There isn’t a food in the world as likely to drive a rift between friends as the durian. For one, it looks mean. It’s big, hard, spiky, and if you attached a chain it’d make a serviceable mace. The name comes from the Malay “duri” - thorn. These spiky fruits are dangerous creatures, capable of maiming and killing at the drop of a, well, durian – hence the Vietnamese name “sau rieng” (private sorrow). That’s why the durian harvest is possibly the only one that requires pickers to wear hard hats. And right now they’re everywhere, as you may have noticed from that godawful smell wafting from fruit stalls in the past couple weeks. The unique stench and singular taste of the “king of fruits” are legendary. Writer and composer Anthony Burgess famously remarked that chowing down on durian was “like eating a magnificent raspberry blancmange in a foul public toilet.” But travel writer Richard Sterling put it best: “Its odor is best described as pig shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away.” Its infamous stench caused it to be used in the “Blender of Fear” on US reality show “Fear Factor,” along with other ingredients such as cow’s eyeballs and pig’s testes. And in Japanese cartoon “Dragon Ball,” the loathsome character Dodoria– a nasty pink alien covered in spikes with a penchant for slaughtering the opposition – is also based on the durian. So what causes that unholy pong? Three scientific analyses each came up with different answers, but all put it down to some combination of organosulphur compounds. So far, so unappetizing. Which begs the question: Why eat it? “It smells like hell but tastes like heaven,” goes the old saying. Evolutionary biologist Alfred Russel Wallace wrote, “Its consistence and flavor are indescribable. A rich butter-like custard highly flavored with almonds... intermingled with wafts of flavor that call to mind cream cheese, onion sauce, brown sherry, and other incongruities.” In Thailand, it’s eaten young, when it’s crisp and mild in flavor. But in Malaysia and Indonesia, people prefer it at its ripest, smelliest and most richly creamy. Buy yours with a full solid stem – if it looks dried out, not even the most avid durian fan will get past the smell. It’s also, rather alarmingly, an immensely popular aphrodisiac. The Malay saying goes, “as the durians fall down, the sarongs fly up.” And in Thailand and Indonesia, durian-flavored condoms are apparently helping to stem the tide of Aids, selling 150,000 in the first week. Among the Chinese, the fruit is smiled on as being high in “yang,” and therefore brimming with male virility. But there’s a downside: the “heating” effect of durian means pregnant women and anyone with high blood pressure is advised to steer clear. And traditionally, you drink alcohol with durian at your peril: indigestion, bad breath and even death may follow. So how should you eat it? Durian fanatics go mad for its creamy, overpowering taste. And their dedication to furthering the fruit knows no bounds: durian ice cream is perennially popular, and you can get durian cake, durian crisps, durian pancakes. In Malaysia, you’ll find it in mooncakes, milkshakes and even cappuccinos. It pops up cooked with chili and onions as a side dish in Sabah; fermented and curried in Sumatra; as blocks of paste in Thailand; sugared or salted as preserves in Malaysia. Its chestnut-sized seeds are cooked to a sticky, yam-like consistency, or sliced, cooked and coated with sugar as sweets in Java. But the best way to eat the king of fruit is with its queen, the mangosteen, which is yin to the durian’s yang, a coolant for its heat – and just plain delicious. So, where can you get your dose of Durian Durian? Durian isn’t really served in restaurants, for obvious reasons. But there are a few alternatives to lugging one home from the supermarket and stinking out your apartment. Durian House 1/F, Food Court, 9 Tong Ming Street, Tseung Kwan O, 2244-6315 Durian House plays proud and olfactory-numbed host to more than 20 variants of durian dessert: sponge cake with durian mousse, durian sticky rice cake, durian rolls and puffs, durian tart, durian mousse topped with melted chocolate, and durian candies. Holy durian overload! Lucky Dessert G/F, 532 Jaffe Road, Causeway Bay, 2939-3066 / 2838-5166 Lucky Dessert does great hot durian pastry rolls. Honeymoon Dessert 1/F, Entertainment Bldg, Queen’s Road Central, 2868-9799 This popular dessert house does a wickedly rich durian pancake, thin and smooth and loaded with durian and cream. Tim Yuen Gui G/F, 16 Hoi Ping St., Sai Kung, 2792-8533 Tim Yuen Gui is tucked away in Sai Kung, but it’s got a legendarily good durian pancake, and the durian and grapefruit with sago is excellent. PLEASE BE REMINDED Durians are forbidden in hotels, buses, trams, the Star Ferry, the MTR, Chek Lap Kok, airplanes, Ocean Park, Disneyland, basically anywhere with other people. A wine guru's take on the taste of durian and we asked the public their thoughts about durian .