For me premium durian is like creamy bitter sweet chocolate pudding with nutty and sulfuric undertones that will leave your taste buds in bliss and the rest of your mouth with a pleasant sensation of slight numbness provided you’re lucky enough to get one that’s just taken a hard fall from a good tree. Depending on the species, cultivar, and age of the tree there’s a wide variety of durian scents and flavors not to mention textures, colors, shapes, and sizes. There’s also a wide range of quality much of which depends on whether a durian was cut from a tree unripe and consumed days or weeks after harvest and if ripening chemicals were used, or whether it dropped from the tree naturally and fully ripe and was consumed within minutes or hours after harvest.
To determine whether a durian dropped or was cut down unripe check to see if the stem looks as if it broke from a branch naturally rather than being cut. The top of the stem of a freshly fallen durian should be moist and look like it just broke off from a tree and the rest of the stem should be firm and fresh with no signs of wilting. If the top of the stem looks good but the rest of the stem is slightly wilted then you’re probably looking at a durian that was cut down days or even weeks ago that recently had its stem broken at the joint it would’ve broken at naturally had it been allowed to ripen on the tree. This is common because when a cut durian ripens its stem will break at the natural joint upon the slightest bending.
Second make sure the outer spiked shell is very hard. If the shell is slightly soft and seems like some of the water has evaporated from it then you’re either looking at a tree-ripened durian that’s two or three days old or a cut durian that has been sitting for many days if not weeks. An unripe durian that was recently cut from a tree will also have a hard shell and look fresh but the fruit inside will be as hard as an uncooked potato and it won’t emit that strong unique smell that durians are famous/infamous for. However if it’s a tree-ripened durian that recently dropped, despite the shell being very hard the fruit inside will be as soft as cream cake and it will emit a strong sulfurous smell that some find irresistible.
Odds are you won’t find any freshly fallen tree-ripened durian outside of Southeast Asia and depending on when and where you go you’ll probably even have a hard time finding it in Thailand since most people there have an odd preference for unripe fruit especially when it comes to durian. With that said not all cut durian is bad and some can actually be pretty good provided it was cut down when it was over 90% ripe and wasn’t dipped into ripening chemicals. After a couple more days of ripening a durian like that will still be good just not nearly as good as it could have been had it been allowed to fully ripen on the tree, moreover don’t expect to get any numbing sensation from a cut durian so if you want to experience durian like the ones featured below you’ll need to visit a durian growing region in the middle of durian season.