Finest durians in Asia: American girl tracks them down

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(CNN) — You may’t go far in Southeast Asia with out encountering a durian.

Measuring as much as 1 foot in size, the “King of the Fruits” has an unmistakable form — a spiky, barbed ball full of a starchy, custard-like pods — and an infamously pungent aroma.

Whereas some Westerners wrestle to abdomen the unique fruit, American Lindsay Gasik is totally obsessed.

Primarily based in Penang, Malaysia, Gasik spends her days trying to find one of the best durians in Asia and creating detailed sources for vacationers.
On her weblog “Year of the Durian,” she paperwork the fruit’s complexity and nuanced flavors, relays partaking tales about durian farmers and tracks down lesser-known varieties.

She additionally organizes durian excursions and has penned two information books, together with just lately revealed “The Durian Vacationer’s Information to Penang.”

“(Whereas touring), I began noticing that there was this type of obsession on durian, a fixation on durian, greater than every other fruit … Individuals would journey from all around the world simply to eat this one sort of fruit,” 29-year-old Gasik tells CNN Travel.

“I used to be curious to search out out what this entire durian factor was about.”

A ‘magical fruit’

Lindsay Gasik

Lindsay Gasik says she’s obsessive about durians.

Yr of the Durian/Lindsay Gasik

Hailing from a city of 14,000 individuals in Oregon, Gasik was impressed to style durian in 2009 after a uncooked meals festival-slash-wedding for uncooked meals gurus Matt Monarch and Angela Stokes.

On the occasion, Gasik recollects listening to visitors speak about a “magical” fruit — durians — that will “open her chakras” and “change her life.”

She lastly tracked down some freeze-dried durian, nevertheless it did not sate her curiosity.

A couple of days later, Gasik spent about $13 on a durian at an Asian grocery retailer in Eugene, Oregon, as a 20th birthday present to herself.

She took it to the park, hacked it open with a bread knife — there have been no YouTube tutorials again then — and dug in.

“I believed it was scrumptious … I by no means thought it smelled dangerous or had that response,” says Gasik. “It tasted like a French vanilla ice cream to me.”

As for opening her chakras?

“I didn’t really feel excessive afterward,” she says. “However it did change my life. I imply, have a look at me now.”

12 months of durians

Durians, Mao Shan Wang Cafe, Singapore

A durian at Singapore’s Mao Shan Wang café, which is dedicated to the pungent tropical fruit.

NICHOLAS YEO/AFP/AFP/Getty Photos

Gasik’s subsequent journey with durians started after graduating from faculty.

She studied journalism and Spanish on the College of Oregon however graduated throughout the recession and could not discover a job.

Inspired by her dad, Gasik took a while off to journey. For the subsequent couple of years, she and her now ex-husband spent stints within the Philippines, Costa Rica, america and Southeast Asia.

Whereas touring, Gasik realized concerning the elusive “durian path.”

“The durian path is this concept that when you change nations, you possibly can keep in durian season all 12 months due to the monsoon patterns,” says Gasik. “So it is potential to remain in durian season 365 days of the 12 months.”

For the reason that path wasn’t effectively documented on the time, Gasik got down to set up the route and chronicle the journey on her weblog.

The concept? Journey to 12 nations in 12 months, tasting durians in all places they went.

“It was actually, actually exhausting to determine the place to go. It turned like this hunt. The place is the season going to occur subsequent?” says Gasik.

“We knew it was occurring someplace, however there weren’t a variety of sources on the Web on the time. There weren’t these (teams) on Fb or WhatsApp … I did not actually have a smartphone after we began.”

That first 12 months did not have a transparent itinerary, however the pair made it to 9 nations: Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore.

“It tasted like a French vanilla ice cream.”

Lindsay Gasik, Yr of the Durian

A scrumptious useful resource

Durians, Davao City

A spiky durian in Davao Metropolis, within the Philippines.

NOEL CELIS/AFP/AFP/Getty Photos

Simply as they had been heading again to america to get “regular” jobs, their weblog began seeing extra traction, with about 10,000 guests a month.

“I had simply brushed the floor of the durian world,” provides Gasik. “I had taken on the obsession and there have been so many questions in my thoughts that weren’t answered.”

As an alternative of staying in america, Gasik made her means again to Southeast Asia in 2013 and has been exploring since.

