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Bus Fare Blues

Exploring the hidden corners of Seattle

Durian Rice CakeWe’ve always been intrigued and a little terrified by durian — if Andrew Zimmern hates it, it’s got to be bad (although Anthony Bourdain seems to love it for some reason). We first smelled durian at one of the fruit markets in Chinatown. Whole durians are usually frozen before transport, so they arrive covered in ice and (I’ve heard) much less smelly than before. You could still smell them a good 15 feet away – a distinct odor of especially ripe old laundry with something dead underneath.

I was checking out at Hau Hau Market in the International District the other day and the cashier lady picks up this weird yellow package and says “You try. Is good.” So I put it in my cart like a good little boy and brought it home. It was durian rice cake.

It stared at us for a week.

We were feeling adventurous today and decided to try it. For starters, it looked more like a brick of C4 than a delicious pastry, but we weren’t deterred. We opened the wrapper (hand-wrapped with cellophane tape in San Gabriel, CA) and there in its pungent glory, a thick yellow slab of durian-flavored goo sat sandwiched between two layers of chalky rice flour — a Newton from hell.

We broke off a small piece and each took a bite. The chalk (I mean rice) layers were dried and crumbly like month-old sandwich bread smushed between two schoolbooks and left to age. And the filling…yikes! The taste was somewhere between Circus Peanuts and fresh fiberglass resin; very chemical, with a faint lingering odor of rancid onion. Alisha made a stink-face and spit it out immediately. I somehow swallowed my bite and dared a few more nibbles of the yellow filling, trying to figure out what durian actually tastes like. After I somewhat learned to ignore the harsh initial flavor, there was a delicate raspberry-like finish at the end, a tingly sweetness like aspartame on the tip of your tongue.

As I type this article I keep burping up an awful turpentine smell. Your welcome.

Glad we were willing to be adventurous and that we found something positive to say about this stuff. Not sure we’d try it again, unless we needed a good opportunity to gross out our few friends.

Location: Hau Hau Market 412 12th Ave S # 101, Seattle, WA 98104

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