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First taste of durian

You might have heard about the durian. It is a fruit that has some resemblance to the jackfruit. It has a green and spiky exterior. The spikes are much sharper than that of a jackfruit. Inside the fruit the flesh appears in bright yellow chunks that need to be scooped out. The yellow flesh is sweet and edible. It encases the durian’s seeds, which are not eaten raw.

The durian has a particularly strong smell. It is so strong that it is not allowed inside Singapore’s public transportation. Nevertheless it happens to be a favourite of many locals in the region. So much so that many go out just to eat the durian – no question of bringing it back home.

My friend Shamraz and I had the opportunity to entertain visitors from Australia. My friend Jem had brought her boyfriend Alex over for his first trip to Asia. We made sure that they had a good time trying out the local delicacies. Then there was the unmissable durian. Alex was game.

We went to Geylang, the area that is famed for being the local red light district as well as for having great, cheap food. People sat around eating at the busy outdoor food courts, consuming frog porridge and other local favourites. Prostitutes lined the walls and the walkways making eyes at the men. Durians lined the walls and the carts next to the fruit stalls.

We found our fruit stall, picked a fruit and sat down. This particular item was inside a styrofoam carton, already cut up for people to consume on the spot or to carry back. Jem warned Alex not to be a hero: “If you don’t feel like it, don’t force yourself.” Shamraz advised open-mindedness. Shamraz and I took pieces out and started eating.

Alex said something to the equivalent of “Here goes nothing”. He put a piece into his mouth and started. Not everyone who tries the durian enjoys it. While many do love it, many others are unable to stand it. The smell can be particularly oppressive to some people. One needs to look beyond the smell to enjoy the taste of the durian. An odd look appeared on Alex’s face. He did not seem to be enjoying it. Had the durian proven to be too much for Alex?

I heard a munching sound that was quite unexpected. I then noticed the bite mark on a brown-looking thing in Alex’s hand. He had bitten into the seed and was chewing it!

“How was I supposed to know that the seed was not to be eaten?”, he asked. We laughed without interruption for the next five minutes.

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