The first time I had durian I was told, “it smells like hell but tastes like heaven.” Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. It tasted like a rotten sweet onion. This was in Ohio in the year leading up to my first cross cultural trip to Viet Nam.
Because of that experience I avoided eating durian for years. But then, during MCC Cambodia’s national retreat, my friend Amara asked me to peel the durian for the group. Of course I had to eat some… And it was pretty good. It turns out that the one I had in Ohio was overripe.
Despite the strong smell and dangerous spikes (more on those in a moment), I would recommend eating durian if you find yourself in Southeast Asia. In my experience it is a great icebreaker – especially if you make a big deal about how bad it smells and how good it tastes. I’ve had it a few times since in North America, usually when visiting with other MCC Cambodia alumni, but that’s mostly fun for the experience.
On our second Saturday in Cambodia we had Seiha, Amara, and Ringsey. Seiha and Ringsey brought their kids. All three have worked at MCC Cambodia. Remember that Amara is the person who got me to open my first durian so I had to have one for our first get together in a decade. That turned out to be a dangerous decision! At least for Ringsey.
Ringsey and Seiha opened the durian for the rest of us… But Ringsey’s finger was cut by a spike.