For the love of durians 

The most divisive fruit could very well be the durian. But there is no doubt that the durian, revered as the ‘king of fruits’, is very much loved and hated in its native Southeast Asia. Banned on aeroplanes, public transport and hotels due to its disagreeable smell, a whiff of its stench is an assault on the olfactory system. 

Strange as the durian might be, it is also a culinary delight. Despite the thorny exterior that makes it look more like a medieval weapon, prying open the malodorous pod reveals an extraordinary creamy and custardy flesh. From the mild and sweet ‘Red Prawn’ to the buttery and rich ‘Mao San Wang”, a good durian is the equivalent of fine wine, with a taste so complex it emits overtures of caramelised bananas, cream cheese, onions and walnuts all at once. 

Therefore, it is no surprise that food-obsessed Singapore has a voracious appetite for this exquisite fruit. And now that durian season is in full swing, our MPs, including Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan–Toa Payoh GRC), Ms Gan Siow Huang (Marymount SMC) and Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), love nothing more than to join their residents for a feast. 

The power of the durian  

“The durian is probably the only fruit that can bring hundreds of residents together,” noted MP Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC). Its overpowering odour notwithstanding, herein lies the real power of the durian – a social fruit meant to be eaten in a communal setting that draws diverse communities together. Think about this, even though there are no rules against eating a durian alone, doing so is akin to ordering a hotpot for one – not very fun!  

And just like that, the durian became the thorn that binds. Notwithstanding its unfortunate honour as the world’s smelliest fruit, consuming it has become a quintessential part of Singapore culture. Whether it be eating the fruit al-fresco by the roadside or laying out sheets of newspaper on the floor at home for a makeshift banquet, these are experiences all Singaporeans resonate with, including those who cannot stand the pungent odour or its gooey texture. 

Without a long history, building a sense of identity and belonging is a challenge in contemporary Singapore. Yet oddly enough, durian, otherwise known as the marmite of food, has managed to transcend race, language and religion to become a symbol of our commonality and togetherness. 

As we celebrate National Day in two weeks’ time, why not crack open some durians? After all, there is nothing quite like the smell of it to complement the fireworks on TV. 

Photo Source: Baey Yam Keng/ Gan Siow Huang/ Saktiandi Supaat/Louis Ng via Facebook