“The locations the place durians develop are usually not the locations the place most vacationers are going to go to, so there’s little or no data for Western individuals … which farms to go to, when to go, learn how to keep away from dangerous durians …” says Gasik.

“It turned clear that there was a distinct segment that wasn’t being stuffed on the Web … I felt like I used to be offering a service to individuals.”

Gasik not solely shares tales about farmers and distributors, however she additionally paperwork durian varieties in scrumptious element.

“Maybe essentially the most lovely durian in Penang, Kun Poh, originated within the Sungai Pinang area and nonetheless tastes bests from there,” she writes on her weblog.

“It is a super-soft and messy durian with a fragile pores and skin that tears simply, spewing its creamy inside, however the messiness is made up for by the beautiful orange colour, rippling wrinkles and complicated milk-coffee taste.”

One in every of a sort

Year of the Durian/Lindsay Gasik

A “White Horse” durian at Nature Fruit Farm Resort in Balik Pulau, Malaysia.

Yr of the Durian/Lindsay Gasik

There are literally thousands of durian varieties on the earth, rising in tropical latitudes from Hawaii to Borneo, Costa Rica, Brunei and extra.

Of the 130-some registered varieties in Malaysia, Gasik would guess that she’s tried at the very least 65 over the previous 10 years. In Thailand, she’s sampled about 65 of 234.

You may determine durians by their colour, texture, aroma, stem size, spike form — some are tiny, others pyramidal, some thick and knobby — and taste.

“There are durians that (style) like espresso, milk chocolate, white chocolate, coconut cream, whisky, wine… ”

Some even style like banana rum.

“Simply since you tried one sort of durian doesn’t suggest you do not like durians,” she says.
“You simply don’t love that one variety.”

In relation to durian excursions, Gasik fastidiously organizes itineraries and works with native guides who lead vacationers via Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines or Thailand to go to one of the best farms on the proper time, relying on the harvesting season.

“I’m actually making an attempt to assist introduce individuals each to totally different sorts of durian varieties and in addition different farms, and different areas,” she provides.

“There are durians that (style) like espresso, milk chocolate, white chocolate, coconut cream, whisky, wine…”

Lindsay Gasik, Yr of the Durian

Identical to an eclair

Year of the Durian/Lindsay Gasik

Cracking open a durian.

Yr of the Durian/Lindsay Gasik

Durians are wildly numerous, not simply by way of selection, but additionally by way of native cultures.

“Touring to all these locations, I observed there’s a tradition round consuming durian that is extra like a wine — extra of connoisseurship,” she says.

“One of many largest discoveries that I made is that (in) Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, the way in which they harvest their durian is totally different and the style that they count on is totally different.”

In Thailand, individuals favor to eat durian somewhat bit early to present them an extended shelf life. Because of this, they are typically starchy, candy and have a milder aroma.

“Durians ripen from the within, across the seed outward, so the proper Thai durian is a bit like an eclair — it has a pores and skin that is very agency, however the inside is like butter.”

In Malaysia, in the meantime, individuals favor to let the durian ripen totally on the tree and drop naturally to the bottom.

At that time, the pH has dropped, the fats content material has elevated, and the fragrant volatiles inside will scent extra strongly of sulfur as they ripen, she provides.

That may end in a creamier, fattier durian.

As for the aroma? Some individuals affiliate durians with their scent, which has been described as “rotting meat” or “soiled socks” — and even “lifeless infants blended with strawberries and Camembert,” to cite Julia Youngster.

However that is not truthful to durians.

“The everyday smelly egg and onion sulfur scent comes out in later phases of ripeness and, usually, the scent wafting up and down streets is actually the rotting shells,” she says.

“Actually, recent durian smells gentle and gassy like recent grass.”

A life-changing fruit

Green Acres, Malaysia

A mixture of durians at Inexperienced Acres durian farm in Balik Pulau, Penang, Malaysia.

From Jakub Lewandowsk

For Gasik, durians actually have modified her life. The fruit has opened up a brand new world, a profession and a calling.

“Should you’re searching for experiences, a extremely nice method to do it’s to hunt durian,” says Gasik.

Not solely can durian lead you on new adventures and less-trodden locations, nevertheless it’s additionally a method to meet new individuals.

“It is kind of a dive into their tradition that individuals actually admire,” says Gasik. “You find yourself having actually nice conversations with individuals.”



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