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Originally from Malaysia, nowadays durian is grown all over South-East Asia. Durian is a fruit covered with a thick shell and greenish-brown spikes, and is the shape and size of a football. Its white flesh is very popular in Asia, though it has highly-distinctive smell that Westerners sometimes compare to cheese. Durian fruit is rich in B vitamins and fibre, is very calorific and has high sugar content.
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Malaysian origin

A popular fruit in South-East Asia, the durian is cultivated all over the region, particularly in Malaysia, its place of origin, Indonesia and Thailand. It is also grown in Sri Lanka, South India and Australia. As it is fragile, it is eaten right after harvesting, but the Durio zibethinus species, which travels better, is sold on international markets.

The older the tree, the greater its yield

The durian is a tree that grows in tropical regions at a minimum temperature of 22°C. It thrives particularly well in drained, sandy soils, but cannot withstand more than three months of drought. Measuring between 25 and 30 metres, it has dark green, dense foliage and cream-coloured flowers.

The flowering period takes place twice a year and lasts for three weeks. During this period, its flowers release a strong, acrid smell that attracts bats, birds and bees to ensure pollination. The fruit grows at the end of a short stem. Durians reach maturity about three or four months after pollination. They are ripe when their shell starts to split open and they fall to the ground.

With a lifespan of up to a hundred years or so, most species bear fruit after four or six years, but some do not produce fruit before the age of twenty-one. The older the trees are, the more fruit they bear. Seed selection has led to large-scale production of cultivated varieties that can tolerate bud and branch grafting bringing an improved yield.

A fruit to be eaten shortly after harvesting

The durian has thirty fruit species, nine of which are edible, and is a member of the Bombacaceae family. The durian is covered with a thick shell and greenish-brown spikes (with some species also having red and yellow tinges) and is the shape and size of a football. It generally weighs 3 kg, but can weigh up to 10 kg. The fruit contains between four and six compartments, each of which contains one or more seeds wrapped in white, creamy, sweet flesh. Once open, it must be eaten quickly because its flesh decomposes rapidly. It has a highly-distinctive smell and taste, which is why people either love it or hate it. In some South-East Asian countries, opening it or even carrying it in public places is prohibited because its smell is so strong. Westerners sometimes compare its smell to that of cheese.

In Asia, durian is eaten fresh or prepared. It is used to make a wide range of products such as jam, sweets, nougat, mousses, creams, pudding, pancakes, iced drinks and ice cream. In pastries, durian keeps its flavour but its smell is less strong. It is also prepared as a vegetable when unripe. Durian seeds are also eaten, either grilled or roasted and are made into flour and used in confectionery, notably in Java. 'Durian pulut' is a Malaysian dish made from boiled, sticky rice in coconut milk, served with ripe durian. In Sumatra, 'tempoyak' sauce is made from fermented durian, coconut milk, sambal oelek and chilli paste. To encourage fermentation, durian pulp is salted and kept in a sealed container for a week.


Durian gives twice as much energy from sugar as most fresh and exotic fruit, but half the amount of dried fruit. It is also a source of fibre that promotes intestinal transit and those B vitamins that help the body assimilate and break down nutrients.

The many benefits of durian

In China, the durian is renowned as a ‘hot food’. After eating it, some people drink salted water to temper the effect of heat it creates. Others avoid drinking alcohol with durian, fearing the consequences of major intestinal fermentation - however, alcohol actually plays no role in this fermentation process as the liver eliminates it. The durian is commonly considered throughout Asia as an aphrodisiac. According to a Malaysian saying, when durians fall down, sarongs fly up.