I spend an hour or so in meetings every morning at work.  These are fast-paced, intense, working meetings where a lot gets done.  It was an unexpected diversion from the usual routine when one of the doctors walked in and set down a little glass bowl filled with purple glop, and a handful of plastic spoons.  All eyes turned to the mystery bowl.  He had our undivided attention as he introduced his offering, a Filipino dessert called ube halaya.

Ube halaya, he explained, is made from a purple yam (ube), mashed up with sugar and milk (or coconut milk and condensed milk, I discovered later on the internet).

By this time, several spoons were aimed at the dish.  The contents were a surprisingly firm paste, with a texture similar to frozen yogurt, but it wasn’t cold.

It was good! It had a smooth, custardy texture, and a surprisingly rich, creamy taste—just a little sweet, but not cloyingly so.  Ube halaya would make a comforting end to a spicy dinner.

And ube halaya wasn’t the end of the culinary adventures for the day.  I found out later that the same doctor had shared some durian fruit the day before, and he had some left over and kindly let me taste it.

I have long been curious about durian, as people seem to have such strong reactions to it.  “Horrible!  The smell is absolutely unbearable!” one of my coworkers said in no uncertain terms.  This, of course, just dialed up my curiosity even more.

I took a good whiff of the container of frozen durian fruit.  My first reaction was that it smelled like urine–in a pungent, back alley/under the bridge sort of way.  And I’m guessing the smell of the fruit was considerably reduced by being frozen.  But when I popped some of the smooth, pale yellow fruit into my mouth, I was a little confused, but not horrified.  The flavor was complex, and changed as I chewed.  The closest I can come to a description is pureed raw green beans with some avocado and banana stirred in.  I didn’t love it exactly, but I could see how one might acquire a taste for it.  I would eat it again.

What fun, when an otherwise uneventful workday includes a taste of two brand new foods—one that I had never heard of before, and one that did not live up to the reputation that preceded it.

I love trying new foods.  And I love what an endlessly fascinating world we live in, with an abundant variety of new tastes and experiences and sights and sounds just waiting for us to reach for them.


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8 thoughts on “Curiosities

  1. Stella

    Ooh, that ube is pretty, Rowdy! I bet some seriously healthful and beautiful concoctions could be made with that stuff. Ooh, and I’ve heard about Durian. Andrew Zimmern hates it! I would try it too. Plus, I can so deal with urine smell:-)

  2. Monet

    I thought that this was a play-dough experiment gone awry at first…I was so excited to learn about this unique and different sweet treat. I love the amazingly diverse and exciting world we live in too! Thank you for sharing your “curiosity” with me. I hope you are having a happy and warm Wednesday night.

  3. Pam

    What an interesting Monday morning you had. I have been enjoying your archives, too; and I notice that you did say you would talk more about Michael’s paella. Did I miss that?

    1. The Rowdy Chowgirl Post author

      Well come to think of it, I haven’t followed up on that paella promise. I’ll have to correct that! Yum.

  4. Tori @ eat-tori

    Wow- this sounds like a seriously interesting dish- if only all work days involved something that fun! NB, I just discovered your blog and I’ve had the most delightful morning trawling through the archives with a cup of tea… thank you!


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