronger. It was still at our table because Tom (for whom I have new respect mingled with pity) was gradually eating the leftover durian (all the durian except for one bite each from the other victims). Ingo (one of the speakers) kept asking Tom to move it further away, because the smell, while not exactly the same as the taste, is the olfactory equivalent of the taste. After you have smelled it, you smell it everywhere. For the rest of the trip, we could tell anytime we got close to durian. Terry and I would look at each other at the same time: durian. Every open air market you come to sells that stinky stuff. And you always notice it if it's near. You have been warned.