In Thailand many of the locals prefer to eat unripe fruit. For instance mangoes are often eaten green, hard, and tooth meltingly sour. I do cringe a little when I see locals eating unripe mangoes, jackfruit, bananas, santols, and pieces of durian that look more like raw potato than durian but what really gets me is when tourists come to Thailand and try these fruits for the first and perhaps last time but are given unripe fruit not worth eating.
If you try durian in Thailand for the first time you’ll probably buy a small plastic wrapped pack of it rather than a whole fruit so here are three tips for selecting some durian that’s worth trying. I don’t endorse buying anything on or in foam packing so if possible try and buy durian that’s packed on paper but know you probably won’t find any so you should just bring your own reusable food container and have the seller open a fresh ripe one and sell you some of that or you could just buy a whole durian which comes packaged in a biodegradable spiked shell.
1.) Color: The color of durian flesh ranges from white to red however odds are the type of durian you’ll encounter in Thailand is MonThong. When it comes to this cultivar of durian generally speaking the yellower the better however note that many cultivars of durian are supposed to be white or close to it.
2.) Softness: Don’t squeeze ripe fruits! I can’t believe how many tourists I’ve seen squeezing ripe fruit or poking dents into it and then walking away without buying it. However you can very slightly press on the plastic wrap covering the durian with your finger tip just enough to know whether or not it’s soft.
3.) Smell: If all that stands between you and a piece of fresh ripe durian is a thin layer of plastic it should give off a strong smell and make you understand why durian is banned from most hotels and public transportation. If you’re only getting a slight smell or no smell it’s probably unripe durian which isn’t worth trying.
In summary if you visit Thailand and would like to try some durian make sure it passes the three checks above and if you see some that looks like the unripe, overpriced, inedibly bad stuff below it’s best to pass and wait for a better chance to try this must try fruit. Also feel free to let the fruit seller know that you’d like to buy some durian provided it was soft and ripe so they understand that unlike many of the locals most people prefer ripe, sweet, fragrant, and in the case of durian, very soft fruit.
If you want to see what durian is supposed to look like check out this post.
P.S. Rambutans should be red, not green, when you eat them. There are yellow rambutans but you’re unlikely to come across those in Thailand. However you will see people selling unripe green ones which I don’t recommend.