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The durian fruit’s overwhelming stench has led to it being banned from many hotels and other public places in Asia.
Yet all that could be about to change after Thai growers of the exotic fruit, whose odour has been compared to rotten vegetables and sweaty socks, claim to have produced a rather sweeter-smelling variety.
Fans of the fruit gorged on it last week at a durian festival on Chokchai farm in Nakhon Ratchasima, north of Bangkok, where the new variety was revealed.
The Pak Chok-Khao Yai variety is sweet and dry with soft flesh, according to the Thai department of intellectual property, and crucially has none of the pungency characteristic of ordinary durian. According to the department, it has a “good, mild smell”.
Although the fruit is not the first variety to be all but odourless — the northern province of Uttaradit reportedly began selling two such varieties in 2012 — it is thought to be the first odourless type to gain geographical identification, or GI.
The label protects a product from inferior imitations and serves as a mark of authenticity. Other products include that are certified include Champagne and Stilton cheese.
While the new variety is unlikely to appeal to connoisseurs of the fruit, who claim the stronger the smell the better the taste, it might help to restore the fruit’s good name, which has taken a beating over the years.
In 2018 an Indonesian flight was temporarily grounded after sacks of durian in the cargo hold caused a stink among passengers, who claimed the stench was unbearable.
The following year students at the University of Canberra library were forced to evacuate after rescue teams responded to “a strong smell of gas” caused by piece of durian left next to an air vent.
For fans of the so-called “king of fruits”, however, switching to a less antisocial variety might still take some convincing. One Twitter user asked what the point of eating the new variety would be and another seemingly likened it to wearing a scentless perfume, writing: “Chanel No 5 without [the] smell?!”
Thailand is the world’s biggest exporter of durian, supplying most of the rapidly growing Chinese market, which last year imported $4.2 billion of durian, according to China Daily.