I have written more than once about delectably scrumptious durian fruit. It smells like hell and tastes like feet. It is completely dreadful and every noxious bite seems an exercise in culinary punishment. Still, I have tried it at least a dozen times in, at least, a half a dozen forms including: durian ice cream and stewed on sticky rice. It’s the pits.

However, I will continue to try it, whenever possible, as it is what the vast majority of people from southeast Asian nations love to eat. And when in Rome… Besides, why would I want to eat a Happy Meal with a diet coke when traveling? I mean, I wouldn’t eat it here either, but that’s another story. What’s important is the experience. Durian fruit will always have a fond place in my heart and a wonderful topic of conversation with every Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, and Filipino person I have met over the last several years.

Don’t argue, just eat it

If you are vegan or vegetarian or have other dietary restrictions for any one of many good reasons, I suggest putting these philosophies on hold when traveling, except when the reasons are based on pressing health issues like if you’re allergic to something. After traveling as much as I have, I realize I would be missing too much by not diving into the local cuisine. I splurge with desserts, too.

How do I get the best meal?
1. Let a local do the ordering.
This is simple. Just ask, “What’s delicious (this is even better when requested in the native tongue)?” With a follow up comment, “Great! I’ll have that.”
2. Do not ask what’s in it, before ordering. Asking immediately after the meal should only be done at the traveler’s peril.

The only time I deviate away from these two rules is when I have good reason to believe that the meal was not prepared hygienically, the local water is suspect, or I am a little homesick and need a brief flavor of home — but never a happy meal.

For the record, I am off to Thailand this Wednesday and look forward to some wonderfully rich tastes, including durian.