The Durian Jam Session
If you already know what durians are, you know that the prospect of paying money for a jar of durian jam is a dubious one.
If you're not familiar with the Asian fruit, they're worth looking up or visiting in person, in one of the numerous Asian grocery stores on Nicollet Ave. These spikey monsters regularly kill unsuspecting passerby, are banned from various subway systems for their odor, and taste something like old leathery feet dipped in garlic, onions and mango puree.
On to the trying.
With all the emotional and odor-related freight hauled by this positively interstellar-looking fruit, it was hard to pass up a chance to buy and sample the durian jam for sale at United Noodles. The stuff doesn't come particularly cheap; a 12 oz. jar costs $5.99.
Potent? Well, merely unwrapping the jar's plastic seal dislodges a whiff best described as pungent. Unscrewing the lid OH CRAPFUCK DAMN gosh. Terrible vertical blast of "underwear meets garlic meets locker room meets lemon-lime." Wow. You can actually see the cartoon-style stench lines shooting right out of the jar. Clearly the concept behind durian jam wasn't "let's water this stuff down for Americans." There's a whole lotta heart in this little jar.
It seems to make sense to sample the stuff in three different ways: straight up, on bread, and on bread with peanut butter. Never mind that none of these are particularly culturally authentic. This represents an audacious attempt to stuff an Asian foodstuff into an American value system, and damn the consequences.
First, straight up. Wow. It tastes a lot milder than it smells. It's sweet, and although that onion/citrus thing dominates, it's a surprisingly agreeable experience.
Then on bread. Strangely enough, the bread -- or perhaps it's the prolonged chewing and smelling -- really brings out the funkier undernotes of the jam. Still, not altogether unpleasant.
Finally, the PBDJ sandwich. Surprisingly, the peanut butter bodyslams the durian flavor right into submission, such that it's barely on the radar screen.
Unless you're a durian nut, it seems unlikely that this is the jam choice for you (you might, by contrast, consider a non-rotted smelling flavor such as strawberry, or blueberry, or anything but durian.) That said, there is at least one clear application for this stuff: spreading it all over the automobile and/or bedsheets of someone who has done you wrong.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Minneapolis & St. Paul dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.