Asia’s Exotic Beauties Part II

Durians and Mangosteens
‘The King and Queen of Tropical Fruit’

These two fruit, though quite unrelated, are regarded as the King and Queen of all tropical fruit. Few would fault the mangosteen except that the rind leaves an indelible stain. Both mangosteen and durian are native to South East Asia and require a year round, warm, very humid, equatorial climate.

Durian, The King

You either love or loathe this fruit! To describe its pungent aroma is to liken it to the smell of rotten onions or the gases emitted from an egg sandwich. Those who do like the fruit describe it as an excellent taste that it surpasses in flavor all the other fruits of the world. I suppose everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. However, when there are signs banning the durian from public places, transportation etc. I cannot be that far off the mark when describing its odor.

The durian tree is very large. Picking the fruit is not required, as they fall when ripe. This is quite dangerous as the fruit is covered with hard spines and weighs several kilograms. Durians have about five segments, each containing several seeds and these are surrounded by a custard-like aril. Freshly fallen fruit are less pungent.

Fermented durian, wrapped in palm leaves, remains palatable for up to a year. The preparation is called “tempoya” in Indonesia and is a popular side dish. They may also be used mixed with rice and sugar to make “lempog”, or minced with salt, onions and vinegar, for “boder”. Durian seeds may be roasted in hot ashes, or cut into slices and fried in spiced coconut oil. They are eaten with rice, or mixed with sugar to make a sweetmeat. Half-ripe fruit are used in soups. The fruit is also suitable for the preparation of milk based foods, such as milk shakes, ice cream and custards.

I’ve tried durian fresh out of its shell, in baked goods and I still have to say, politely, that this king of fruit just plain stinks.

Mangosteen, The Queen

The ripe mangosteen is dark red and tastes best if harvested before turning purple or blue-black. It does not ripen post-harvest. The mangosteen appeals to almost all, without a “learning” period. The mangosteen would be a popular choice as the finest of all fruit. The fruit is the size of a mandarin. The outer skin is up to 8mm thick and rich in tannic acid, which makes the fruit insect resistant. To open the fruit, cut through the skin only, and lightly pull and twist the fruit apart.

About a third of the fruit is edible and this part consists of 4 to 8 white to pinkish juicy segments. The precise number is indicated by the remnant flower parts on the front of the shell. A greater number of segments reduces the chance of seeds. Seeds can be boiled or roasted and eaten. The fruit’s taste is delicate, sweet-acid, and the pulp seems to melt in the mouth.

The flavor? It’s really not like anything else you may have tasted, so do not take comparisons too literally. The mangosteen has flavors that range from strawberry, peach, vanilla ice cream – it is definitely sweet tempered with a very slight sourness.