No Durian


"No Durian," a concept distinct from "No Eating or Drinking," and for damned good reason. Captured in a Singapore cab by photographer Joseph Linaschke. Larger size here.


  1. They have these signs on the subways in Singapore and Hong Kong as well. An eminently reasonable policy.

  2. I have a collection of such signs from Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Thailand. (The signs in Cambodia also typically forbid weapons.)

  3. This has to be one of the most evocative quotes I’ve ever read on Wikipedia:

    “British novelist Anthony Burgess writes that eating durian is ‘like eating sweet raspberry blancmange in the lavatory.'”

    Before I read that, I would have been willing to try it.

  4. While it’s hard to imagine, at one time peanuts were treated similarly in parts of the US. And not because of allergies or anything.

    1. You can’t smoke in any building in Singapore. Most of the time you’re not even allowed to smoke on balconies. You have to go down to street level and stand near a trash can with a cigarette butt thing on top of it just to be safe. Otherwise you risk a fine. You’re more likely to see someone squat and shit on the floor in a bus or train than you are to see someone smoke in one.

  5. Completely reasonable. They stanky. And this is coming from someone who loves kimchi and funky cheese.

  6. Thac0, the vietnamese place near us make both durian and jackfruit smoothies! It’s really strange, the durian ones are almost pleasant, there’s just this weird aftertaste that I can only compare to machine oil, that ruins it.

  7. I saw something similar growing on the trees in Rio de Janerio, Brazil in the plaza above Largo do Machado station. About the size of a volleyball, and the same color and sized spikes on the outside. What was unusual is that they were growing off both the branches and the trunk, which is rather unusual. Does anyone know what kind of fruit that was? Was it a Durian?

    1. That was probably a Jackfruit. Which is a really very strange thing. I bought one in Sri Lanka once. Usability-wise, they’re completely baffling and even more impractical that a Pomegranate. The interior layout is a complete mess and they secrete a fluid that is actually usable as glue.

    2. With reference to what hadlock saw in Brazil, it’s likely you saw the jackfruit, otherwise known in Portuguese as “Jaca”. They are cultivated in parts of asia too. They taste good IMO, and are biologically similar to the durian. They grow huge but don’t have spikes like the durian.

      I lurve durian.

  8. I’ve got a bottle of “Durian Essence”. Still sealed from the factory it gives off the faint aroma of the fruit. Opening it would risk spilling it, which I imagine would require a hazmat suit for clean up. Yet the jar was only 99¢.

  9. For those who don’t know what durian is, it’s an pan-asian fruit that smells strongly of a natural gas pipe leak.

    1. I imagine he doesn’t smell nearly as bad as the fruit by now, but we’ll need a shovel and a flashlight to be sure.

      Thanks for the chuckle, you Blockhead.

  10. I work right near a Cambodian restaurant, and brought a Durian shake to a meeting just to see what everyone’s reaction would be… and everyone was disgusted, but in an unbelieving manner… noses scruntched up but politely asking me if it it was really possible to drink something that smelled that gross… It was a social experiment of sorts… no one asked me to GTFO, but no one thanked me for coming either.

  11. I first ate durian when I was in Singapore years ago. The shop keeper warned me not to drink alchohol with it and I’ve always wondered if it was because of some toxicity issue or if the combo of beer and atrocious durian essence would make me hurl…

    Durian smoothies, however are delicious. As long as you don’t breathe during sips, of course.

    1. It’s a local rumour in Singapore and Malaysia that if you eat durian and drink beer your stomach will explode and kill you. That’s why he insisted no alcohol.

  12. When I tried it, I thought it smelled and tasted like rotten pineapple. It really wasn’t that bad.

    (however, the subsequent durian burps are GAWDAWFUL)

    1. Absolutely spot on regarding the burps. I thought the fruit was great, and the experience was incredible. I used a machete to cut it open. (The first time I’ve used my machete in years!) But five, maybe ten minutes later and I started burping the worst burps of all time. Of all time!!!

