KATY CLARK: Many people in South East Asia swear by a fruit called durian. They say it's delicious. But here's the problem. It smells awful. The odor of durian has been compared to that of a diaper pale. Western diners are frequently reluctant to get passed that smell and take a bite. But some restaurants in South East Asia are rising to the challenge. Nancy Greenleese reports that they're getting patrons to give durian a chance.
NANCY GREENLEESE: Durian looks delectable. Its creamy flesh ranges from pale yellow to red. People in Indonesia, Brunei, and Malaysia devour it raw, smoked, dried, or fried. But foreigners often need a spoon full of sugar to get this fruit to go down. Zulkifli Razali is chef at Bijan, a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. He offers a sugar-coated treat ï¿½ chocolate cake with layers of durian inside.
ZULKIFLI RAZALI: Durian chocolate cake we combine durian and chocolate and some cream so it enhance the flavor.
GREENLEESE: And it camouflages the durian says waiter Rajendra Seder.
RAJENDRA SEDER: You see it's chocolate. Yeah nice. And when they have a scoop then they see this whitish thing in between and oh it smells.
GREENLEESE: Chef Razali admits even many Malaysians think durian stinks. But he's not one of them.
RAZALI: I like the smell of it because for me the smell is very nice.
GREENLEESE: And the smell for me smells like sweaty socks. And you like the smell?
RAZALI: It's like you all have that kind of cheese ï¿½ the blue cheese. The blue cheese smell is like what the hell is this smell? It's more like very rotten smell.
GREENLEESE: Razali is referring to the fact that a lot of South East Asians can't get past the smell of stinky cheeses just as westerners balk at durian. So Seder, the waiter, says when his foreign customers order durian cake he makes a point of preparing them.
SEDER: Firstly I always ask them, ï¿½Are you feeling adventurous?ï¿½ They'll say, ï¿½Oh yeah, yeah.ï¿½ You know the guys want to be macho. Fair enough.
GREENLEESE: He tells them about the stench and the distinctive flavor.
SEDER: So I give them the durian and then they'll have one bite. You can see the expression on their face. ï¿½Oh my God what the hell is this?ï¿½ You know?
GREENLEESE: Some say it tastes like creamy almonds until a bitter aftertaste kind of like turpentine kicks in. At least it's healthy. Durians provide vitamin C, potassium, and plenty of carbohydrates.
IGNATIUS STEPHEN: It's a mythical fruit actually. Lot's of legends.
GREENLEESE: Ignatius Stephen owns a cafe in Brunei's capital city. He sits with me and my friend John Henderson outside the cafe telling us some of those legends.
STEPHEN: There's a thing that if you eat durian and you drink a whiskey or something, you'll die. I mean this is another thing I've done. I'm still alive. I'm still talking to you.
GREENLEESE: And Stephen won't let us get away without trying a little durian ï¿½ a frothy, cream-colored durian smoothie that we didn't order arrives at the table.
JOHN HENDERSON: You know is there real durian in this?
STEPHEN: Yeah. Of course there's real durian in it.
HENDERSON: It's cold. Let's put it that way. If you don't inhale when you drink it it's tolerable.
STEPHEN: Yeah it's just like Clinton said.
HENDERSON: Don't inhale. That's the key.
GREENLEESE: Back in Kuala Lumpur waiter Rajendra Seder always doles praise to foreign diners who sample durian. His philosophy is you can't acquire an acquired taste without trying. And he says you'll return home with something to drag about.
SEDER: You came all the way. You're at the end of the ledge. What are you going to do? There's only one way down. So go ahead. And at least you say you did it instead of turning back and saying I almost did it. True? Just give it a go. Have a piece. You don't have to buy the whole fruit. Just try because the idea of traveling is to learn things.
GREENLEESE: For The World I'm Nancy Greenleese, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.