Monday, July 18, 2011

Day 150! Thailand - Durian Ice Cream - Up Next, Saint Lucia

A rich, butter-like custard highly flavored with almonds, but intermingled with wafts of flavor that call to mind cream cheese, onion sauce, brown sherry and other incongruities. The more you eat of it, the less you feel inclined to stop. 
~Alfred Russell Wallace, 19th century Naturalist

Bread Fruit
The plan was to make a meal from Saint Lucia using breadfruit. After days of scouting, sourcing and sleuthing, I finally got a line on breadfruit at HMart (think BJ's or Cosco but Asian) from my go-to-foodie-friend Ben. With the kind of adrenaline rush gamblers must experience when they hit a jackpot, I hurried into the huge produce section, scanning each bin for the spiky fruit. Unable to find it, I asked one of the produce guys, but he said he'd never heard of it. Still, I persevered. Suddenly I spotted jackfruit, an immense, watermelon-sized fruit with spikes and right next to it, a freezer case of durian (which I mistakenly thought was another name for breadfruit)! Totally psyched, I picked up the mesh bag that held the fruit, and instantly impaled my finger on the porcupine-like quills, which just added to the durian drama of finding this exotic fruit.

Once home, I decided to spend a little more time researching durian, only to discover that durian and breadfruit are not one and the same at all. It turns out that durian is quite specific to Asian countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, while breadfruit, which is round, smaller and less dangerous, makes its home in the Caribbean islands. A big shout-out to my Facebook friends who helped me sort out the Durian v. Breadfruit confusion. Special thanks to longtime friends, Lynette and Lulu,  for locating breadfruit in one of Boston's tropical markets. I hope to cook a Lucian meal with Breadfruit later on in the week. Phew!

So...since I'm totally improvising due to the fact that I have durian (imported from Thailand and very perishable) - not breadfruit, I decided to jump ahead to the beautiful country of Thailand and make durian ice cream - plus it's 95 degrees with matching humidity, so I just can't turn the stove on. A quick word about the smell of durian (aka The King of Fruits). It is reported to have a strong, acrid odor, especially to westerners. I personally didn't find it offensive, although it is unique and does permeate the house. The smell definitely doesn't hint at the sweet fruit that is so well guarded by the spiky armor exterior. The flesh is creamy and custard-like in appearance and texture, and has a lovely sweet, delicate, somewhat nutty flavor, which is imparted to the ice cream. The addition of cream and just a tiny bit of sugar makes it rich and decadent - again hard to compare to anything I've had before. For most westerners, durian ice cream will probably be an acquired taste, but I highly recommend abandoning your western sensibilities, and giving this incredible fruit a try.

Located at the center of the Southeast Asia, Thailand's existence dates back 40,000 years to Paleolithic times. Officially, the country is known as the Kingdom of Thailand, and borders Burma, Laos, Cambodia, the Gulf of Thailand, Malaysia, and the Andaman Sea. The country is governed by a constitutional monarchy, where the king holds the titles of Head of State, Head of Armed forces, Upholder of Buddhist Religion and Defender of Faiths. Seventy-five percent of the country is ethnically Thai, 14% Chinese, 3% Malay, the remaining being Mon, Khmer and hill tribes. Known as an exotic tourist destination, the country also attracts a fair number of ex-pats The official language is Thai and 95% of the country are Buddhist.

Thai cuisine is grounded in the philosophy that food should be lightly prepared and balanced so that all the taste senses should be experienced in a meal: sour, sweet, salty and (optionally) bitter. Thai food tends to be hot as well. Dishes vary by region, geography and climate, and are influenced by neighboring countries such as Burma, the Chinese Province of Yunnan, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. Aside from a huge variety of vegetables and exotic fruits too numerous to list, Thai cuisine uses a diverse array of herbs and spices to season food, including, but not limited to: Thai basil, mint, lemongrass, cilantro, Kaffir lime, shrimp and fish sauces and paste and Thai chili peppers. Rice, noodles and seafood are staples in the Thai diet as well.

Cut open the durian with a very sharp knife

Separate the seeds from the flesh

Blend the flesh in a mixer to break up the fibrous fruit, then force through a sieve

Make the custard

Blend in an ice cream maker until set, then freeze in an airtight container

Durian Ice Cream (Adapted from a recipe on

1 large durian, cut, pulp and seeds removed and separated
2 large egg yolks
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar (or more to taste, although Durian is already quite sweet)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk

Cut the durian down the middle and remove the seeds and pulp.
Put the pulp in a blender and puree until smooth.
Press the pureed paste through a fine sieve - you should have about 4+ ounces. Then chill.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the vanilla extract and sugar.
Bring the milk and cream to a near boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low. Pour in the egg mixture, stirring constantly to thicken. Take care not to let the mixture boil, or the milk will curdle. (if bubbles form at the edge, remove from stove).
Allow the custard to cool for at least 4 hours.
Gradually whisk the durian paste into the custard mixture, a tablespoon at time until completely blended.
Add mixture to ice cream maker and blend until set.
Freeze in an airtight container to avoid crystallizing.

(C) 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World?/ Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved 


Anonymous said...

Wow..your durian ice cream looks delicious! I really love durian, so I will definitely try it! Thank you for sharing!

sadie said...

Thank you! You're the first person who's been excited about durian. Most everyone has trouble with the smell :) I hope you like it - I was very, very easy to make!

Sylvie + family said...

Woaw, you are very daring,Sarah! I was the only one at home who could stand smell and taste of durian ! Love your description and feelings. Recipe sounds great as always.

sadie said...

Thank you, as always, Sylvie! It is definitely an acquired smell and taste. I found that after the first spoonful of ice cream, my sense of smell and taste buds acclimated just fine. I understand from several friends that Asian hotels and airlines do not allow this fruit on the premises as the smell so offends guests and travelers! Anyway, I'll try anything once, if not two or three times :) xox

Clayton said...


I read extensive documentation about how, uh, controversial the scent of this fruit is. But since i have always embraced the stinkiest of foods -- I'm in!


Clayton said...

Looks killer!

Have read a lot about the stinky goodness of this fruit. But I don't fear the stink. Nope. Not me. Bring it!

sadie said...

Clay - you would totally dig this...and the smell is NOTHING compared to a certain stinky cheese you once brought to the V.

Anonymous said...

O gosh...I try it today and it was delicious!!!! This recipe is so good!!! Thanks again for sharing!!

sadie said...

Hi There, Anonymous! First, thank you so much for taking time to read my blog. Second, I am absolutely thrilled that you tried the recipe, and even happier that you liked it! I don't know where you live, but did you have trouble finding durian? Did the smell bother you?

Megny said...

Hai Sadie,

I live in the Netherlands. I can buy durian at the asian supermarket. I'm from origin Asia, so I love the smell of durian. I know that not many people does. Like my husband, he doesn't like the smell at all. When he came home he was nagging about the smell =P
Lots of people in my family and friends love durian, so I'm so excite to make for them. I have tried to make durian ice cream before, but that turned out as a disaster.
Your blogg is so nice. I would definitely try other dishes you have post. Keep on the good work!!

sadie said...

Hi Megny! That's wonderful! Thanks for sharing your location - I love to know where my readers live, since this blog tends to attract such an interesting international group of people! My husband didn't like the smell too much either :)
Right now, I'm still trying to locate breadfruit so I can make a meal from Saint Lucia. Stay tuned, and and thanks again for reading!! xox