  13. In Thailand there was a sign outside of a hotel like this. Except the only two things that they banned were Durian and Child Prostitution. Yeah, it’s *that* bad.

  14. I’ve always described it as vanilla with a hint of onion…with the odor of a compost heap outside a barn.

  15. The first time I ever ate durian was in Singapore in 1993. I’d always eschewed offers of it before, but there was something to be said for having a cab driver sneak my parents and I into a park in the dead of night so we could eat it. If our hotel had allowed us to eat it there, I’m not sure I’d have ventured to try it even now–Thai heritage or no.

  16. a durian is one of those things you should try once in your life. just hacking into a durian is a challenge in itself.

    culinary tip: don’t bring it into your house!

    1. You said it. The one time I brought durian to my house, my roommates made me eat it on the porch. Even that wasn’t enough airspace.

      I still have a bag of durain candy that I bought at the airport on my way out of Thailand. It’s like double bagged in heavy plastic to prevent any odor from escaping.

  17. There was a “No Durian” sign with a nice silhouette of a durian at the front door of my hotel in Chiang Mai a couple weeks ago. The first place I’d ever seen such a sign was in Singapore also.

    There is a Thai place near my home in Orlando, FL called “Durian Durian”. The proprietors are Chinese and thought it would be funny.

  18. Jungle Jim’s (a store worthy of its own article) carries frozen durians and durian pops here in Cincinnati. Mmmmm, durian pops….

  19. Durian is a horrible smelling fruit. I’ve been living in Singapore for two years. You can always tell when durian is around because the odor is powerful. Even if it’s sealed in a package, the smell leaks through. Also, if someone eats it, you can smell it on the breath for almost a full day afterward, no matter how much they brush their teeth.

  20. Durian tastes like overripe gorgonzola and bad clams mixed with turpentine. It’s good over sticky rice. It also looks like an alien weapon.

  21. Back when I was in college, I had a friend who was a connoisseur of exotic Thai dishes and a militant anti-smoking nut. We went to a coffee shop for a late night snack, and he asked for us to be seated in the “No Smoking” section. A few minutes into our meal, a group of women sat at the next table and lit up. He turned around and asked them to please not smoke. They rudely blew smoke in his face.

    He turned back to us with a devilish grin and reached in his jacket and pulled out a ziplock bag full of frozen durian he was defrosting in his pocket. He shoved the whole wad of it in his mouth, took two or three chews, then stood up on the seat of the booth and leaned way over into the next booth full of smokers. With a mouth full of foul smelling durian, he grinned and exhaled as he said, :HHHHEEEELLLLOOOO LLLAAADDDIIEEESS…” They were met with a blast of fetid breath that no amount of lysol would ever wash away.

    The women lept to their feet and screamed, “OOOOO! NASTY!” and ran out of the restaurant. I suspect they didn’t know about durian and thought he had something else in his mouth. Needless to say, we had to beat a quick retreat from the restaurant ourselves, and my friend had to hang his head out the car window all the way home.

  22. I’ve always wondered if it was because of some toxicity issue or if the combo of beer and atrocious durian essence would make me hurl…

    I can answer that one from first hand experience. When you eat durian, the smell doesn’t affect you because your whole smell/taste system is involved in durian and the delicious taste overwhelms the gag reflex. But if you drink beer, you have a tendency to burp. Burping durian is like farting out of your mouth. Not pretty.

  23. As a kid, I hated the putrid smell of durian when my parents would eat it.
    But, after trying it as a teenager, the smell no longer bothered me. It actually smells good to me now (but I can definitely understand the hatred for it).
    Personally, I think papaya smells much worse than durian. My first encounter with papaya was when my parents cut one up, and put it in the fridge. I opened the fridge, gasp for air, and quickly asked those around me “who threw up in the fridge?”.

  24. Durian. A truly marvelous fruit. Open it up and it looks like some sort of alien embryo, filled with a pudding-line substance that smells of pineapple custard.

    With an overtone of sour dumpster after 3 days in the Florida sun!

    Oh well.

  25. Durian fruit always reminds me of my favourite Bruce Sterling quote: “this fucker’s got balls the size of durian fruit!”

