If you’ve smelled a durian even once, you probably remember it. Even with the husk intact, the notorious Asian fruit has such a potent stench that it’s banned on the Singapore Rapid Mass Transit.
Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.” The fruit’s flesh is sometimes eaten raw, or is cooked and used to flavor a number of traditional Southeast Asian dishes and candies. It’s also used in traditional Asian medicine, as both an anti-fever treatment and a aphrodisiac.
What everyone can agree on is that the fruit’s odor, whether pleasant or dreadful, is uncommonly potent. Now, in a new study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, a group of scientists from the German Research Center for Food Chemistry has attempted to figure out how exactly the fruit produces such a powerful stench.
In breaking down aroma extract, taken from Thai durians, with a mass spectrometer and gas chromatograph, the team, led by Jia-Ziao Li, pinpointed 50 discrete compounds in the fruit responsible for its uncommon aroma. Those compounds included eight that hadn’t been detected in durians before and four compounds that had been completely unknown to science.
Their analysis suggests that it is not any single compound but instead the mixture of different chemicals that produces the fruit’s powerful stench. The compounds are identified by their chemical formulas, which are likely cryptic to anyone without a degree in organic chemistry , but the research team associated each one with a particular odor.
What’s interesting is that none of the compounds individually seem to match with the characteristic durian smell they range widely, and include labels like fruity, skunky, metallic, rubbery, burnt, roasted onion, garlic, cheese, onion and honey. A number of them have been detected in just a few other substances, such as cooked beef, yeast extract, dried squid and leeks. Somehow, the combination of these fifty chemicals produces the powerful scent that has entranced and repulsed people the world over.
A few facts about durian
It’s unwelcome on public transport
Due to its overpowering smell, durian has been banned on many types of public transport across Thailand, Japan and Hong Kong. In Singapore, the fruit is banned across all types of public transportation and even taxis have signs to let you know they refuse to carry passengers transporting the smelly fruit.
It’s a superfruit
Despite the stench, durian is extremely healthy, even more so than many other fruits. Naturally rich in iron, vitamin C, and potassium, durian improves muscle strength, skin health and even lowers blood pressure. However, it is important to not eat them in excess.
Singapore’s official fruit is the durian.
The Esplanade building next to Marina Bay, started as two glass domes but when the design was altered to include covering the buildings with pointed aluminum shades, the buildings took on the appearance of a durian that has been cut in half.
It’s the king of fruit
Whether due to its size the fruit can weigh as much as seven pounds or its taste, durian is often referred to by people in Southeast Asia as the king of fruit. Due to the difficulty of cultivating durian besides being dangerous when it falls, it requires very particular components in the soil, and for shipping, durian is easily the most expensive fruit as well.
The Chinese consider durian and mangosteen to be the king and queen of fruits because of their opposing flavours the durian is ‘warming’ due to its pungent smell and rich consistency however the mangosteen is ‘cooling’ because of its juicy flesh and slightly acidic taste.
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source : smithsonianmag.com