No, my last name, which is Armenian, has nothing to do with durian, the famously stinky fruit that is a favorite in Southeast Asia. They say that when you crack one of these open the aroma drives people out of the room, so hotels sometime post signs forbidding guests to do that in their rooms. I often see men swinging two or three of these (each almost the size of a football) in a sack on the way out of Asian markets. I always imagine them getting home, and their wives shrieking, “Don’t you dare bring that thing in the house; take it to the back yard!”
But let me tell you, once you scoop out the soft interior (okay, it does look a little like brains in a skull here), and whirl it in a blender with sweetened, condensed milk and plenty of ice, as the Thai and Vietnamese do, you have a delicious, mildly flavored shake, with a flavor reminscent of coconut. Sort of a mysterious, subtle flavor. My friends and I couldn’t get enough of it when we were served one at Phở 99, which I recently reviewed, in Franklin Park the other night. I’d always wanted to try this, but never had.
And, of course, we loved the rest of our meal, especially the salmon served sizzling in a ceramic pot with “special sauce,” and the hot and sour shrimp soup, which was gently sour, not the kind of cough-inducing sour you might get in Chinese hot and sour soup which is made with vinegar.