The durian is a hideous-looking fruit, brackish green and covered with dangerous spikes—spikes so dangerous that if a ripe durian falls from its tree, it could kill you. But that’s not why the fruit is illegal in some countries.
The durian is possessed of the most foul-smelling odor of any fruit on the planet. Many have tried to describe this gag-inducing stench; it has been likened to, among other things, rotting meat, stale vomit, raw sewage, and skunk spray. Chef Andrew Zimmern claims that it is like eating “completely mushy, rotten onions.” Writer and Chef Anthony Bourdain, a lover of the fruit, says that after eating it your breath will smell “as if you’ve been French-kissing your dead grandmother.” But food writer Richard Sterling may have said it best: “its odor is best described as pig-sh*t, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock.” The fruit can be smelled from several yards away and the odor is known to linger for a very long time.
Durian is native to Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia; in these areas, it is called the “king (or god) of fruits.” However, because of its foul odor, it has been banned in certain places. In several southeast Asian cities it is illegal to eat durian in a public place; in Singapore, it is illegal to bring durian into hotels, subways, airports, and any other form of public transportation. It is also illegal to transport fresh durian into the United States (though frozen durian is legal to sell). Amazingly, despite its odor, the fruit has devoted followers around the world.