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Food & Drinks

After a durian causes university evacuation, here are five other incidents with the pungent fruit

No other fruit is as loved (and hated) as the durian. Its odour has been likened to a mixture of turpentine and onions garnished with a gym sock, and its creamy texture is so beloved by fans, they will go to any length in their search for the best quality

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 April, 2018, 4:31pm
UPDATED : Monday, 30 April, 2018, 5:59pm

It’s a tale to make your eyes water. 

On Saturday, about 600 students and staff were evacuated from a university in Australia because of a pungent smell thought to be a gas leak. Specialist crews wearing masks searched the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology university campus library, except no leak was uncovered. 

Instead the source of the stinging smell was found hiding in a cupboard … a rotting durian. 

The tropical fruit beloved by many in Southeast Asia packs a punch, with its sweet and creamy flesh giving off a strong odour. 

Food writer Richard Sterling once wrote: “Its odour is best described as pig-s***, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away.” The fruit is banned from public transport and hotel rooms in some Asian cities. 

There are about 30 species of the “king of fruit”; however, not all are edible. The most prized species is Durio zibethinus, which can be the size of a watermelon and can cost up to US$30 a kilogram. 

As the following five stories show, the pursuit of the durian is serious business. 

Patients evacuated from Australian hospital 

Last weekend’s events in Melbourne weren’t a first for the city. In 2014, patients on a hospital ward in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs were evacuated to a different area of the hospital amid concerns there was a gas leak.

Firefighters were called to Mitcham Private Hospital, but the putrid smell was found to come from a durian believed to have been given to a patient as a gift.

Elephant raids durian storeroom in Thailand 

If you thought only humans like durians, think again. In August last year, an elephant raided a durian storage building for a midnight snack in the Thai province of Prachuap Khiri Khan.

The elephant was caught on camera, tucking into about 40 durians at the Huai Sat Yai Agriculture Cooperative – and causing about 70,000 baht (US$2,200) of damage. In a frenzy to eat the creamy fruit, the elephant also broke a wall, air con and a door. 

It was the second time in 10 days that an elephant with a taste for durians had plundered the storage facility. A manager said the second break-in took place only six days after repair work was completed on the storeroom after the previous elephant raid. 

Man goes missing on hunt for durians in Singapore 

People will go to extreme lengths to get their hands on a durian, but one man took his love a little too far when he went missing while looking for the fruit.

In July last year, a 57-year-old became lost in a forested area in Jurong, Singapore, for four days after he went out in search of the prized fruit on his motorbike. 

Love it or hate it: Singapore’s durian-themed cafe smells winning combination

The man was found in a semi-conscious state by authorities after his family alerted police when he did not return home. He was taken to hospital with dehydration. It wasn’t known whether he managed to get his hands on any durian. 

Stall holder stabbed to death over quality of durian in Malaysia 

In 2016, a durian seller in Malaysia was stabbed to death by an unhappy customer. The 61-year old was reportedly stabbed several times after getting into an argument with a customer over the quality of the fruit at his stall in Bukit Mertajam, in the country’s north west.  He later died from his injuries. 

A 60-year-old man handed himself in to police the following day. 

“He told us that he had an argument with the victim as he was dissatisfied with the durians that he had bought,” Penang CID chief Senior Assistant Commissioner Razarudin Husain said. The 60-year-old is believed to have used a knife from the stall. 

Chinese buy 80,000 durians in 60 seconds

People in China are jumping on the smelly fruit bandwagon too.

This month, Chinese consumers snapped up 80,000 Monthong durians, weighing a total of 200 tonnes, in the first 60 seconds after a new Chinese-Thai initiative went live on Tmall, an online shopping website.

The initiative was the fruit of a recent deal between Chinese and Thai officials to work with e-commerce giant Alibaba Group to drive the development of Thailand’s digital economy (Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post)