Tag Archives: asian food

Adding Stinky Durian to my List of Favorite Food Oddities

durian sticky rice

Durian. It’s native to southeast Asia and often called the “King of Fruits”. Because of its size? Its pungent odor? Or is it because its thorny outside resembles the spikes of a king’s crown?

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photo by Hans A. Rosbach

Regardless of where it got its nickname, it’s a pretty polarizing fruit. Much like natto, it seems like people either love it or hate it. While researching the fruit for this post I found everything from an “I love Durian” facebook page to numerous bloggers dedicating posts to their nemesis, the durian.

I always assumed that durian would be one of those things that I would just never try. The extreme reactions I would often see people have when they ate durian petrified me. Case in point, this guy’s reaction.  Plus, I remember being horrified by the smell as a child.

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photo by Hans A. Rosbach

But one day Neal brought home sweet sticky rice from the Asian market. It had this tiny schmear of yellowish stuff on top that I thought was mango so I just ate it —- hold up, this ain’t mango! I sniffed it. Yup, that’s gotta be durian. But wait, I wasn’t throwing up or retching. Could I like this stuff? It was hard to tell because there was only the tiniest bit.

Thus began the quest to find durian in Atlanta. I didn’t find fresh durian at my normal Asian store haunts but I did find it frozen. I let it thaw in my fridge overnight and the next day I gave it a go.

frozen durian

THE TASTE

ME: It tastes like a wonderfully sweet custard.

NEAL: I only tried a tiny bit, but it was not good. I immediately wanted to spit out the sweet, rotten-tasting, onion-y mush swimming around my mouth.

THE SMELL

ME: It has a strong pungent smell. It smells like durian. I like the smell. I don’t get the onions or stinky feet thing at all that people use to describe the smell.

NEAL: It smells kind of like decaying food compost. Throw in a bit of stinky feet and body odor and you’re getting close. The smell lingers…

THE TEXTURE

ME: Custard, custard, custard!…with a little stringiness. It melts in my mouth.

NEAL: It’s soft and squishy. Like a moldy peach sitting in it’s own oozy juices.

THE APPEARANCE

ME: They look like yellow alien pods. Or big yellow larvae.

NEAL: Inside the durian, it looks like a little jaundiced baby alien fetus. It’s yellow. No thanks.

THE VERDICT

ME: I would eat this all day, errday if I could! (Can’t. This pack was $9.) I would love to find this fresh or whole. It’s just soooo good. I love it so hard! In fact, I want some right now.

NEAL: I might try this again perhaps in the distant future. When my tastebuds have disintegrated.

The King of Fruits polarizes again. It’s almost as if it changes the way it tastes for different people. Maybe it should be called magical fruit. Or tranformers fruit…more than meets the eye.

Nutritionally, durian is rich in vitamin C and B-complex, potassium and also has a high amount of tryptophan. Perhaps that explains my giddiness when I eat it?durian

If you decide to try durian (or perhaps you’re already a fan? maybe you’re the person who started the durian facebook page?)…know that it is perfectly decadent on its own. But it also pairs wonderfully with sweet coconut sticky rice.

durian with sticky rice

For this sweet sticky rice I loosely followed the recipe from Spice Island Vegan. Then I just piled on the duriany goodness.durian with sticky rice

Have you had durian before? If so, what do you think of it? If not, do you think you’ll try some?

It’s Natto Bad

Despite Because of the countless YouTube videos I watched of people retching and dry heaving when they ate natto for the first time, I wanted to try it. Perhaps I wanted to tap into some weird Anthony Bourdain-esque side of myself. The first time I tried it, I lightly touched my tongue on one bean before I finally worked up the courage to stick the whole thing in my mouth. Now, I can’t imagine natto having natto in my life!

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I’ve only been able to find it at my local asian market for just shy of $2 a pack. It comes frozen and I stick it in the fridge overnight to thaw.

