Yesterday we went to one of my favorite places to spend some time and money – Dong-A, a local Asian grocery store, with boxes stacked from floor to ceiling, overflowing with things you never heard of and only rarely want to try (and for anyone that lives around here, it’s better and cheaper than Phuoc Loc Tho).

(photo from google maps street view)

I think we spent a good two hours roaming the isles since it was Matthew’s first time there. Some of the more interesting/amusing things we found were:

– “fried egg candy” – small gelatin treats in the shape of a sunny side up egg.
– black bean and sesame seed powder cereal” (there was also a tomato powder cereal)
– fried pork skins, only in gargantuan form. each piece was over a foot long, 5 inches wide, and pure puffy white.

they actually had fresh durian fruit available again, but i was too scared to buy one, especially when there were 11.50 a piece. i’ve seen them on the food network and wikipedia gives some very descriptive quotes on this unusual fruit:

Chef Andrew Zimmern compares the taste to “completely rotten, mushy onions.”

Anthony Bourdain, while a lover of durian, relates his encounter with the fruit as thus: “Its taste can only be described as…indescribable, something you will either love or despise. …Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.”

Travel and food writer Richard Sterling says:” its odor is best described as pig-s***, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia.

I found dried durian chips, but was still too scared to try the fruit in such a pure form, so I settled for these:

I figured, everything tastes better in a cookie, right?

No. No. No.

I opened them up last night and immediately the kitchen smelled like rotten food and a leaky gas stove. I quickly held my breath a took a bite of the sugar wafer. I managed to swallow it, and the taste wasn’t nearly as bad as the smell, but certainly not enjoyable. Matthew had to spit out his bite and I quickly stuffed the rest of the bag in the trash, in a sealed bag, in the garage, as far away as possible.

I won’t give up on trying the actual fresh fruit one day, though. They say people really love it for the custard texture and unique flavor, which i’m guessing is probably lost when made into a cream and sandwiched between cheap sugar wafers.

I ate a piece of chocolate to get rid of the aftertaste and moved on to a different purchase. A can of Jack fruit in sugar syrup.

Not that great either. There was a slight hint of pear to the taste, but with the lingering smell of durian, I quickly gave up on trying to like the little syrupy yellow wedges and threw the contents in the trash (but recycled the can, of course!)

I was thoroughly discourage with wasting so much food and didn’t want to eat anything resembling asian cuisine in the slightest, so with dinner rolling around I did the only thing I could think of that sounded good.

I made pizza. Yummy garlic and oregano filled homemade crust with melty gooey provolone and mozzarella on top. It made the night much better.

Oh, and we still have these drinks to consume:

I’ve only tried the Mangosteen juice so far, and I really like it. Sweet but not medicine tasting at all.

I actually didn’t know what this one was when I picked it up, but after googleing it I’m curious and a bit frightened.

I thought it was just white fungus, as in mushrooms or something, but no. Apparently it IS actually made from bird’s nest, with bird spit and twigs and such. One website described it as “like a clear gel with little white beads in it. It tasted a little like vanilla and you almost had to chew it.”

Woo hoo.