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My housemate just brought home a durian. I remember smelling one of these from four floors up in a dormitory years ago and it was overpowering but I don't remember if it faded away quickly or not.

Should I veto him cutting this open in the house? Will the smell go away?

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    NO @AARONUT THIS IS A QUESTION OF SAFETY YOU CLEARLY HAVE NOT SMELLED THIS THING BEFORE – temporary_user_name Aug 5 '14 at 2:17
  • You're obviously trying to be funny, but we have very specific guidelines for the food safety tag. I tried to edit your question into something that might stay open, but honestly, it's like any other smelly thing - it depends on the size of your area, ventilation, etc. – Aaronut Aug 5 '14 at 2:19
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    @Aerovistae It's not their job to be fun: blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/05/a-theory-of-moderation – logophobe Aug 5 '14 at 3:00
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    @Aerovistae We love fun, as long as it doesn't mess with the way the site's supposed to work. Tags are part of that; we don't want unrelated questions to surface when you search by tag. It's not the most important thing, but tagging appropriately (and leaving jokes to the body of the question) seems fair! – Cascabel Aug 5 '14 at 5:03
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    @belisarius: Sure, it has a rather... unique smell, but fundamentally it's the same thing - particles from the food get dispersed in the air, and the smell fades away as the concentration gets lower (i.e. circulation of outside air). – Aaronut Aug 5 '14 at 5:14
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Of course the smell will go away, given enough time. The question is exactly how long you can tolerate it, which only you can judge. Durian actually has a remarkably fascinating smell, featuring a huge range of aromatic compounds including some that haven't been identified in any other produce. (This link is unfortunately behind a paywall, and I haven't read the whole thing, but even the abstract gives an interesting glimpse.)

If you're concerned, take precautions. Open it outside, or in a room with plenty of ventilation. Put down paper or plastic sheeting to catch any juices or mess that might leave a lingering smell (as this helpful article suggests).

A couple of sources (such as this blog post, and somewhat more lucidly, this About.com article) suggest that by running hot water over the expended shell, you can create a mild solution which helps neutralize the smell. I can't vouch for the accuracy of this method but it's suggested in multiple places, so it seems unlikely to be a cruel prank.

There are actually other, more pressing concerns with durian. For instance, one study suggests that durian fruit breaks down some of the enzymes that your liver uses to neutralize the toxic byproducts of alcohol. It's apparently a bit of southeast Asian folk wisdom that drinking and durians do not mix, and more than one death has been blamed on the combination. So, don't worry about the smell. Worry about mixing tequila shots with durian instead.

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I lived above a durian shop for a year. At first I found the smell nauseating and reminiscent of a rotting pigeon carcass. But the brain adjusts and soon you don't smell it as strongly. Only the occasional strong whiff. After a time it only smelled like rotten onions which was slightly more pleasant. Eventually, I began to smell the fruity, vanilla, meaty scent which is what most people familiar with the fruit can distinguish from the other malodors. At this point, I finally summoned the guts to try some. It's a remarkable taste. Unparalleled. But if you're not prepared to wait that long, keep it in a sealed container. Or hang it out the window.

  • Well. I also hope someday you try it. Maybe if you do so sooner, you might find the smell less disagreeable... – Loki Aug 8 '14 at 13:04

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