FRIDAY – DURIAN

When I hear the description ‘King of the Fruits’ it certainly grabs my attention. I feel like it’s kind of a big call, considering the wonderful world of fruits out there such as pomegranate, raspberries, passionfruit, kiwifruit and mango. Is durian really that amazing that it pales these delicious competitors into insignificance? Or perhaps they are more like delicate princesses presided over by the large, spiky and intimidating King!

I can’t promise I will answer that question because durian is one of those fruits that you either love or you hate.  It has been claimed to ‘taste like heaven and smell like hell’ and I would well and truly agree with the latter claim at least! The smell is so distinct, in fact, that the fruit is banned on public transport and many hotel rooms in Singapore.

I was first introduced to this pungent-smelling fruit when I was studying to be a dietitian and we did a presentation on Southeast Asian foods. That was a good 13 years ago but it has certainly stuck in my mind (or in my nasal passage!). Durian is actually native to Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia but is commonly eaten and grown throughout southeast Asia, including Singapore.  It is in season from June to August, but if you live in Singapore, you probably don’t need me to tell you that because you will see it, smell it and not be able to avoid it for these few months. It can still be found at other times of year but not nearly in such abundance.

There are 30 different varieties of Durian and at least nine of these are edible. It can be recognized by its distinct spiky-covered husk, thick skin and yellow flesh. The name ‘durian’ comes from the Malay word ‘duri’ which means thorn and this thorny appearance was the inspiration for the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay building in Singapore (which is commonly called The Durian). The flesh of the durian is quite creamy in consistency, which I believe is part of its appeal. It is eaten fresh but also commonly used to flavor ice cream, biscuits, milkshakes, mooncakes and a variety of Asian sweets.

Can something so creamy be healthy?

Durian is higher in calories and fat than most fruit but is a good source of fibre, antioxidants, potassium, vitamin C and the essential amino acid tryptophan. A recent study shows it has a low glycaemic index (GI), which means it produces a low, steady rise in your blood sugar levels.

According to the USDA nutrient database, one large durian contains 885 calories and 32g fat but it would be very difficult to eat the whole fruit. One cup of chopped durian contains 357 calories, 13g fat and 9g fibre but again, this is quite a large portion.

If you tend to eat durian on a regular basis, it is worth being cautious of its high calorie content, particularly if you are trying to control your weight. On the other hand, it is a valuable source of many nutrients and if eaten in moderation, it is a worthwhile part of a balanced diet. If you haven’t tried this infamous fruit, it is definitely worth putting on your to-do list. It might just be a good idea to hold your nose!!

This concludes our Singapore Food Fact week, I hope you have learnt something about Singaporean food this week. Stay tuned as I will be continuing with more global cuisine fact weeks soon. Please let me know below which cuisine you would like to know more about.

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