We’re an adventurous bunch here at Sur La Table headquarters. It’s part of the job description: we’re the in-house guinea pigs for our test-kitchen chefs, and it’s rare that a day goes by without a coworker bringing in something new to try. We’ve sampled everything from strange, savory Hello Kitty candies to deep-fried sous-vide egg yolks, and our conference table hosts a never-ending parade of chocolate, donuts and homemade treats.
Pink’s Durian Ice Cream seemed like a great choice for our next tasting. Pink’s is a Seattle ice cream brand that specializes in Asian flavors, and they really know their stuff. They absolutely nail the texture, and go beyond the ubiquitous Green Tea and Mango flavors to explore tastes like Spicy Ginger and the sublime Black Sesame. If you’re lucky enough to live within their distribution area, you should definitely pick up a pint or seven.
Which brings us to Durian.
Known as the “king of fruits,” durian is a polarizing food. With soft, custardy flesh housed in a spiky husk, durian possesses an incredibly strong, pungent aroma that has led to its being banned in certain hotels and mass transit systems. Sur La Table HQ is neither a hotel nor a subway, so we figured we could deal with a little funk. Also, we were trying durian ice cream, not durian itself. How strong could it actually be?
In retrospect, we should have known what we were getting ourselves into. Just look at that label.
Durian virgins all, we nonetheless persevered. We opened the carton with spoons in hand and dug in (some of us more enthusiastically than others). These are our impressions.
ON THE SCENT
Garbage bag water. Not a good smell, but familiar.
Herbal, with a hint of the forest floor.
Burnt onion compost.
Like onions mixed with raw sewage.
Like a gas leak. Seriously, should we be doing this in here?
There’s a sweet, wet-peat undertone to it.
Oh no. It’s getting stronger as it warms up.
If my four-year-old were here right now, he’d be asking who farted.
ON THE TASTE
I have no words.
The texture’s nice. There’s something sweet, but it’s really buried under that smell.
Oh my god. Why did we do this?
Like a stadium hot dog—the smell is worse than the taste.
Oniony at first, but then it becomes a bit like something tropical. Papaya, maybe.
Like onions from hell. Hellionions.
I burped. And then I realized that I’d been making out with a mummy who’d just eaten a big bowl of French onion soup.
I don’t think it’s that bad. Really.
Somewhat shaken by our ordeal, we staggered back to our desks, most of us swearing off durian forever—though one brave tester went back for a durian affogato. Let our experience be a guide; if your ice cream comes with a warning label, it might be a good idea to heed it.
And if you’re reading this at Sur La Table Headquarters, there’s a half-eaten pint of free ice cream in the break-room freezer. Waiting.
Have you ever tried durian ice cream (or just the fruit)? What did you think? What’s the strangest ice-cream flavor you’ve tried? Let us know in the comments.
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