    He was talking about Tsutomu Shimomura (one of the people who helped track down Kevin Mitnick)

    1. …They’re not limited to NE Texas, but can be found anywhere there’s also mesquite. One of my best friends in elementary school had *two* of these things growing in his yard, and we’d collect them at least a dozen times a year – each tree produced at least two hundred of these damn things at a time! – and do all sorts of mischief that kids that age do. One year we stacked the whole mass of them so they completely blocked a drainage overpass for a nearby creek, and when it finally rained a month later they were so decompositionally glued to one another than they actually dammed up the overpass and the creek backed up and overflowed for almost a mile back! Another time we stuffed an enclosed tube slide full of them at a nearby park; once we got the bottom end covered with a sheet, the damn things jammed up against one another and were next to impossible to get out without tearing them up with a crowbar!

    2. Hedgeapple is not so limited. I worked briefly near Nashville and they were very common there.
      It amazed me when I thought of their potential for destruction to people and property. These are like bright green cannonballs that fall from the sky. I’d never seen them back home (N. Carolina), so I brought a few with me. They weighed more than a pound and were firm and solid. They smell like the sticky balls from a sweet gum tree when green.

    3. NOT limited to Texas at all: I grew up in Central Kansas in the 70’s, where for miles almost all the gravel section-line roads between wheat and soybean fields were lined with Hedge windbreaks (before terracing). Sometimes the hedgeapples fell so thick on the roads they had to be pushed out of the way by a road-grader. Fun to walk along and shoot out of the trees with my .22 rifle, though. NOT fun to walk through a hedge thicket wearing old canvas tennis-shoes – once had 4″ or 5″ hedge thorn come all the way up through the TOP of my shoe. OW-OW-OW!
      Never did that again! Oh, and Hedge is a BEAUTIFUL hardwood to craft with. in highschool shop we had to pay for all the sawblades, etc. and sign an agreement to pay for any machines we destroyed while working the darn stuff. Still worth it! Nothing to do with Durian fruit, but I had to respond to the “Texas-only” comment….

  26. I was staying at a traditional Balinese style hotel in Ubud once – each room had it’s own verandah. One family sat on their verandah volubly bitching about the Durian on their neighbour’s table. eventually they summoned the hotel manager and complained that the hotel shouldn’t allow guests to bring this nasty fruit inside. The manager apologised profusely and agreed to remove the offending article immediately. When he went to pick it up he discovered that it was a wooden Durian carving rather than the stinky real thing. The nasal placebo effect!!

  27. @Hadlock

    That’s jackfruit you saw in Rio. It’s not very common around rio, but it’s there. If it was durian, you’d smell it right away ;). I love the stuff and have a freezer full.

  28. I grew up in Cambodia and Durian is fantastic here. Smell great. I guess you need to get used to it, much like spices. I studied in UK, and most English can’t tolerate chilli. We asian love chilli! Singaporean love durian, they only ban it in public for consideration of western tourists.

  29. This is one occasion where ‘Western’ olfactory sensitivities do NOT come to play.
    Durian is a delicious and very wholsome fruit, but it is the deathknell of any social interaction thereafter.
    OTOH, it has reached my ears that some of the (reluctantly) sexually exploited in Asia have found that eating a tiny bit of Durian is a very powerful yet subtle way of keeping their unwelcome suitors from consuming their (pre-paid and non refundable) purchase.
    Good for them!!!!!!


    It’s the flesh of the fruit that’s eaten. (Yellow stuff in the picture above). The outer spiky shell and the big seeds are inedible.

    These days, it’s possible to buy durian in supermarkets. They’re wrapped in plastic, on little styrofoam bases, minus the shell.

    Like the jackfruit (which has a stronger smell, though few people object to it), without the shell, the smell is greatly reduced. You could carry this in your bag on the taxi, and into your hotel room, and nobody would know. When you unwrap the plastic to eat it in your room, there would be some smell, but it would dissipate in a couple of hours. Or just eat it on the balcony.

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