Durian & Sticky Rice or Kâao Nĭeow Tú rian
Now that the Durian or Tú rian season, which runs from April to August in Thailand, is once again upon us; every time I pass by the pyramid of hard, horny husked fruits piled high at the local fruit market, I feel compelled to mutter, “Hail to the King”. By “King”, I actually mean the ‘King of Fruits’ as the durian is known here in the orient. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the Mangosteen happens to be the ‘Queen of Fruits’. Its taste is said to compliment that of the durian perfectly.
Durian the Fruit
Beloved by some and abhorred by many, the durians strong flavor and less than lovely, and pungent aroma, is described as divine by its devotees and as decaying gym socks (or worse) by its deriders. Love it or hate it, one thing that the ‘King of Fruits does not do is inspire indifference. For those who have yet to experience the unique bouquet of the durian, be advised that the raw fruit is so strong that it can linger for days on any surface with which it contacts, including your hands. That’s the reason why consuming this fruit has been banned on public transportation and prohibited in many public buildings throughout Southeast Asia! Rumor has it that durians harvested early in the rainy season are less likely to be odiferous, while those picked when the weather is hot and dry are purported to be mega pungent. If you’re not sure of the weather conditions at the time a durian was harvested, firm flesh is said to have a less overpowering fragrance. The aroma emanating from a soft fleshed durian is alleged to be much more malodorous.
Durian the Dessert
Leave it to the Thais to make rice, sticky or otherwise, a dessert staple. Of the half-dozen Thai rice based desserts that I’m aware of, Kâao Nĭeow Má-mûang or
Mango and Sticky Rice has been universally proclaimed the perennial favorite by tourists Thais and expatriates. The few foreigners, who know of Kâao Nĭeow Tú rian, arguably consider that Thai treat to be the red headed bastard step child of the Thai sticky rice dessert family. But one shouldn’t be too hasty in pronouncing judgment on what many of the Thai people consider to be one of their nation’s most delectable desserts based solely on the smelly reputation of its key component. Believe it or not, all bias aside, when it’s prepared properly the durian dessert is indeed palatable if not delicious.
Durian Dessert Experience
Just like the mango version, durian and sticky rice consists of chunks of fresh durian instead of mango doused with a thick coconut cream sauce that’s served atop a bed of steamed sticky or glutinous rice. This dessert is comprised of three basic components:
Kâao Nĭeow: (sticky rice) which has been sweetened with coconut milk during the steaming process
Sòt Tú rian: (fresh durian) which has been cut into bite sized chunks and the seeds removed
Nám Gà-tí: (coconut cream) which has been simmered into a sweet syrup-like sauce along with pandan leaves, which are removed before serving, salt, white, and palm sugar
Because a certain amount of assembly is required before consumption of kâao nĭeow tú rian can commence, knowing how to properly construct the dessert is crucial. After dishing out the desired portion of sticky rice, spoon a few fresh durian chunks onto the rice. Keep in mind that less is more, as a little bit of durian goes a long way. Adding too much of the fetid fruit might just tip the flavor scales from delectable to detestable. Next, cautiously ladle just enough coconut cream over the whole to lightly coat each grain of rice. Just as adding too much durian can destroy the dish, a tsunami of coconut cream can also overwhelm the flavors of the other components. To maximize the dessert’s overall flavor, connoisseurs recommend letting the rice steep in the coconut cream for a moment or two before mastication takes place.
Durian & Sticky Rice Taste
Describing the collective flavor of durian and sticky rice is like trying to describe the color magenta to a blind person … Something that’s not easily done. All I can say is that a good kâao nĭeow tú rian will contain a harmonious and perfect balance of the disparate: rice, durian, sweet, and salty flavors that are present in the dessert. Too much of one or not enough of another can spell complete disaster. But when the dessert has been perfectly prepared, one’s opinion of the much maligned ‘King of Fruits’ just might be upgraded from terrible to tolerable.