Durian + Whiskey = Death?
- June 14, 2001
There is a widely held belief in Thailand that eating durian and drinking whiskey can cause death. This appears to be from the Thai-Chinese tradition of assigning foods qualities of "hotness" or "coldness." The idea being that one should not consume too much of a hot or cold food, but balance things out with some of each. Both whiskey and durian are considered to be extremely hot in character and thus eating both would make one too hot and cause death.
Durian is an unusual fruit. It grows in gigantic spiky husks that must be slashed open with cleavers. Its fleshy sickly yellow pulp is either ambrosia or something unsuitable for human consumption, depending on your point of view. The smell is penetrating. Across the region, carrying durians on buses or trains is prohibited because of the annoying odor. Thai Airways has special metal boxes in the holds of their planes to transport durians for passengers.
Is it possible some component that makes up the pungent odor might combine with alcohol and form a poisonous chemical? And if so, why only whiskey? What about beer or vodka? A friend of ours makes durian wine. Is he poisoning himself by drinking it? Where are the official warnings? Surely a drunken tourist might eat some durian without knowing and die.
Even some local doctors have told us it is not safe to eat whiskey and durian, but the explanation, that they are both "hot" foods, is not very satisfying. Considering the vast quantities of durian and whiskey consumed here, if the two were fatal in combination, there would likely be corpses littering the restaurants and pubs each night.