“WTF Is Durian And Why Would You Ever Want To Eat It?” wrote a US-based publication not too long ago.
“The fruit that smells like gym socks,” wrote another.
It is no secret that the durian is an acquired taste. Or rather, smell.
For the uninitiated, the durian is a spiny, oval tropical fruit that is green on the outside but a yellow, creamy and custardy flesh on the inside.
Its thorny exterior has earned it the nicknamed the “King of Fruits”, and it is most commonly found in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia.
SEE ALSO: Thailand wants to fly durian into space
Most Asians regard the fruit as having a pleasant sweet fragrance, having grown accustomed to the aroma. Others, however, find the smell overpowering with an unpleasant odour, resulting in intense disgust.
The “stench” of the durian has been described by foreigners as smelling like raw sewage or week-old rotting food. Its odour, which may linger for several days, has led to the fruit’s banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in Southeast Asia.
And most durian eating challenge videos do not end up well.
Despite its fetid smell, the durian is highly valued for its flavour. The flesh can be consumed on its own or used to flavour savoury food and sweet desserts.
Even the seeds can be eaten when cooked.
Durian-loving Asians are more than willing to pay big bucks to savour the best durians when it is in season or travel miles to find a durian buffet. Meanwhile, most Westerners would run miles away from the offensive exotic fruit.
Well, all except one American woman named Lindsay Gasik.
This 29-year-old took her first whiff of the “King of Fruits” back in 2009 when she was helping out at the wedding of a raw vegan couple on a farm in Oregon. It motivated her to try it.
It was love at first taste.
She then set off on a year-long journey to follow the durian trail all over Southeast Asia, spends her days hunting for the best durians. A journey that she documented on her blog.
To date, she has travelled to more than 13 countries in Asia, following the durian season and making sure to stalk the farms to taste the different species of durian, and also to hear stories from the farmers.
“Perhaps the most beautiful durian in Penang, Kun Poh, originated in the Sungai Pinang region and still tastes best from there,” she wrote on her blog.
She loves durian so much inside and out that she knows all the varied species available like the back of her hand. Musang King? D24? Golden Phoenix? Black Thorn? You name it, she knows it.
On top of that, she leads durian tours.
Gasik has even penned two durian guidebooks – The Durian Tourist’s Guide to Thailand and the more recently published The Durian Tourist’s Guide to Penang. The latter was also released in Chinese.
But durian adventures aside, how did she get past the language barrier? By biting the bullet and asking for help, something that helped her overcome her shyness eventually.
Luckily, she found a couple of local Thais who could speak a bit of English.
With enough asking around, Gasik picked up a bit of Thai over the years, which made it much easier for her to communicate.
In Penang, however, it was easier since most people on the Malaysian island can speak English. But she signed up for Mandarin classes anyway.
Somewhere along the way, she also picked up a smattering of Hokkien, a centuries-old southern Min Chinese dialect originating from the southeastern part of Fujian province in China.
Hokkien originated from seafarers who came to this part of the world to trade, from the 16th century and even earlier.
It is safe to say that durians have really have changed Gasik’s life, breaking barriers to open up a new world, transforming her into a multilingual person, and helping her find a career she is truly passionate about.
Durian is Gasik’s calling. And she will not stop exploring.
This article first appeared on our sister website Travel Wire Asia.