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Each little packet comes with 2 sauces: hot mustard and another sauce that is not vegan because it has bonito (aka fish) extract. I discard the non-vegan sauce.

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Peeling back the plastic wrap immediately reveals the stringy, fermented soybeans.

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I squeeze the whole mustard packet on them.

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Then I pour some thin soy sauce on them, or as my mom calls it “tin sauce”. I pick on her accent because it’s cute and I love her. Thin soy sauce is exactly as it sounds, thinner than regular soy sauce and slightly saltier. We use it in place of fish sauce in recipes.

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Next, I stir it all up with a pair of chopsticks to “activate” all the natto slime. Every bean is then covered with a slimy, boogery goo..appetizing, eh?

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I stir in some chopped green onions,

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pour it on some jasmine rice and sprinkle it with more green onions. This day I also ate it with some grape tomatoes.

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This is my favorite way to eat natto but I’ll also eat it without the rice. I eat it for breakfast and for a light snack. In my opinion natto tastes nutty, savory and slightly salty. It never stank to me from the get-go and I didn’t have to “grow into” liking the taste. This leads me to wonder if I got a variety that has been deodorized. I don’t think I did though because N says it smells like stinky feet and/or his B.O. Perhaps my sense of smell is off or maybe I like stinky smells now *shrugs*.

IMG_3502 _SnapseedIt seems like people either hate natto or love it and I am definitely the latter which makes me happy because it supposedly has a lot of health benefits. Now if I only had the courage to try durian…

Are there any stinky vegan foods you like to eat?

Holy crepe!

I recently discovered from the lovely Spice Island Vegan that Vietnamese crepes can be made vegan-style! What the crepe?! I’ve been driving like 35 minutes to get it from Loving Hut. Spice Island Vegan offers several variations on her blog and I chose the easiest variation because I’m lazy a minimalist.

First I made my own crepe dipping sauce to mimic the one from Loving Hut. Over medium heat, I mixed 1/3 cup of rice vinegar, 1/2-3/4 cup of water, 2-3 tsp of thin soy sauce, 2 tbs of sugar, chili flakes and carrot strips until the sugar was all melted.

Next I made the crepe batter using a pre-made mix (shown below). The ingredients were: powdered rice, starch and turmeric.

I emptied the crepe flour into a bowl and mixed in 3 cups of water, a 14 oz can of shaken coconut milk, a handful of chopped green onions and the turmeric packet that was included. The directions were on the bag and called for a “bowl” of coconut milk. Since when is a “bowl” a measurement? Luckily Spice Island Vegan’s page told me to use a 14 oz can. The batter was very soupy like this.

I then chopped up all the fixings. These could be anything really, but we stuck with the vegan ham,

mushrooms, bell pepper and some onions.

We decided to try and make 5 crepes, so the first batch of fixings got sautéed up with a bit of garlic and oil.

After the veggies and ham cooked up, we poured a thin layer of the crepe batter over the base of the pan.

We didn’t cover it with a lid like Spice Island Vegan b/c we didn’t have one that fit so we just let it chill out on the pan at about medium heat until the batter started turning yellowish.

At that point, we put some bean sprouts on the edge and let it cook some more.  To test readiness, we just slipped a spatula underneath every so often to see if it would lift off the pan. It was ready when it was easy to lift off the pan and it looked goldeny yellow. At that point, we folded it in half and transferred it to a plate.

We definitely ended up with some crepe flops (see below for uber floppage), so be sure to use a really good non-stick pan if you make this.

After getting the hang of it though, we ended up with some nice looking (and tasting!) crepes. We stuffed the inside of our crepes with lettuce, mint and cilantro and dipped it into poured the sauce allll over.

It was a time consuming process mainly because of our choice of pan for the first couple of crepes, but it was sooo worth it. We made about 6-7 crepes total and stored the leftover batter and veggies in the fridge for next time.

Thank you Spice Island Vegan for showing me that just because it’s yellow and looks like a pancake doesn’t mean it has eggs! Yippee!